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.
A BRIEF JOURNEY
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.
BACK TO THE TURN OF THE CENTURY
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 gives advice that in one place there are 700 adherents. And I am further informed that there are towards 3,000 in that country in about 30 separate places who have accepted the Divine Plan as preferable to Presbyterianism and the Church of England. Brother Elliott himself reports that there are about 9,000 who are interested somewhat, though not all of them to the extent named above.”
Toward the end of this report, Brother Russell included some very recent news about the arrest of Elliott Kamwana at the instigation of the Calvinistic Scotch Missionaries of Bandawe, Lake Nyasa. Brother Russell concludes the report with the brief statement: “Brother Kamwana baptized 9,126 in past year.”
No comment is made on this fantastic figure. At that time there were many less than that number baptized in the whole United States! But how did Kamwana do it? What methods were used?
“WATCHTOWER MOVEMENTS” BEGIN
Actually, neither Booth nor Kamwana had really left Babylon the Great, or false religion; they never became Bible Students or Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. Their relationship with the Watch Tower Society was short and superficial. Mrs. Marjorie Holliday, whose memories concerning the truth go back to the early 1900’s, describes how Joseph Booth frequently endeavored to sabotage the meetings of the brothers in their upstairs room in Durban. Says our Christian sister Holliday: “For example: while we were singing ‘Free From the Law,’ he would station himself outside and reply with ‘not free from the law.’”
So it is not surprising that Elliott Kamwana, Booth’s spiritual apprentice, would have quite a garbled idea of the truths presented in the Society’s publications. But exactly what he did preach when he got back to Nyasaland, it is now impossible to say. It certainly seems true that a marked feature of his campaign was its dramatic open-air baptisms. But these baptisms performed by Kamwana had no relationship with the true Christian baptism of Jehovah’s servants. Whatever he said or whatever methods he used, Kamwana’s campaign lasted only a short time, from approximately September 1908 to June 1909, when the government stepped in and put him in prison, later deporting him to the Seychelles Islands. He was not allowed to go back to Nyasaland until 1937, when he carried on as a leader of one of the false “Watchtower movements.”
Most unfortunately, as a result of Kamwana’s work a situation arose in central Africa that for a long time was terribly confusing. Movements developed that used Brother Russell’s books to a small degree. These mingled some truth with many of their own ideas and methods. Thus, many people were led astray. Not all these movements used the names “Watchtower” or “Watchtower Society”; in fact, the movement that Kamwana led in time developed the name “The Watchman Mission.”
Many years later, in 1947, due to the fact that these false Watchtower sects were still causing some confusion, the brothers in charge of the Kingdom-preaching work in Nyasaland wrote to Kamwana. In a reply written and signed by Kamwana, he says: “The Watchman Mission (Mlonda Mission) has no time to waste on rumour because the blacks and the Europeans in Nyasaland know that the Watchman Mission is separate and distinct from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Europeans.”
So the facts make it quite clear that Kamwana never was a true, dedicated servant of Jehovah, and it appears that he started off or caused the formation of the various false “Watchtower movements.” It seems that this all began with his “fiery” campaign of 1909. Brother Nguluh, an African brother in Johannesburg who was in Nyasaland at that time, has likened Kamwana’s campaign to a “wild fire catching the grass.” In those days, there was considerable migration from Nyasaland by natives looking for work and better pay. Evidently, then, in that way false “Watchtower movements” spread throughout the Rhodesias, the Congo and down into South Africa.
DURBAN HEARS THE MESSAGE
Now let us go back to Durban in the year 1906. Marjorie Holliday and her mother lived next door to a Mrs. Morton. Sister Arnott, of Glasgow, Scotland, was constantly sending tracts and leaflets to her natural sister, Mrs. Morton. In turn, Mrs. Morton passed on these tracts to Marjorie Holliday’s mother, Mrs. Agnes Barrett, and eventually both accepted the truth. At this time there also was a Sister Taylor there from Scotland. A little later Sister Arnott and her family decided to come from Glasgow and settle in Durban. So, according to Sister Holliday, it was Sisters Arnott, Taylor, Morton and Barrett who really got the work started in Durban. One of their main methods of spreading the truth was to hand tracts and leaflets to the people on the beaches.
Marjorie Holliday herself took her stand at the age of ten years by writing a letter of resignation to the Presbyterian Church, and thus dissociating herself from Babylon the Great. She also says that in 1910 the little group in Durban was joined by an American Negro, Brother Whiteus. Sister Holliday tells us that he had very good success in Durban. Then she mentions quite an amazing incident. Apparently, Brother Whiteus was recalled to America, possibly by Brother Russell. But not long before the ship left Durban he was kidnapped by Booth and locked in a room! (Why Booth did this is not clear.) In any case, the local sisters managed to discover where Brother Whiteus was locked up, and Sister Barrett succeeded in releasing him and then safely escorted him to the docks so that he could catch his ship.
