New Internationalist

hearted White

Issue 113

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CHANGE [image, unknown] Fighting Apartheid

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Black-hearted white
The ideology of apartheid is unyielding. Individual compliance is fostered from birth and enforced until death. And dissent among the ruling white minority is the remarkable outcome of agonising personal decisions. Ruth Weiss traces the changing convictions of one white South African.

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Photo: William Raynor / Camera Press

'For many it will be impossible to live in this new South African society; they will be destroyed physically, emotionally and psychologically. They would be allowed to stay, but they would find the atmosphere unacceptable and therefore many will say, we cannot adjust we must go.'

A white South African speaking about a future in which many of his compatriots will find no place: an unusual white South African, who made this comment during 1976, in the aftermath of Soweto.

Dr Christian Frederick Beyers Naude, now sixty-six years old, is the son of pious parents; pillars of the all-white Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK), the Dutch Reformed Church. His father was an NGK Minister, and a founder member of the secret and sinister - Broederbond.

Founded in 1918, the Broederbond's objective was to establish the identity and political power of the Afrikaner, the yolk. Its tentacles spread into every corner of South African society controlled the Dutch Reformed Church, pushed into the teaching profession the public service, and of course the National Party. Every Prime Minister since the National Party 1948 election victory has been a member of the secret society.

Dr. Naude was firmly entrenched in the Afrikaaner establishment. His life seemed to indicate nothing but acceptance and success within it. He studied at Stellenbosch University and became an NGK Minister in 1930. It goes without saying that he was a 'broeder'.

Change, however, was already beginning. In 1963, Dr. Naude achieved high office in the NGK, being elected Moderator of the Southern Transvaal Synod. It was a year of grave decision. Soon after the Sharpeville Massacre of March 1960, the World Council of Churches held a meeting in Johannesburg, at which several controversial resolutions had been passed. One of these stated that no one who believed in Jesus Christ should be excluded from any Church because of colour or race. Another asserted that it was part of the dignity of man to be allowed to own land where he lived and to participate in the governing of his country.

The major Dutch Reformed Churches instantly rejected the resolutions. Individual members such as Dr. Naude continued to debate the questions with other clergy. The result was the establishment in 1963 of the Christian Institute of Southern Africa and its directorship was offered to Dr. Naude.

Dr. Naude asked the NGK for permission to accept the Institute post and was refused. The decision was his: Church or the Christian Institute. The dilemma was real and painful. He gave up his status as minister and took up the post saying that his Church was undergoing 'a purposeful and fear-ridden process of isolation and that he himself had to make a choice between 'obedience to God and obedience to men', Dr. Naude accepted obedience to God and rejected racial discrimination.

In view of its small size the influence of the Institute was instant and surprising. What Dr. Naude had succeeded in doing was to force Afrikaaners to look at themselves, 'instead of trekking away', as one commentator put it 'the old way of dealing with problems'. Revenge was equally instant Afrikaaners deal harshly with all critics of apartheid and reserve their greatest punishment for those among their own ranks who dare to question the status quo. People such as Dr. Naude are ostracised; banished into a social and emotional wilderness. However, for this man, who had become 'beloved by his black brothers and sisters', the break with his people was only the beginning.

Seen as a traitor to the 'Broederbond', the NGK and the yolk, Dr. Naude built the Institute into a force to be reckoned with. It rallied anti-apartheid forces within the country and brought black and white into contact with each other an achievement not to be under-estimated, for the very concept of apartheid is separation and non communication between the races.

The Institute started its Black Community Programme, identified with other opposition activities under the banner of Black Consciousness, in the early 70s Among the batch of Black Consciousness organisations which were banned in the carefully orchestrated backlash of October 1977 was the Christian lnstitute. Beyers Naude himself received a five-year banning order.

In theory that should have been the end of his influence. A banned parson may not attend a 'gathering', defined as three or more persons being together at any one time. This includes social affairs like a bridge party or a Church service. Special dispensation has to be sought for such attendance. A banned person cannot be quoted or published. He lives in solitary confinement without ever having been charged or brought to trial.

Now that the 1977 banning order marches towards its end, there are many who wonder if the South African government so anxious to embark on its 'reformist' programme, will renew the ban. For the moment Dr. Naude follows a simple life-style, reading all the daily papers, dividing his time between writing and seeing people.'Counselling' is the one activity which he is able to pursue. He sees people both black and white one at a time for about four hours each day. They come for theological and political guidance.

While he is banned no one can say precisely what Dr. Beyer Naude's thoughts are. In March this year, he lost a close friend: the Rev. Frikkie Conradie died at the age of 35 in a motor accident the day before his first child was born.

Overcome with grief, Dr. Naude rang friends in Europe to break the news. He explained that he had asked for permission to attend the funeral and his request had been instantly refused, 'They strip you of everything,' he said.

It is remarkable that a former 'broeder' and a member of a Church which still rejects racially mixed congregations now accepts not merely the inevitability of change but also that it will wreak havoc when it comes. Blacks are confident of change, says Naude. It is irrelevant whether it is going to take three years or eight they are convinced that real change is now inevitable.

Dr. Naude accepts that a new South Africa will be dominated by the black majority. While it possibly has room for whites there will be no room for white privilege and supremacy.

Like so many others Dr. Naude hoped that Whites would still grasp the small chance for peaceful change which existed. But in a sermon preached while he was still an NGK minister, he said that it would be wrong to consider Jesus Christ for a prince of peace; reconciliation could mean confrontation even bloody conflict. This is the position reached by Beyers Naude. He groped towards it from complete acceptance of the society into which he was born a society which he rejects today in its totality. As some of his black friends say to Naude: 'you have the appearance of a White, but your heart is no longer white'.

Ruth Weiss worked as a journalist in South Africa and is author of 'Woman against Apartheid'. She now lives in London.


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