Faith Communities in the Ilitha-Ndevana area

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The heart of apartheid is dispossession.
Francis Wilson


The idea may exist, especially amongst people who enjoyed a privileged position in South African society for the past decades, and who were not negatively effected by the previous political dispensation, that with the dawn of a new democracy in a unified South Africa, a new spirit of hope, co-operation and peace should automatically prevail all over the country. Even in many African townships expectations were high after 1990, with the release of Mr. Mandela, and the arrival of the first democratic elections in April 1994. It was thought that peace and prosperity would swiftly emerge out of the ashes.
On the contrary, the roots of poverty, impoverishment and powerlessness still lie deeply entrenched in the reality of everyday life and in the wake of an oppressive system whose disruptive influence will still be felt far into the future. A serious effect of the historical events, often overlooked, lies at the level of self-image, feelings, emotions and perceptions of reality and of the future, and the inability to alter the course of life. Not all Africans have suffered to the same extent under an oppressive system of race discrimination and the development of bantustans. With the implementation of the homeland policy and the creation of National States within South Africa by the National Party government, certain privileged classes came into existence. They were civil servants in newly established homeland governments, nurses, teachers, a number of farmers, having access to state land, and some businessmen. They benefited from the expansion and decentralising of political power to the homelands, and the allocation of development funds to these areas (SPP 1983: 12). The 1980′ s, especially after independence in 1981, saw the development of a small economical and social middle class in Ciskei.
On the other hand, it was the thousands of unskilled and semi-skilled farm and migrant workers, declared surplus on White-owned farms in the Eastern Cape and in urban areas in South Africa, that had to take the full impact of the system. The majority of residents of Ilitha and Ndevana came from farms or worked as urban migrant labourers and settled in the early 1970’s in Ciskei.
Wilson and Ramphele (1989:204) identified six major “lines of attack” in “apartheid’s assault on the poor”, namely: the shift in policy from incorporation in the beginning of the century (forming the Union and incorporating South West Africa) to dispossession of African people (creating ‘homeland’ and later independent states); anti-African-urbanisation; forced removal, both rural and urban; Bantu education; crushing of political and civic organisations; and the destabilisation in the 1980’s of neighbouring countries in Southern Africa. Apartheid or race discrimination in South Africa did not start with the election victory of the National Party in 1948. The change of government rather meant the intensification and systemisation of a process which had been going on for three hundred years. It also meant the start of a process of massive reconstruction of the South African society, culminating in the forced removal and resettlement of more than 3 million Africans in so-called homelands or ethnic settlements between 1960 and 1983 (Wilson & Ramphele 1989:204, 216).
Going back in history, the long process of conquest and slavery of Africans in South Africa was also linked to the struggle between Afrikaners and British rule and to the perpetuation of White supremacy in the economy and politics. The Treaty ofVereeniging, signed after the Anglo-Boer War in 1902, came as a rude shock to Africans. Instead of alleviating their position, they were left without any franchise and with the colour bar firmly retained. They were aggrieved that the Afrikaners, who were Britain’s enemies, were favourably treated, while the interests of Africans, who had shown their loyalty to the Crown, were ignored (Odendaal 1984:37). Seven years later, in 1909, a National Convention was convened to negotiate unity between the colonies and British protectorates. In order to make Union possible, a compromise was reached between the Cape and the northern colonies. The latter agreed to the continuation of franchise rights for Africans in the Cape, while the Cape Colony approved the continuation of the colour bar in the north and the principle that Africans should be excluded from sitting in parliament. Although the draft South Africa Act received the support of a large majority of White South African colonists, nearly all politically conscious members of the African and coloured communities, who were denied political rights in all the colonies except the Cape, were against the terms, though not the principle of union (Odendaal 1984:134,196). Again Africans were left out and denied basic rights.