By the year 1910 some good seed had been sown, but strange things were happening in southern Africa. The situation was not good in Nyasaland, and Booth was giving trouble in Durban. It was very necessary for someone mature and reliable to take oversight of the Kingdom work in this vast field.
A TURNING POINT
The year 1910 saw a new chapter open for the Kingdom work in South Africa. By that time Booth was finished as far as the Society was concerned. About the middle of that year Brother Russell sent William W. Johnston, who was probably in his early thirties. He was a Scotsman from Glasgow, sober-minded, careful and reliable, a real contrast to the volatile, erratic Booth. Brother Johnston had been an elder in Glasgow for several years, was a deep student of God’s Word and an excellent speaker. He was one of the “gifts in men” very much needed in the African field, which had been badly shaken by Booth’s exploits. (Eph. 4:8) Brother Johnston’s main mission was to go to Nyasaland, investigate the situation there, and give help to the brothers.
The first white man to discover Lake Nyasa had been the famous explorer and missionary David Livingstone, in 1859. After that, the country was pioneered for white settlement by missionaries of the Scottish Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Churches. It became a British protectorate in 1891, and part of British Central Africa. At the time of Brother Johnston’s journey the population of Nyasaland was about one million, with very few local white residents.
Brother Johnston spent some four months in Nyasaland and reported that there were close to one hundred churches in as many villages and thousands of natives owing their allegiance to “present truth.” (2 Pet. 1:12, AV) He found that some had a “very fair grasp of the Truth.” But he was very disappointed with the general spirit.
“Some of them seemed to think also that I had come out with a pocketful of money to endow all the pastors and teachers and give them lucrative employment under the Society,” said Brother Johnston. “I had to disabuse their minds of that idea. . . . I regret to say that almost in every case where I had dealings with individual brethren their interviews ended with an appeal for financial assistance in some shape or form.” He also found that Booth’s influence was “markedly manifest on the work in Nyasaland.” Some were keeping the seventh-day sabbath. “I did what I could to present the truth on this question,” remarked Brother Johnston, “and was enabled by the grace of God to deliver at least some of them from bondage.”
Brother Johnston made an effort to establish some form of organization and chose several natives to act as teachers after he had cleared up the sabbath question for them. He also was pleased to find that many appeared to be “filled with a strong desire for a more intimate acquaintance with God’s Word.” For a while after returning to South Africa, he received reports from some of these people in Nyasaland, but after a few years there was very little contact. For fifteen years the movement started by Booth and Kamwana was largely left to itself. It is not surprising that such a situation gave birth to the false, indigenous “Watchtower movements.”
A SMALL BRANCH OFFICE WITH VAST TERRITORY
Soon after his return to Durban in 1910, Brother Johnston received instructions from Brother Russell to open a branch office of the Watch Tower Society there. This new, one-man branch was simply a small room in School Lane, Durban. It served as an office and, at times, as a meeting place. But the territory over which it had jurisdiction was tremendous. Roughly speaking, the whole of Africa south of the equator was its field. In fact, some of the territories that came under this branch, such as the Congo, Uganda and Kenya, stretched far north of the equator. Also included were the island of Mauritius away out in the Indian Ocean, the huge island of Madagascar (Malagasy Republic) off the Mozambique coast, St. Helena hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic, and the island of São Tomé in the Gulf of Guinea. However, as the prophet Zechariah wrote: “Who has despised the day of small things?”—Zech. 4:10.
EFFORTS PROVE FRUITFUL
It is not good to despise the work of humble people, such as Brother Whiteus. He once called at a home in Durban and placed a full set of the Studies in the Scriptures. The woman who obtained them did not read them herself, but shortly afterward her daughter, Mrs. Thompson, took the books with her on a boat trip to Glasgow and read them on the voyage. During her stay in Glasgow someone called at her door and left a leaflet advertising a talk to be given by Charles T. Russell. Mrs. Thompson went, but found the place so crowded that she could not get in. However, at that moment the brothers decided to open up the orchestra box and so Mrs. Thompson got a ringside seat for the public lecture. She enjoyed it very much. One of the local sisters took her address in South Africa and in course of time Brother W. Johnston made a return visit. Mrs. Thompson accepted the truth and was baptized soon after this. She herself was a faithful and active publisher for many years, right down until 1965, when she passed away at the age of ninety-eight. Her daughter and two granddaughters also became zealous Witnesses. So that call made by Brother Whiteus proved to be very fruitful.
