Because the white man has power, we too want power, he said. But when a black man gets power, when he gets money, he is a great man if he is not corrupted. I have seen it often. He seeks power and money to put right what is wrong, and when he gets them, why, he enjoys the power and the money.
Msimangu explains to Kumalo why power may not necessarily be a desirable quality. Even though black people wish they had more power, Msimangu believes that power and money easily corrupt people, turning good people into bad people. However, readers know from the laws in South Africa that the corrupting influence of power transcends race, age, and gender. Although black people would likely use power to make things more equal, Msimangu points out that everyone who attains power does so at the expense of someone else.
Power, said Msimangu, power. Why God should give such power is not for us to understand. If this man were a preacher, why, the whole world would follow him.
As Kumalo and Msimangu listen to John give a rousing speech about how black workers should be paid better, the crowd goes wild with cheers and applause. Here, Msimangu marvels at the power John has over these people and their beliefs. Since Msimangu feels skeptical of John and does not believe he has the courage to actually fight against racial inequality, he wonders how someone so corrupt could have so much power. Msimangu wishes a more righteous person could have the same kind of power, but he knows that power makes people dangerous.
For who would be chief over this desolation? It was a thing the white man had done, knocked these chiefs down, and put them up again, to hold the pieces together. But the white men had taken most of the pieces away.
As Kumalo goes to visit the chief, he reflects on the fact that being a chief does not come with the same amount of power holding the position once did. White people have imposed laws that make the chiefs more symbolic than actual leaders. Even within their own villages and structures, black people have no real power in South Africa.