• Part 1​—South Africa and Neighboring Territories

    Come with us to a land of intriguing contrasts​—bustling cities and remote places in the bush, modern dwellings and humble African huts. Walk among people of many races. Listen and you will hear millions speak English or Afrikaans (derived from old Dutch). Others of this land’s 26,000,000 inhabitants are at home with such tongues as Xhosa and Zulu.

    This is South Africa. It covers 472,000 square miles and is the home of interesting, often lovable, people. Among them are many who yearn for good things of a spiritual sort, and their desires are being satisfied with Bible truth proclaimed by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses.

    First, a little history: During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, South Africa was the scene of much fighting. As the black “tide” of population moved south from central Africa and the white “tide” spread northward from the Cape, they clashed in fierce blood-spilling wars. The worst was the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, between the British and the Boers, the Dutch farmers. As a result, the four colonies of Natal, the Orange Free State, Transvaal and the Cape came under British rule. In 1910 they became one nation. Half a century later, in 1961, the country became the Republic of South Africa. This was by a majority vote of the whites. The blacks have no vote except in some of their “homelands,” large territories set aside for each African tribe.


    So now let us take a quick trip through South Africa. We start at Cape Town, near the southern extremity of the continent. Cape Town is the legislative capital, the country’s oldest city. Over 500 miles to the northeast is Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Free State, which city is regarded as the judicial capital of the country. Pretoria, still farther to the northeast, is the capital of Transvaal and is the administrative capital of the republic.

    The main topographical feature of South Africa is the interior plateau. From a coastal plain on the east the land rises sharply to form massive mountain ranges, varying in height from over 5,000 feet to more than 11,000. The plateau slopes gradually toward the west. Once, most of it was undulating grassland teeming with great herds of impala, zebra, springbok and other beautiful creatures. Today much of the interior is farmland, and most of the wild animals are found only in game reserves, such as world-renowned Kruger National Park. But toward the north, in the interior section, the land is drier and becomes the Kalahari Desert. To the northeast is the bushveld (pronounced “bush-felt”), with its abundance of shrubs.

    Kimberley, in the Orange Free State, is world famed as a center for diamond mining. In the Transvaal is found Johannesburg, largest city of the country and known as “queen” of the “Reef,” a string of mining and industrial towns. The Reef came into being due to the discovery of gold in the area back in 1886. Somewhat over 300 air miles southeast of Johannesburg lies Durban, on the shores of the Indian Ocean, and here one sees many Indian women in their colorful saris.

    Twelve and a half million Africans, belonging to at least nine tribes, live in South Africa. The largest tribes​—the Xhosa and Zulu peoples—​each number over three million. Next come the Basuto, then the Tswana, Tsonga, Swazi, Ndebele, Venda and others. Just over half the African population lives in the African “homelands,” the large territories designated for each individual African tribe. Usually the way of life in these “homelands” and in the reserves is quite primitive, with most of the people living in huts having walls mainly of mud, and roofs thatched with grass. The rest of the African population lives in African townships, such as Soweto with its little concrete-and-brick homes built by the municipality. These are located a few miles outside European cities and towns. The government’s policy is that each racial group develop separately and independently. South Africa has come under heavy criticism for its apartheid, or segregation, policy.

    Apart from the main sects of Christendom, the Africans have their own religions. Not only are the major faiths of Christendom represented among them, but many an African preacher has started his own little sect. Consequently, South Africa has the largest number of sects in the world​—at least 2,000! Apart from professing adherence to one of Christendom’s churches, most Africans still engage in some form of ancestor worship and live in fear of the dead. This is true not only in the “homelands.” Many a modern African, though driving a late-model car, occasionally sacrifices a goat to appease the spirits of his dead ancestors.


    At the turn of the century, South Africa’s population was smaller, the pace slower, and life more simple. The country was just recovering from the Anglo-Boer War when the time proved ripe for the good news to reach this fascinating field.

    In the year 1902 a certain Dutch Reformed clergyman was sent from Holland to an assignment at Klerksdorp, a town of the Transvaal. He brought with him a big box of secondhand religious literature, including Studies in the Scriptures, a copy of Zion’s Watch Tower

    in English and the booklet What Do the Scriptures Say About Hell? Frans Ebersohn and Stoffel Fourie met this clergyman at Klerksdorp. They were permitted to examine his library, found these publications to be of great interest, and were allowed to take them from the collection. These men were so deeply impressed by the truths that these publications contained that they decided to form a new congregation. They called it “Volheid van Christus” (Fullness of Christ). This was the very first foothold of the Kingdom message in South Africa.

    These two men began holding meetings and working from house to house to spread the good news. In 1903 Frans Ebersohn wrote to the first president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, C. T. Russell, and asked that a “pilgrim,” or special representative of the Society, be sent to South Africa. Brother Russell replied that circumstances did not then permit this, but that as soon as possible it would be arranged.