Meanwhile, in Durban, Brother Johnston was regularly giving Bible talks in the Masonic Hall, on Smith Street, every Sunday evening. The audiences as yet were quite small, but among them was a Norwegian man named Myrdal. His wife was a staunch Seventh-day Adventist. The two of them had arguments about doctrines night after night. However, Mr. Myrdal got the better of the discussions, and before long he and his wife and son Henry became regular attenders at Brother Johnston’s lectures. They also started attending the Sunday morning meetings called “open Bible studies.”
Also from the year 1911 there is a definite record of real interest among the Africans in South Africa. Jeremiah Khuluse of Ndwedwe, a small native township about thirty miles from Durban, remembers that a man called Johannes Tshange came there from Cape Town. Tshange had obtained a knowledge of the truth in Cape Town and he was anxious to spread it in his hometown of Ndwedwe. Jeremiah Khuluse’s father became very interested, especially in the new teaching about hell. So Bible studies were started and held every evening. There were many associating with the little group. They used the Studies in the Scriptures for their Bible studies, and in a few months, as they were already preaching to other church people, the local clergy began to get worried. As a result, the members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church gathered together to discuss the problem. After many arguments these newly interested ones in the truth were excommunicated from the church. This was probably the first African congregation of true worshipers to be formed in South Africa.
Brother Johnston was very busy in 1911. He made a special trip to Johannesburg in the Transvaal and to Parys in the Orange Free State. In Johannesburg he made many calls and, as a result, arrangements were made for “Bible class” meetings. A very fine meeting was held in the Town Hall of Parys, where the mayor introduced the lecturer, the vice-mayor translated his remarks into Dutch, and about 250 people listened. It is clear that Brother Johnston was busy in the class-extension work being done by God’s people world wide at that time. Soon meetings were also being held in Pretoria, Balfour, Port Elizabeth and Ndwedwe.
Although their numbers were few, Jehovah’s servants put forth much effort to spread the Bible’s vital message. In a report on the work in South Africa for 1912, the February 1, 1913, issue of The Watch Tower shows that they distributed 28,808 tracts entitled “People’s Pulpit” in English, 30,000 tracts entitled “Everybody’s Paper” in English and 3,000 “People’s Pulpit” in Dutch. Of interest, too, is a brief note in The Watch Tower of November 15, 1913, which shows literature available in Zulu. The good news was reaching out to many people in this land.
Also, at this time, Brother Russell’s sermons were being published in the newspapers regularly. The Watch Tower of December 15, 1913, shows that about 600 papers in Great Britain, South Africa and Australia printed his articles weekly. World wide the figure was approximately 2,000 newspapers. Brother Johnston had organized a publishing agency for the sermons in South Africa, and by the end of 1913 eleven newspapers in the country were publishing them in four languages.
The months rolled by and turned into 1914. Around the world at that time the brothers must have been wondering what the year would bring forth. The brothers in South Africa were very conscious of the date. Among them were the Myrdals down in Durban. Henry Myrdal says: “I well remember the date August 4, 1914, when my mother, reading the newspaper, told us, the family, ‘Here it is! The War has come, just as Pastor Russell said in his books.’”
Over in Britain many were watching world events with interest and recognized the “sign.” This included a young brother named George Phillips, then a lad of sixteen doing colporteur service at Barrow in Furness, England. Little did George know then that he would play an important part in the development of the Kingdom work in southern Africa!
Up in Nyasaland many Africans sincerely interested in the truth also were watching the date. The Germans were just across the border in Tanganyika (then German East Africa) and British troops were preparing to defend the border. Some were conscious that Bible prophecy was being fulfilled.
Says the book Independent African, page 230: “Africans themselves left their own record of the unsettlement which the War had brought to them. It seemed, indeed, to many that the Watch Tower prophecy that the world would end in October 1914 was about to come true.” Confirming this was a letter from a Brother Achirwa in Nyasaland to Brother Russell (published in The Watch Tower of September 1, 1914). Among other things, it says: “Surely we are living in the Time of the End, according to the Scriptures. . . . But we read in the Bible that the Deliverer shall come, and the Kingdom of God shall come, and all nations shall know the Way of our God; but the wicked will He destroy.” It then goes on to describe their meetings, which, on special occasions, were attended by hundreds at one time.