Shortly after the formation of the Union of South Africa, Africans had to face another devastating blow when the Natives’ Land Act of 1913 was passed through parliament. It stands out as landmark in the deliberate efforts of consecutive governments in South Africa to dispossess and impoverish Africans and to make them aliens and refugees in the country of their birth. In terms of the Land Act, so-called “Scheduled Native Areas” were created for the exclusive use of Africans. Originally these areas comprised only “one-eighteenth of the total area of the Union”. The Act also stated that African people were no longer allowed to purchase or lease land, except in reserves and existing African landowners could only sell their land to White people (Plaatje s.a.:19,20). Former relations of landlord and tenants had now been made a criminal offence for which they could be fined. The implementation of the act led to a large expulsion of tenants and occupants from White owned farmed, especially in the colonies of the Transvaal and Free State. “And under severe pains and penalties they were to be deprived of the bare human right of living on the land, except as servants in the employ of the whites .. ” (Plaatje s.a.:28). The Act and the campaign to eliminate Africans from the farms was not welcomed by all because of huge profits made by landowners out of the renting of their farms to African farmers (Plaatje s.a. :27). Plaatje (s.a. :53) recalled the prophecy of an old Basuto shortly after the act was enforced:
That the Imperial Government, after conquering the Boers, handed back to them their old Republics, and a nice little present in the shape of the Cape Colony and Natal – the two English Colonies. That the Boers are now ousting the Englishmen from the public service, and when they have finished with them, they will make a law declaring it a crime for a Native to live in South Africa, unless he is a servant in the employ of a Boer, and that from this it will be just one step to complete slavery.
At a congress of the South African Native Congress in 1913 a deputation was elected to present the objections of African people against the Land Act to the Union Government.
When no positive reaction was received, a delegation 1 was sent to Britain in 1914 to protest against the Land Act and to appeal to the British Parliament. This was also to no avail (Plaatje s.a.:171, 172, 352).
With land added as Released Areas under Act 18 of 1936 to the Reserves, less than 14% of the country was eventually accessible to African people (Wilson & Ramphele 1989:191). The trend in South African colonial policy was towards a restriction of existing African political rights and the permanent exclusion of Africans from South African political systems. Therefore Africans mobilised themselves in opposition to this policy. Numerous organisations emerged against this background. A national conference held on 8 January 1912 in Bloemfontein to discuss the formation of a new national organisation for African people marked an important occasion in the history of South Africa. The South African Native National Congress with John Dube as its first president was established, later to be known as the African National Congress (Odendaal 1984:270, 275, 285).
In the present communities of Ilitha and Ndevana, many people did not have a clear understanding of an overall system of Apartheid and how it developed over the years, but built their perceptions and feelings on the way they were treated by specific laws imposed on them and officials implementing them. Therefore, the process of reconstructing and development should include more than houses, infrastructure, vocational orientated education and the creation of job opportunities. It is important that serious attention should be given to a healing process, restoring people’s dignity and creating a positive self-image, encouraging people to develop their full potential. This will have to include the opportunity given to people at grassroots level to remember their struggles, hardship, anger and frustration over things that have happened to them. This is an essential part of the healing and reconciliation process. Interpersonal contact between members of societies, previously from opposing sides of the colour bar, on various levels, will have to take place to create mutual understanding. Local faith communities with ecumenical links in other societies, are ideally situated to facilitate this process.
The communities of Ilitha and Ndevana started in the early 1970’s as a direct result of forced removal and resettlement. • Coming from different areas in the Eastern Cape, residents brought with them their unique experience of the political system, and together they shared an ongoing struggle for dignity and survival. In general all these events contributed to the gradual disintegration of the different facets of community life, creating a culture of powerlessness and despair in the communities of Ilitha and Ndevana. Such a culture promoted anomaly, destroyed human relationships, led to a decay in social control and authority, promoted crime and forced the social fibre of society into a state of collapse.

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From 1960 the position of Africans in the rural areas had changed fundamentally. The antipathy towards large urban concentrations had now been extended to the rural areas. The so-called verswarting (Africanising) of the White countryside had became a political danger for the National Party government. The homeland policy was put in full motion and thousands of surplus rural people had to be removed to the bantustans. Over the next two decades the State dealt with the problem through a massive programme of rural resettlement. The Native Trust and Land Act of 1936 specified the terms under which Africans could reside permanently in the White rural areas. Eventually it was only full-time farm workers and their dependants that could stay on. Many workers even settled their families in the homeland while working on White owned farms because there was no future for them in White rural areas and their children had difficulty finding schools (SPP 1983 :8,9).