    In 1906 a couple of sisters who emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland, to Durban were enthusiastic about spreading the good news. Before long, others became interested in the truth in that city, and, by the end of 1906, there were forty subscribers for Zion’s Watch Tower in South Africa.

    In 1907 a certain “Reverend” Joseph Booth appeared on the stage of the Kingdom drama in southern Africa. Born in England, he moved to New Zealand at the age of twenty-nine to do sheep farming and later took up business in Australia. He joined the Baptists and after some time felt a call to become a missionary in Africa and so arrived in Nyasaland (now Malawi) in 1892 as an independent missionary. Booth became fired with the idea of equality for the Africans and “Africa for the Africans.” He established various “Industrial Missions.”

    By the year 1900 Booth had broken with most of his missions and had made a few trips to America, where he was converted to the Seventh Day Baptist faith. He soon afterward came back to Nyasaland to establish a mission for that Sabbatarian organization. Before long, he was in trouble with the Seventh Day Baptists. He then linked with the Seventh-day Adventists and established a mission for them. He also fell out with the government authorities, since they had a strong dislike for his schemes for African social change. It appears that in 1906 Booth started to take an interest in the Churches of Christ and, although turned down by the British Churches of Christ, he found some response in the Cape Town branch of the South African Churches of Christ. Booth was instrumental in helping them to establish a mission in Nyasaland. According to the publication Independent Africa, Booth moved from denomination to denomination like a “religious hitchhiker.”

    Toward the end of 1906 Booth, now in Scotland, read some of the books of Brother Russell. Soon he was off to the United States. Booth arranged for an interview with Brother Russell and this turned out to be a very interesting and crucial discussion. Brother Russell knew very little about Booth’s background and of his main objective to restore Africa to the Africans. He could not have known that Booth was already viewed as an undesirable by officials and whites in Nyasaland and that he had already used various religious organizations to support his own schemes. Also, Brother Russell was anxious to find someone who would open up a wide new field. Hence, the Society, for a time, undertook Booth’s expenses as its missionary to those peoples with whom he was acquainted.

    Little did Brother Russell realize that this would result in many difficulties and the bringing of much reproach on the name of the Society. At any rate, early in 1907, Joseph Booth was back in Africa and began operations in Cape Town and other parts of the country. Being persona non grata in Nyasaland, it appears that Booth did not return there for quite a time, although by letters and personal messengers he maintained close contact with the Nyasaland field and had a profound effect upon it.

    In the June 1, 1908, issue of Zion’s Watch Tower a letter signed by L. de Beer and written to Brother Russell shed some light on what was developing. It says, in part: “I am deeply interested in your six books, and have two brothers similarly interested; one is a clergyman of the Dutch Church; not only a reader, but a thinker. He is emeritus; resides at Pretoria, Transvaal, and edits a Dutch Church paper, besides preaching when requested. . . .

    “Then there is a mutual friend of Brother Booth and myself, Rev. J. H. Orr, minister of the Independent Congregational Church, Wynberg (one of our suburbs), who is already preaching some of the new truths contained in your books.

    “As you will have heard, quite a nice little company, of which I was one, all interested in the Millennial message, assembled in Brother Orr’s Church to celebrate the Passover​—five Europeans, 29 natives, conducted in three languages. It was an important and impressive hour, and a new era in our lives.”

    More news of the work in South Africa appears in The Watch Tower of January 15, 1909. The report says: “There are three black brethren who are preaching the Truth to the natives. One of these has gone northward about two thousand miles to his home region to carry the message. This brother, although young, speaks several of the native languages, and writes the English quite fluently. The latest report from him is very encouraging. The natives seem to have open ears for the Good Tidings of Great Joy, the message of Restitution.”

    The young African mentioned as traveling about 2,000 miles northward to his home region was Elliott Kamwana. Kamwana came from the Tonga tribe and had been educated by the Livingstonia Mission (Scotch Presbyterian) at Bandawe on the western shores of Lake Nyasa. However, he had met Booth at Blantyre, Nyasaland, in 1900, and two years later had been baptized at one of the Seventh Day Missions that Booth had established. He had come down to South Africa later, worked in the mines for a time and then met Booth again in the Cape. It appears that Kamwana stayed with Booth for a few months getting some instructions, and then went back to his home country, Nyasaland. In The Watch Tower of July 1, 1909, Booth describes the distribution of tracts in Johannesburg and Pretoria among the Africans and then says:

    “They are overjoyed at having the same message brought here which they have heard was being proclaimed up in their home country, Nyasaland, by Brother Elliott Kamwana.

    “One who has been here only three months tells that he saw Elliott baptize 300 in one day; another

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