“FIRST SOUTH AFRICAN CONVENTION”
Under this heading The Watch Tower of August 15, 1914, published a letter from Brother Johnston. He wrote:
“The first South African Convention of the International Bible Students Association has now gone down into history, leaving with those who were privileged to attend a glorious memory that will serve as a stimulus and an inspiration until we get to the greatest of all Conventions, beyond the veil [in heaven].”
Johnston then went on to describe that it took place on April 10 in Durban. People had come from all parts of the subcontinent. He specially mentioned “one dear sister traveling nearly a thousand miles.” Johnston also said: “We were a very ‘little flock,’ indeed. Our largest attendance was 34.” Brother Johnston meant thirty-four Bible Students, but for the public talk the attendance was about fifty. Considering the attendance, the number baptized was very high, a total of sixteen. They also had the Memorial of Christ’s death on the same weekend, with thirty-two partakers. Little did those brothers realize that some fifty-seven years later (1971) there would be an assembly in Johannesburg with a total attendance of nearly 50,000! This certainly brings to mind the prophecy, “The little one himself will become a thousand.”—Isa. 60:22.
The first few weeks of 1915 were very grim for Nyasaland. By that time the British and the Germans had already had a sharp engagement on the frontier, resulting in victory for the British. Many Africans were killed or wounded in this battle, but worse was to follow. On January 23 there was a serious uprising among the Africans led by John Chilembwe, an educated leader of an African sect. He killed a few local Europeans and tried to cause a general uprising. However, this was quickly crushed by African troops, European officers and volunteers.
Subsequently, however, accusations were made that the Watch Tower Society had had something to do with the revolt. In fact, the official History of the Great War refers to Chilembwe as a “religious fanatic . . . of the so-called ‘Watch Tower’ sect.” Careful investigation has since proved that those in Nyasaland who were interested in the truth and even those of Kamwana’s movement, a false “Watchtower movement,” as such, had no direct connection with or responsibility for the rioting. The book Independent African examines the evidence on this very thoroughly and, on page 324, comes to this conclusion: “Chilembwe himself had no apparent connection with the American Watch Tower movement and attempts to link his insurrectionary projects with this organization in the United States seem misguided.” Of course, since Chilembwe had been one of Booth’s converts, and Booth once had some connection with the Society, enemies of the truth used these facts to make accusations and turn the Society into a scapegoat. In actual fact, Chilembwe and his lieutenants were members of the highly respected orthodox missions. These, too, came in for a lot of criticism from the government.
The book Independent African, page 232, also has this interesting comment to make regarding the false accusation that the Watch Tower Society’s publications influenced some Africans to take part in the uprisings: “But it must also be noted that nowhere in the Russell volumes [italics ours] was it suggested that the believers in his teachings should take active steps to hasten the overthrow of these institutions in preparation for the Millennial Age: rather they were recommended to wait patiently for divine intervention.”
A few months later, down in Durban, the brothers had another very fine assembly. This was again tied in with the celebration of the Memorial, and forty-seven partook of the emblems. For the Zulu class at Ndwedwe there were thirty-eight present, also fifteen at Johannesburg, eight at Cape Town, six at Douglas and two at Balfour.
The year 1914 had come and gone. Although world events were fulfilling prophecy in a remarkable way, the work was not yet over and it seemed that there was still much to be done. Brother Johnston said in a letter to Brother Russell: “The past year has been one of continuous testings and trials, both to individuals and to Classes [or, congregations].” However, the report of activity in South Africa for the year 1915 shows that there had been over 4,700 printed volumes distributed, 75,131 copies of free literature circulated and 312 meetings held. The work had not come to a standstill by any means.
THE PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION
In 1916 the Photo-Drama of Creation arrived in South Africa. This combination slide, motion picture and sound production outlined God’s purpose for earth and man. It apparently ran into difficulties in the Cape Province and was banned by the authorities there as being likely to “offend the religious susceptibilities” of the public.
However, indicating the scope of the Photo-Drama work, by early 1918 Brother Johnston calculated that in eighteen months he had traveled over 10,000 miles to show it in many parts of the country. The Drama drew large audiences everywhere. Although permission was refused in the Cape Province, it had been shown in Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria and various other parts of the Transvaal, the Orange Free State and Natal. A great ingathering had not resulted from the showing of the Drama, but it had given a very wide and powerful witness.
EARLY NEWS FROM RHODESIA AND THE TRANSVAAL
In 1916 we hear for the first time some mention of Kingdom activity in Rhodesia. William W. Johnston said in a letter to Brother Russell: “Your communication re work in Rhodesia, to Mr. Nodehouse, was duly received. I have written that gentleman asking for particulars and am awaiting his reply.”
