Christiaan Frederick Beyers Naudé
Christiaan Frederick Beyers Naudé (more commonly known as Beyers
Naudé or simply Oom Bey (Uncle Bey) in Afrikaans) (10 May 1915
- 7 September 2004) was an Afrikaner-South African cleric, theologian
and anti-apartheid activist.
One of eight children, he was born in Roodepoort, Transvaal but grew
up in Cape Town. He was named after a general his father had served
under during the second Anglo-Boer War. Naudé studied theology
at the University of Stellenbosch, where one of his teachers was the
future prime minister (and driving force behind so-called grand apartheid,
chief-architect of apartheid,) H.F. Verwoerd.
Beyers Naudé's father was an Afrikaner cleric and a founder
of the Broederbond ("Brotherhood" or "League of Brothers"
in Afrikaans), a powerful Afrikaner male secret society which played
a dominant role in apartheid South Africa. The Broederbond became especially
synonymous with the Afrikaner-dominated National Party that won power
in 1948 and started to implement the racial segregation policy of apartheid.
Like his father, Naudé became a cleric in the South African
Dutch Reformed Church and joined the Broederbond, preaching a religious
justification for apartheid. However, he began to doubt the religious
justification for apartheid after attending interracial church services
in the 1950's. After the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 (during which
the South African police killed 69 blacks protesting restrictions on
their freedom of movement), his faith in his church's teachings was
completely shattered; he was alone among his church's delegates in supporting
a landmark proclamation in the same year by the World Council of Churches
that rejected any theological basis for apartheid.
As a result of his actions, Naudé was put under enormous pressure
by the Afrikaner political and church establishment and he thus subsequently
quit both his church post and Johannesburg congregation as well as resigned
from the Broederbond in 1963. The Dutch Reformed Church later left the
World Council of Churches. In 1980, Naudé was admitted as a cleric
to the Dutch Reformed church's black African affiliate.
During the three decades subsequent to his resignation, Naudé's
vocal support for racial reconciliation and equal rights led to upheavals
in the Dutch Reformed Church as well as police surveillance of his private
life. He became an underground supporter of the anti-apartheid resistance
and helped to move its members in and out of the country. From 1977
to 1984, the South African government declared him a "banned person"
(which meant a de facto form of house arrest), that severely restricted
his movements and interactions with others.
After his unbanning in 1985, he succeeded Archbishop Desmond Tutu as
chairman of the South African Council of Churches. Naudé was
also the only Afrikaner member of the African National Congress delegation
during the negotiations in the early 1990's with the National Party
government which led to the transition to democracy.
Despite his long association with the African National Congress, Naudé
never actually joined the party. This fact, as well as the constant
ill health he suffered from during the last few years of his life, caused
him to be politically sidelined.
His official state funeral took place on Saturday 18 September 2004,
with President Thabo Mbeki and other dignitaries and high-ranking ANC
officials in attendance. Naudé's ashes were scattered in the
township of Alexandra, just outside Johannesburg.He was survived by
his wife Ilse and four children.
(from: Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia)
Throughout the history of the Church, those who have truly mirrored
the life and prophetic call of Jesus have been few. Yet the few have
been significant in the shaping of this world and the heralding of the
dawn of God's kingdom. Our post-age is no different in this respect.
Popular and establishment 'Christianity' struggles as the seduced bedfellow
of the dominant cultural milieu. However, in every era God raises those
who critique the principalities and powers with the Gospel of Jesus
Christ. During the period of Apartheid in South Africa, whilst the role
of the Dutch Reformed Church in shaping Afrikaner nationalism is well-known,
there was a countervailing Christian tradition that questioned South
African government policies, stretching back to the nineteenth century.
It is this tradition that I wish to bring to light, for it was a movement
of God in a desperate hour. It is an abiding example of the exodus tradition
and one that can strengthen our contemporary determination to follow
Jesus' example of solidarity with the poor and oppressed against the
tide of a globalised corporatist ascendancy .
My article will attempt to show that resistance to white hegemony emerged
from both liberal and radical strands within the mainline bodies of
the Church in South Africa. While dissidence always remained the prerogative
of a minority of churchmen, as Afrikaner dominance and racism solidified
from the time of union, it would be the radical strand that became the
effective heart and soul of Christian resistance. Radical Christian
leaders were those whom allowed themselves to be converted by the blacks
with whom they were engaged in mission. For them a new biblical imperative
emerged. By identifying themselves with the oppressed they ultimately
fought more passionately and deliberately against the systemic evil
of white hegemony.
Resistance to white supremacy also came from within the heart of Afrikanerdom,
although the lead was given mainly by one man, namely, Beyers Naude.
In many ways he became the symbol of resistance par excellence. It was
one thing to radically resist from without, it was entirely something
else to do it from within. Naude was a member of the Afrikaner Broederbond
and for a time became Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Nederduitse Gereformeerde
Kerk (NGK). Many in prominent Afrikaner circles perceived his leadership
and intellectual potential and predicted that one day he would be prime
minister.13 It was his solid Afrikaner heritage and these impeccable
Afrikaner qualifications that make him the archetypal symbol of the
process of politicisation and theological radicalisation. Like Huddleston
and others, it was exposure to the plight of blacks that began the process
of change in heart and mind.14 It ought to be admitted however, that
it is never just circumstance or experience that modifies or revolutionises
a person's thinking and living. A change of heart is also dependent
upon certain attitudes that have already been formed, through which
experience is filtered and interpreted. This was certainly the case
with Naude. Even during his academic years, he was already showing signs
of independent thought, religious scepticism, a healthy distrust of
theoretical detachment and the signs of political and theological dissent.15
Naude's resistance burst on to the South African stage in the wake
of the Sharpville massacre in March, 1960. Soon after, World Council
of Churches (WCC) representatives met with their South African member
churches in Cottesloe and produced the Consultation Statement which
moderately questioned the biblical and theological basis of apartheid.16Under
pressure from Prime Minister Verwoerd the NGK withdrew from the WCC.