Settlements in the Ilitha-Ndevana area came about as a result of the application of this policy. The plan was to relocate surplus people from so-called black spots near Tsitsikama, the Northern Cape and from White rural areas in the Eastern Cape and Midlands to closer settlement in a newly consolidated area called Ciskei. They were made redundant by restricting their living and movement in those areas where they were born and had lived for generations. No franchise or community representation were allowed and little was done to upgrade existing facilities for Africans. A hostile atmosphere for Africans in the White rural Eastern Cape served as a strong push factor. Many were elderly people who had spent all their years serving the economical well being and progress in many Eastern Cape agricultural districts and who were them dumped in Ciskei. Mr. Gedezana worked for thirty years on a farm in the Colesberg district. He played an active role in community and church activities and had a good relationship with the farm owner. At retirement he was given a vacant farmhouse and access to grazing for his cattle. Although he sometimes had difficulty to get place for his children in the so-called coloured school in town, he was treated with respect and made a good living. Towards 1972 things started to change. The new owner of the farm was not satisfied with previous arrangements with his cattle and his children were also expelled from school because they were Xhosa, although they spoke fluebt Afrikaans. On account of promises of better conditions, he moved to Ilitha in 197 5. Resettlement meant that ties with family and known surroundings were broken.
It was those kind of pull and push factors that exerted pressure on people to move and resettle in the so-called homelands. All other alternatives were gradually eliminated. African people were forced in one direction, to the homeland Ciskei although they had hardly any historical or traditional links with the area.
In 1973 Riemvasmaak, a black spot near Kakamas, on the northern bank of the Oranje River at Augrabies in the Northern Cape, was cleared to make way for a military base. A part of the community was resettled in Namibia and the rest, 46 families, were moved to Welcomewood, between King William’s Town and Kidd’s Beach. The 215 people involved were labelled Ciskeian Xhosa although they had lived on the other side of the country and could not even speak Xhosa – their language was Afrikaans (SPP 1983:97).
Aaron Malgas (67 years of age in 1995) was 45 years old when he and his family arrived at Welcomewood. He had to leave a well established homestead, a big vegetable garden, access to grazing field and a large herd ofboerbokke (farm goats). The few livestock that he brought with him did not last long in a area with a high rainfall and new diseases. In January 1995 ten families returned to Riemvasmaak in an effort to re-establish a living on the land of their birth. Oom (uncle) Aaron felt that, after 22 years, his children and grandchildren had made this area their new home and he had little strength left to start all over agam. He recalled with nostalgia the harsh but enjoyable days they had at Riemvasmaak and still keep contact with friends and family left there.


The culture of despair was reinforced by the control of the government in every aspect of lives of Africans. Little room for free initiative and creativity was left. The strategy of establishing the homelands was supported by a sophisticated system of control over Africans in this country. It was a control at the political, economic, ideological and demographic levels (SPP 1983:4). Demographic control was a main cornerstone in the strategy and resettlement to prescribed areas. The aim was to have the fewest possible Africans in White rural and urban areas. The majority should reside in the bantustans. By 1980 the bantustans contained well over half of the total African population of South Africa. With migrants included, the figure rose to nearly 60% (SPP 1983 :6). Although the African population in White areas did not decline, the population growth was considerably smaller than general growth in the country. The urbanisation process of Africans was controlled through the system of influx control. Section 10 of the Blacks Consolidation Act of 1945 as amended in 1952 specified the conditions under which Africans were allowed to stay and work in White urban areas. It was mostly Africans who were born and lived continuously in an urban area or somebody that had worked for 10 years for one employer or who had lived and work lawfully for 15 years in the area that qualified for Section 10 rights. A person could also loose his or her rights, if declared undesirable in an White urban area. Those without permission were only allowed 72 hours in the city (SPP 1983:7).
Passes had to be carried by Africans at all times, which contained and specified a person’s right to live and work in a specific area. After the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1834, different pass laws were introduced over the next century to control movement of Africans to urban areas in South Africa. After the change in government in 1948, pass laws were strictly applied to prevent and even to try to reverse black urbanisation (Wilson & Ramphele 1989:192, 208).