The witnessing work in South Africa at that time was by no means limited to the cities. In the small town of Koster, in the western Transvaal, there was a man called Japie Theron who was busy studying the truth. Theron, a capable lawyer, had come to realize that the religions of the world were false. One day he read in the newspaper concerning the outstanding prophecy about 1914 that had been published by the Watch Tower Society decades previously. So Theron sent for literature and received the books Studies in the Scriptures. Very soon he saw the truth and felt a burning desire to help others. He often had debates with the clergy, challenging them to prove their false teachings, such as a literal hellfire.
Brother Theron certainly had plenty of initiative. At one stage, he witnessed regularly on the little train that puffed through his town each day. Boarding the train at the station, he would start from the engine and work his way to the rear, offering the publications to all the passengers, while the train would slowly climb the steep incline. He would time it so that when the train came to the top of the rise he would have finished his “territory” on wheels and would hop off! Brother Theron became widely known in the western Transvaal and Orange Free State and helped many to accept the truth.
In the northern Transvaal the light had been shining over quite a wide area and much of the literature was being sent out by post from one person to another. It reached the hands of two young fellows attending school in the little town of Nylstroom in the northern Transvaal. According to one of these youngsters, Paul Smit, the publication that touched his heart and fired him to action was the booklet What Do the Scriptures Say About Hell? To use Brother Smit’s own words: “Believe me, Nylstroom became a center of commotion, as if struck by a cyclone, as we two schoolboys made it known, and in no uncertain way, that the doctrines of the church were false. We went about our business fearlessly. At that time there were only the three Dutch Reformed Churches and the Anglican Church that had the ‘freedom of the city’ to go about their business undisturbed. So just imagine, when the ‘hose was turned on hell,’ the smoke of torment that went up! Within a short while the popular talk was about this new religion in the town and district. The clergy, of course, as the instruments of darkness, played their well-known role of misrepresentation and persecution. Their weekly sermons for months, yes even years, centered on this ‘false religion.’”
SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY DESPITE DIFFICULTIES
The meetings back there were conducted by “elders” who were elected by a show of hands of the congregation. Votes were also cast for the deacons, whose job consisted of opening the windows, straightening the chairs, giving out the songbooks and generally assisting. This was the congregational arrangement of that time.
On October 31, 1916, C. T. Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, died, active and faithful to the end. The news of this caused distress and dismay among Jehovah’s people. Among the brothers in Durban a cry went up: “What are we going to do now?” After the first reaction of grief, the period of testing began. Brother Russell’s personality and activity had so dominated the Kingdom work up to that time, and very many were so deeply attached to him personally that they resented changes that had to come after his death. In Durban, Brother Myrdal remembers arguments developing at the meetings time after time and a group beginning to manifest itself as being against the Society and causing a lot of trouble. Divisions and problems were not easily settled. Nevertheless, the work went on with clear evidence of divine blessing.
Sometime in 1917 the Society’s branch office in South Africa was transferred from Durban to Cape Town, almost in the shadow of the great rock mass of Table Mountain. This was done for the convenience of shipping, and the small premises at 123 Plein Street, Cape Town, became the branch office for the next six years.
The number of brothers in South Africa was steadily increasing. Brother Johnston reported that the number of white “brethren” was estimated at between 200 and 300. Most of these were in the four principal groups or congregations—Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town—and many others were isolated. At Ndwedwe there was a flourishing congregation of about eighty Zulus. There was also a small group of Basutos meeting in a place called Bank, and some Xhosa brothers meeting in East London.
In a report, Brother Johnston made these very interesting remarks about the African brothers:
“Despite the fact that we have no literature in the native languages, the grasp of Present Truth which these native Brethren have is phenomenal. We can only say, ‘It is the Lord’s doing, and marvelous in our eyes.’ Entertaining, as they all do, a profound respect for the Bible as the Word of God, they have listened eagerly to the Truth imparted to them by native teachers able to read the volumes in English and to translate what they read into the vernacular. Having practically nothing to unlearn, they have readily embraced the Lord’s Message when presented. The intelligence and the sincerity of their consecration [dedication] have been attested by their sufferings for conscience’ sake. Nearly all these dear native Brethren have been solemnly and publicly excommunicated from Babylon—turned out of the Mission Reserves in which they were born, and branded as dangerous persons in their Locations [African townships], which are their world. Yet none of these things move them; and they count it all joy that they are permitted to suffer for Christ’s sake.”
