Plough­ing the land is­sue

Grocott's Mail - - NEWS -

No­ma­langa Mkhize, in an ar­ti­cle on the Church and land re­form in the Daily Dis­patch of 21 Au­gust 2018, ad­mit­ted that she had been “won­der­ing” what Chris­tian churches in South Africa were preach­ing in re­la­tion to the land ques­tion. It seems a pity that she did not go be­yond won­der­ing, and en­gage in a lit­tle re­search. The Angli­can Dio­cese of Gra­ham­stown has not only been preach­ing about the land ques­tion, but dis­cussing it, tak­ing de­ci­sions and act­ing on those de­ci­sions, for two decades. I can­not speak for all Chris­tian de­nom­i­na­tions, but I would not be so ar­ro­gant as to as­sume that the Angli­cans were unique in this re­spect.

As far back as 1998, the Depart­ment of So­cial Re­spon­si­bil­ity (DSR) of the Dio­cese of Gra­ham­stown or­gan­ised a Land Set­tle­ment Work­shop. It was recog­nised that the church owned sub­stan­tial hold­ings of agri­cul­tural land, and that land re­dis­tri­bu­tion was “an es­sen­tial part of the heal­ing process of our coun­try” ac­cord­ing to Canon Jesse Sage, Ad­min­is­tra­tor of the DSR. Also tak­ing part in the Work­shop were rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Bor­der Ru­ral Com­mit­tee and the Depart­ment of Land Af­fairs.

Canon Sage un­der­took a com­pre­hen­sive au­dit of all the land owned by the Dio­cese of Gra­ham­stown, which at that time stretched from Ali­wal North to the sea, and re­sults of the dioce­san ini­tia­tive soon for this area were 200 houses, a po­lice sta­tion, taxi rank, small busi­ness park and clinic, in ad­di­tion to the large area to be used for agri­cul­ture.

The oral tra­di­tion or mem­ory con­cern­ing the site of Gra­ham­stown Cathe­dral and also, pre­sum­ably, the site of the City Hall, and its im­por­tance in Xhosa his­tory, does not come as news to the church.

On 11 Fe­bru­ary 2003 the Bish­ops and Chap­ter of the Dio­cese of Gra­ham­stown is­sued a State­ment of Re­pen­tance and Af­fir­ma­tion, re­flect­ing on the his­tory of the dio­cese and its roots both in the gospel and in the vi­o­lent fron­tier his­tory of the East­ern Cape. In a sym­bolic ges­ture of apol­ogy for past wrongs, the Bishop on be­half of the Dio­cese handed over this State­ment to Prince Zo­lile Burns-nca­mashe. It was also agreed that a statue be erected in Gra­ham­stown next to the Cathe­dral, in hon­our of the Xhosa leader Makana (Makhanda), a project to be un­der­taken in con­junc­tion with Makana Mu­nic­i­pal­ity. How­ever, due to lack of funds, this did not ma­te­ri­alise.

Lastly, Mkhize’s al­le­ga­tion that “Racist seg­re­ga­tion was prac­tised by the Gra­ham­stown Angli­can Church through­out the apartheid years…” is patently un­true. Although some churches were (and are) at­tended mainly by black con­gre­gants, this is be­cause of his­tor­i­cal ge­o­graph­i­cal seg­re­ga­tion im­posed by the apartheid gov­ern­ment. Peo­ple gen­er­ally at­tend churches close to where they live. At no time did the Angli­can Church in South­ern Africa im­pose seg­re­ga­tion on any con­gre­ga­tion.

In 1957 the Na­tive Laws Amend­ment Bill in­tro­duced by the Na­tion­al­ist Gov­ern­ment in­cluded a clause, 29 (c) which sought to pro­hibit “na­tives” from at­tend­ing gath­er­ings in “white” ar­eas without per­mis­sion both from the Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter and the lo­cal au­thor­ity.

The then Arch­bishop of Cape Town, Ge­of­frey Clay­ton, called a meet­ing of the Emer­gency Com­mit­tee of his fel­low Bish­ops, which agreed that this clause was some­thing the Church could not con­sent to obey.

The Arch­bishop’s let­ter to the Prime Min­is­ter, set­ting out the Church’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to dis­obey this Clause, re­ceived con­sid­er­able pub­lic­ity, not least be­cause af­ter sign­ing the let­ter, the Arch­bishop col­lapsed and died of a heart at­tack. Although the Bill was passed into law, Clause 29 (c) was never en­forced against any church, and Angli­can churches, in­clud­ing Gra­ham­stown Cathe­dral, con­tin­ued to wel­come wor­ship­pers of all colours through­out the apartheid years. Peo­ple con­tinue to choose where they wish to wor­ship.

• The Very Rev­erend An­drew Hunter is Dean of Gra­ham­stown (Makhanda)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.