It is not always the party in power or government that must be blamed for failures, but sometimes a department.
When it comes to the honouring of activists, heroes, and heroines, the comrades from the party must put pressure on its comrades in government to do something.
Some heroes who fought against the apartheid system on various fronts did not even see the freedom they had fought for. Even those who did are/ were not known or honoured.
When the history of this country is both written and read, it is rare to hear about the role Christians played against apartheid system.
Even if it is done, it is in small pockets.
From the white community side, they know of only a few individuals like Beyers Naudé. They do not know about the Christian Institute (CI) he was part of. What about the others?
It was worse with those coming from the Afrikaner background. Charles Villa-Vicencio (1990) said: “The Christian Institute, established in 1963 at the instigation of Beyers Naudé as a confessing movement for Christians against apartheid, was among these.”
The CI was not formed to seek attention from the apartheid regime to rub shoulders with it, but rather challenge it. Therefore, the CI together with the South African Council of Churches (SACC) set in motion a Study Project on Christianity in Apartheid Society (Sprocas) in 1969.
The CI invited trouble by sponsoring Sprocas. It was investigated by the Schlebusch-Le Grange Commission in 1972. As a result, some of the members of the CI were prepared to commit contempt of Parliament rather than appear before a secret quasi-judicial inquiry (Davenport, 1987).
Under the leadership of its director, Naudé, the CI refused to testify and as a result faced various forms of prosecution. But it was becoming a force to be reckoned with against the government because it became a radical body.
Working with Black Consciousness was testimony to that.
It was the only non-black, multi-racial formation to be banned by the government in 1977. It was not only the CI as a formation/body that was banned but its members, like “Oom Bey” for seven years. He experienced spending a night in jail, and restrictions. His confidant and co-founder of CI, Daniel Charl Stephanus Oosthuizen, also known as Daantjie Oosthuizen, did not live long but made a huge impact in the CI. In some circles he was regarded as “an early Afrikaner voice against apartheid”.
That he was described by Andre Brink as “a thorn in the flesh of the establishment” says it all. Though he was restricted, the Rev Theo Kotze used his time of visiting prisons for prayer, hymns, private sermons, and confessional acts to convey family, people, and events messages to prisoners.
Though he was breaking the law he continued to preach to Robert Sobukwe until he died.
Some people in this country did not just make a supreme sacrifice but bent the policies/principles of the institutions they were following/leading, a church in this context. A church was the most respected institution in society because people feared it and saw it as God’s symbol. But the likes of Naudé were in the forefront in bending man-made church policies.
This year we celebrate 30 years of our democracy, but the Christian Institute is not part of the history curriculum, at the centre. This failure contributes to it not being known.
This therefore means that the nation is indebted to the Christian Institute and automatically its members, founders, and leaders like Naudé, Albert Geyser, Ben Marais, Daantjie Oosthuizen, John de Gruchy and Reverend Theo Kotze. They and the Christian Institute played a pivotal role especially in the community they hailed from, the white community, in winning over not only other white people but those who are Christians, especially the Afrikaner section.
The Christian Institute exposed the apartheid regime that claimed to be Christian. August marked its 60th anniversary.
* Ndabeni is a former history tutor at UWC and a former teacher at Bulumko Senior Secondary School in Khayelitsha.