The work in Nyasaland had already aroused the opposition of the government, spurred on by jealous missionaries, on account of their schools emptying and their churches being depleted. “As a result,” said Johnston, “several of the leading brethren have been deported, and are now interned in Flat Island, Mauritius.”
A NEW FIELD OPENS UP
Since the seventeenth century, Stellenbosch has been a center of education, especially for the training of Dutch Reformed clergymen. In 1917, Piet de Jager was studying there at the university before going to the Dutch Reformed church mission in Nigeria. It appears that one of his fellow students already had accepted the truth and was studying the Society’s literature. This naturally worried the church authorities and so Piet de Jager was assigned to talk to this fellow student and invite him to attend the weekly Bible study organized by the Christian Students Association. What was the result? Piet de Jager himself accepted the truth. One can imagine the consternation that this caused in those ecclesiastical circles! Soon after that, Piet de Jager had many a hot debate with the professors about the soul and hell and other points, and before long left the seminary.
Later a public debate was arranged between Brother Piet de Jager and a Dutch Reformed doctor of theology, Dwight Snyman, with 1,500 students in the audience. Brother A. Smit describes the incident: “Piet pinned down this learned doctor on every point and proved from the Bible that the church had unbiblical doctrines. One of the students summed up the outcome in a few words, ‘If I did not know that Piet de Jager was wrong, I would swear that he was right because he proved everything from the Bible with scriptures!’”
While in Cape Town, Brother Johnston, apart from office work, spent much time in the field, and one day paid a visit to the little town of Franschhoek near Stellenbosch. This is another of the older towns of South Africa and originally was settled by Huguenot refugees in 1688. It also had a Colored population (descendants of intermingled blacks and whites) and the time was now ripe for the Kingdom seed to fall on good ground here. Several years previously a few, under the leadership of Adam van Diemen, a local Colored schoolteacher and a man of brilliant mind and high principles, had broken from the Dutch Reformed Church and formed their own religious group. It must have been in late 1917 or early 1918 that Brother Johnston called on Van Diemen and placed literature with him. Mr. Van Diemen not only got literature for himself but took quite a supply to pass on to his friends. These included a man named Daniels, and thus a copy of The Divine Plan reached the hands of his son, seventeen-year-old G. Daniels. For young Daniels that was the beginning of a life of service to Jehovah. Van Diemen also accepted the truth and became very active in spreading the message. He visited other places, such as Wellington, Paarl, Bellville, Parow, Elsie’s River, Wynberg and Retreat, in the vicinity of Cape Town. This zealous activity led to his being obliged to resign his position as schoolteacher and become a full-time preacher of the good news. The Kingdom message had now made a good start in this field.
In 1918, William W. Johnston, the branch overseer, received a new assignment. The Society had decided that the field in Australia and New Zealand needed a good, spiritually strong brother to take oversight and so asked Brother Johnston to go there. His successor as branch overseer was Henry Ancketill, who had received the truth in Pietermaritzburg and had previously been a member of the legislative assembly of Natal. He was of Irish descent and at that time was a retired gentleman getting on in years, of short stature with white hair and beard and a kindly expression. Owing to his age, he found the work load a bit heavy. Nevertheless, Brother Ancketill handled his new responsibility faithfully and efficiently for the next six years.
FAITH DISPLAYED IN TRYING TIMES
The new branch overseer, Henry Ancketill, took over his duties at a difficult time. The Society’s officers were in prison in America, the witness work was at a very low ebb, and unfaithful ones were being manifested. This was very evident in Durban. The arguments and troubles that had started soon after Pastor Russell died had been growing all the time, and now reached a climax under the leadership of a man named Jackson who thought very much of himself and of his ability. He and two others, Pitt and Stubbs, were apparently ringleaders of the opposition.
A split came in 1919 and a large group, in fact the majority, of those who were attending meetings became antagonistic and decided to hold their own separate gatherings. They called themselves the “Associated Bible Students” and set up their own organization. This left only a group of twelve, most of whom were sisters. Henry Myrdal found himself in a difficult position at that time because his father joined the opposition, whereas his mother remained loyal to the Watch Tower Society. However, he gave the matter careful thought and prayed and came to the conclusion, wisely, that the Society must be the agency blessed by the Lord, and so he followed along with his mother.