Constant fear of police raids coupled with the indignity of arrest, was part of daily living of many Africans. Mr Joni, now living in Ilitha, moved with his mother to the West Bank in East London in the early 1960’s. Not having a pass, his mother often had to wake up early to hide in the bush while a police raid was in progress. As a young man he started doing odd jobs and garden work. He was often caught by police for not having a pass, put in jail for a few days, released, just to struggle again to avoid arrest. Later he got a pass but then other restrictions were placed on his movement and his efforts to find suitable employment. Now that freedom has come at last, job opportunities are limited and the cost of living has soared.
Political control took the form of repression of any expression of resistance and the creation of local government in the different bantustans. The upsurge in political resistance by Africans in the 1940’s and 1950’s was forcibly crushed and by the mid-1960’s all overt internal resistance had been eliminated and organisations like the ANC and PAC banned. Through the Black Authorities Act of 1951 political power was decentralised to the traditional elite in the form of revived tribal authorities under chiefs and headmen (SPP 1983:9, 12). Peri-urban resettled communities like Ndevana were also placed under a headman and all activities from development of infrastructure to the applications for grants and pensions had to pass his hand. This system guaranteed
stringent control by the government who provided all the funding, but often led to frustration and corruption by some local officials, abusing their authority and power. Protest in the 1980′ s saw many of these headmen killed or expelled from settlements. Mr. Tutani, headman of Sotho near Komga was killed by angry protesters in 1986 and his family had to flee Ciskei.
Economical control over Africans in South Africa was implemented by a whole range of measures like the system of migrant labour, influx control, pass law, restrictions on housing construction in urban areas, limitations on the formation of unions, forced removal and resettlement of surplus people and the establishment of decentralised industrial areas. Each of these tactics cruelly disrupted the lives of Africans and directly contributed to the process of impoverishment (Wilson & Ramphele 1989:208). Mr. Madonono had vee-reg (the right to own cattle) on the farm he was working on in the Hanover district in the 1960’s and 1970’s due to continuous good service to the owner of the farm. Through the years he had built up a valuable herd of cattle and a number of sheep. These assets enabled him to provide his children with education and his family with basic necessities. With his farming experience and management skills he was looking for an opportunity to rent land and to start his own farming in the Karoo. He was denied the opportunity, his rights were grossly infringed on, and he was, through circumstances,
forced to sell belongings and to resettle in Ilitha. He feels frustrated and deprived of chances in life. Many settled full-time farm labourers left the White rural areas for the bantustans, either through eviction or by choice. The homeland was the only lawful destination and the only route to other labour markets (SPP 1983 :9).
The strict control and the elimination of alternatives imposed on Africans made a profound contribution to the feeling of despair and powerlessness that are presently prevailing in the communities ofllitha and Ndevana.

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Summary I Opsomming
1.1 Aim and Purpose of the Study
1.2 The Mission of the Church
1.3 The Missiological Significance of the Study
1.4 Thesis
1. 5 Participant Observation as Method of Research
1.6 Locating a Social Situation
1.7 Focus of Study
1.8 Local Faith Community
1.9 The Contribution of an Outsider.
1.10 Defining Terms
1.11 Structure of the Study
2.1 Overview
2.2 The People of the Ciskei Area
2.3 A Short History preceeding the Present Situation
2.4 Ilitha – Ndevana Complex
2. 5 Conclusion
3.1 TheBurdenofthePast
3.2 People made Redundant and Dispensable
3 .3 Controlled by the System and left with no Alternatives
3.4 Disempowerment and the Destruction of Human and Physical Resources
3.5 Every aspect ofLife being Criminalised
3.6 Institutionalised Violence led to Endemic Violence
3.7 People left Vulnerable
3. 8 Humiliated and Deceived
3 .9 Conclusion
4.1. Faith Communities in the Ilitha-Ndevana area
4.2 Two Local Congregations of the Uniting Reformed Church
4.3 Disruptions, Changes and Difficulties faced by Members
4.4 Supportive Structures and Actions operative in the Local Faith Community
4.5. Conclusion
5.1 From a Message Distorted to a Relevant Model for Mission
5.2 The God of the Destitute, the Poor, and the Wronged
5.3 Freed from a colonial consciousnees
5.4 Building Community
5.5 A New Reading of the Gospel..
5.6 Coram Dei: Living Daily Life before God
5.7 The Church as a Site of Empowerment and Reconstruction
5.8 Appropriate Church Structures
5 .9 Ecumenical Involvement
5 .10 A Vision for the Faith Community

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