Naude was left standing alone. He said later '... I was convinced that
those resolutions were in accordance with the truth of the Gospel.'
After Sharpville, the Verwoerd Government moved swiftly to completely
suppress black resistance so as to focus on implementing its grand system
for total separation of blacks from whites, known as apartheid18. From
this point on, Naude would prove to be a tenacious and influential adversary
of the apartheid system. Naude later described Sharpville as the moment
when his conscience 'came out of hiding.'19 Naude became convinced that
an independent ecumenical movement of individual Christians opposed
to apartheid needed to be formed urgently. By August 1963 he had founded
the Christian Institute (CI) which functioned as a grass roots network
for study, discussion, publishing and ecumenical protests.20 A month
after its establishment, Naude was forced to resign as NGK Moderator
and was then denied clergy status within the NGK. It is difficult to
appreciate the personal and emotional cost of Naude's decision to take
such a public stand against his own race and religion in this period
when race and religion were the primary determinants of Afrikaner nationhood.
His resolve was especially courageous because at this time he did not
know whether he would be accepted by the black community as a campaigner
in solidarity, because after all he was an Afrikaner.
In short, Naude was prepared to risk everything for the fight against
apartheid. This eventually endeared him to all in the resistance movement,
both black and white. In the years that followed Naude and the CI were
smeared by both the DRC and the Government . The CI was frequently branded
communist, its staff detained and overseas funding stopped. Naude became
the target of the Security Police, right-wing terrorism, and libel suits.
In 1972, Naude and the CI staff refused to testify before a Government
enquiry on the basis that it was not judicial.21The result was that
Naude had to stand trial - a trial which would drag on for three years.
In October 1977, following the CI's vehement attack on the Government
over the June 1976 Soweto uprising, it was declared an illegal organisation.
Naude and eighteen other leaders were to face the punishment of the
apartheid state; they were banned. Naude's banning was suddenly lifted
eight years later in September 1984.22In a interview in 1988 Naude graphically
described what banning entailed: "A banned person cannot be quoted
by the press. A banned person cannot write anything with a view to publication.
A banned person can never meet socially with more than one person at
a time. A banned person is restricted to a specific area of a city or
a town. A banned person is not allowed to enter any educational institution
or any place where any material is being prepared with a view to publishing.
A banned person is not allowed to give any educational instructions
to anybody except his or her own children. So, for all practical purposes,
a banned person becomes a non-person. A banned person is simply removed
from the public eye, and the public voice."23
(from: Christian Resistance to Apartheid in South Africa - A brief
history, by Kim Thoday)
After completing his last sermon in which he placed “ the authority
of God before the authority of man” he removed his robes and left
his church. Naudé and his family were completely ostracized by
their fellow Afrikaners. He told his wife, “Whatever happens,
we will be together and God will be with us.” Naude was embraced
by the Black community and joined a Dutch Reformed congregation led
by Reverend Sam Guti in Alexandra.
Valli Moosa, a member of the ANC National Executive Committee, spoke
at his funeral:
"Minority groups feel uncertain and too many people are still
asking: who is a true South African or what do you have to look like
or speak like to be a true South African. Oom Bey's life makes it absolutely
clear that: he, or she, who is white-skinned and Afrikaans speaking
is as much South African, and as complete a South African as he, or
she, who is dark skinned and speaks Sepedi.
No person exists as a linear being and Oom Bey demonstrated in the
most visible and profound manner that we exist as beings in a multiple
of ways which allows us to be Afrikaans speaking, culturally an Afrikaner
but equally each others keepers across cultural and ethnic lines. The
one does not exclude the other.
Dearest Oom Bey, thank you for your life. Thank you for your humanity.
We will remember you forever. Your cherished memory will always bring
a smile on our faces, a lump in our throats and a tug on our collective
MESJ - Mormons for Equality and Social Justice and her independent sister
social justice organization MWV - Mormone vir Waarheid en Versoening
(Afrikaans for: Mormons for Truth and Reconcilliation) honor Beyers
Naude as a role model for truth and reconcilliation. It is clear that
as Latter-day Saints we recognize many elements in the life of Beyers
Naude that remind us of our own ongoing struggle for truth and reconcilliation.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a court-like body
assembled in South Africa after the end of Apartheid. Anybody who felt
they had been a victim of violence could come forward and be heard at
the TRC. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request
amnesty from prosecution. The hearings were national and international
news and many sessions were televised on national television. The TRC
was a crucial component of the transition to full and free democracy
in South Africa and, despite some flaws, is generally regarded as very
The following statement in Afrikaans and English testify of the liberating
effect of speaking the truth : And ye shall know the truth, and the
truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)
Beyers Naude, 'n profeet in sy eie land, het van die Waarheid getuig
en gedemonstreer dat die Waarheid 'n mens inderdaad vrymaak!
Beyers Naude, a prophet in his own country, has witnessed of the Truth
and has demonstrated that it is indeed the Truth that sets people free!
April 2006 - Robert Poort