More and more Afrikaans-speaking people came to a knowledge of the truth. Willem Fourie is one example. He was a nephew of Stoffel Fourie, who first got the truth in Klerksdorp with Frans Ebersohn. His father had, in fact, obtained a copy of The Divine Plan of the Ages in Dutch somewhere around 1906 and had come to realize that the religions of the world were false. Willem Fourie heard that Japie Theron, the lawyer of Koster, had debated with the clergy and had made them a special challenge: He would give them £1,000 ($2,800) if they could prove from the Bible that the soul was immortal. At that time Fourie was still a member of the Dutch Reformed Church and, as they were needing funds to build a new church, their predikant (“preacher”) was asked if he would not like to accept this challenge. But he refused, and this disappointed Fourie, who later left the church. About 1919 he received the Watch Tower publications, studied them carefully and saw that this was the truth. Before long he was having a share in the field service.
Remember those two schoolboys in Nylstroom who caused such a sensation by telling everybody that the church teachings on hell were wrong? Both Paul Smit and the other youngster were given the ‘cold shoulder’ by their best friends. Sometime later Paul’s companion was given employment by the school board and came under heavy pressure to give up his religion. He succumbed. Paul shed many a tear over losing his companion, but prayed without ceasing to Jehovah, and by His undeserved kindness he never wavered concerning the truth. He persisted in preaching by incidental witnessing and lending publications to others. So isolated was he that he did not realize that there was an organization, and he had to rely entirely on Jehovah for help and guidance. A little later he did get personal visits from Brother Piet de Jager and other colporteurs. What a wonderful help such personal visits must have been in those days!
Although very new and still young, Paul Smit began to get Jehovah’s blessing in the form of “letters of recommendation.” (2 Cor. 3:1-3) His first ‘letter’ was the son of a neighboring farmer who accepted the truth. In 1922, Paul started a study with a family named Vorster, using the book The Harp of God, which had just been published. There were seven in the Vorster family and they lived four miles away from the Smits. Paul walked that distance every week through the fields to their farm. In the course of time the parents and one son became Witnesses. So by 1924 Paul had succeeded in organizing a fine group of thirteen in Nylstroom, this being the first class or group in the northern Transvaal.
But how were things getting along up in central Africa, in Nyasaland? M. Nguluh was in Nyasaland at the time, and was a preacher for the Presbyterian Church. But he relates that after World War I interested ones in Nyasaland were busy spreading the truth, and about that time, 1920, he received the book Millions Now Living Will Never Die. He says that it “shocked my understanding of the Bible as a preacher.”
Another man who got the truth in Nyasaland about the same time was a young African named Junior Phiri. His baptism, however, had to be held secretly, since the fear and suspicion of unorthodox sects caused by the uprising of John Chilembwe, in 1915, was still making it difficult for certain religious activities to be carried on. After his baptism, one of the brothers shook Junior’s hand and warned him that from now on he would be in danger, but that he must keep on walking faithfully in Jesus’ name.
Brother Phiri did run into serious opposition from the local Baptist clergy who prevailed upon the chief to have him arrested and taken before the magistrate, where he was accused of belonging to the banned sect of John Chilembwe. When asked by the magistrate why he had left his previous Baptist religion, Junior explained that he disagreed with the teaching on the dead and asked the magistrate what his view was. The magistrate said: “As far as I can see, the dead are in their graves.” Junior agreed with him and quoted John 3:13, and this, after the magistrate had checked it in his own Bible, made a good impression. Junior assured the magistrate that he did not belong to John Chilembwe’s sect but that he belonged to the religion called “International Bible Students Association.” He was freed, much to the surprise and disappointment of the local Baptist leaders.
Now let us swing down a distance of almost 2,000 miles from Nyasaland to the Cape Province of South Africa to see how the Colored group was getting on at Franschhoek. By this time the local Dutch Reformed Church was becoming conscious of this new and vigorous group and began to do something about it. A schoolmate of young Brother Daniels, named Van Niekerk, a promising Bible student, became a qualified schoolteacher and was offered a good job on condition that he and his family rejoin the Dutch Reformed Church. They gave way to this pressure and went back into “spiritual captivity.” Later, when Van Niekerk left that area, Daniels was made the same offer but he refused. From this stage on, persecution started and became so bitter that eventually the family had to move. The opposers did not leave them alone; one night they came to the house and told the Daniels family that if they would not fall in line, witchcraft would be used to wipe out the whole family. In reply, Daniels quoted from a hymn based on Psalm 23, showing that they relied on Jehovah’s protection.
After that, hatred and opposition increased and it became unsafe for the brothers to venture out alone at night. They were called all sorts of names such as “Russellites,” “Van Diemen’s soul-less group,” “false prophets” and the like. But the brothers stood firm. They were experiencing the fulfillment of what Jesus had said about his true disciples, namely: “You will be objects of hatred by all people because of my name.”—Luke 21:17.
NEW BRANCH QUARTERS
About this time (1923) the branch office moved to new premises at 6 Lelie Street, where there was just one big room on the ground floor. The Cape Town congregation occupied about 95 percent of the space for their meetings and Brother Ancketill used a little cubicle at the back of the room as his office. The following year, 1924, the congregation moved to other quarters. An office was partitioned off near the front door, and shipping, storage and printery were all at the rear of the room. Shelving was erected, and space was made for the printing press when it arrived.
DEVELOPMENTS IN JOHANNESBURG
Now let us take a look at how things were going in Johannesburg, where Brother Johnston had formed the first class several years before. Sister Iris Tutty of that city was about five years old when she began to have a share in giving out the tracts by putting them under the people’s doors. She also remembers standing for hours at her mother’s desk watching her write letters and cards that were sent to the various “brethren” on the occasions of deaths, births, weddings, and any other special occasion. Sister Tutty’s mother did this because she was the secretary of the “Philadelphia League,” instituted by Brother Russell, to keep in contact with the brothers and sisters in their joys and sorrows through the bond of brotherly love.
Socially speaking, there was very little contact between whites and blacks, even though in those days the stricter laws on apartheid had not yet been passed. But this did not prevent Kingdom witnessing. An African brother, Enoch Mwale, was helped by Sister Tutty’s mother to get the truth in 1921, and the year thereafter he started participating in the field service. Brother Mwale studied with the European brothers for a while, and later, after receiving The Harp of God, the African brothers started their own group.
THE “MILLIONS” CAMPAIGN
In 1921, the Society began an extensive public meeting campaign that lasted for several years. The famous lecture “Millions Now Living Will Never Die,” first given by Brother Rutherford in February 1918, began to be used widely in South Africa. Brother Ancketill, the branch overseer, assisted by Brother Piet de Jager, then in full-time service, and an English-speaking brother named Parry Williams, visited all the bigger towns of South Africa and gave this lecture in English and Afrikaans. The results were very good. For the first lecture, at the Opera House, Cape Town, 2,000 were present. A considerable amount of literature was placed and much interest was manifested. These lectures were held in both Dutch and English, and the Millions book was placed in English, Dutch and Afrikaans. On this extensive tour in 1921, these brothers visited Bulawayo and Salisbury, in Southern Rhodesia (now Rhodesia).
Both large and small audiences heard the talk. “We travel hundreds of miles to address towns that will yield only about eighty listeners at the English, and the same amount at the Dutch lectures,” wrote Brother Parry Williams. Brothers P. J. de Jager and William Dawson, billed as the lecturer and the colporteur respectively, handled 70 lectures during the year, according to a report dated August 31, 1923. This was an average of almost six per month, and the total attendance had been 9,376. A number of subjects were used in addition to the famous “Millions Now Living Will Never Die,” including such striking titles as “The Resurrection Soon,” “The New World Begun” and “All Nations Marching to Armageddon.” Using the addresses that were turned in at each lecture, they made 2,483 house calls and placed thousands of pieces of literature.
The churches of Christendom began to feel the direct heat of the message. “In fact,” says the 1923 annual report, “in one town a complete Apostolic Church was closed down through the penetrating effect of our message and this gladdens the heart of all connected with the work. A writer in the ‘Kerkbode,’ a Dutch Church paper, paid the I.B.S.A. [International Bible Students Association] a compliment the other day by stating that although he did not agree with our doctrines yet he commended the zeal of the I.B.S.A. followers to the adherents of the Dutch Reformed Church.”
Pioneer or colporteur work, as it was known then, was also taking shape. In 1923 there were six in the full-time work and they did most of the witnessing work in the country, other brothers and interested ones mainly engaging in incidental witnessing. One of these full-time workers was Brother Edwin Scott, who was assigned to distribute printed copies of the resolution that had been adopted at the Cedar Point, Ohio, International Convention in September 1922. Thirty-five million copies of this tract were distributed throughout Christendom. This faithful brother carried a big bag on his back with the tracts in both English and Afrikaans, and a stick in his hand to defend himself against fierce dogs! He visited 64 towns in the four provinces of South Africa and distributed 50,000 copies in six months. In addition to that, this tract was mailed to clergymen of every denomination in South Africa and Rhodesia. “Advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his Kingdom” had been the battle cry expressed by Brother Rutherford at that famous assembly in 1922, and the handful of brothers in South Africa were determined to do just that.
Early in 1923 two young sisters, who had for some time been members of the Johannesburg ecclesia (congregation), entered full-time service. They were Lenie Theron (the fleshly sister of Brother Theron, the lawyer of Koster) and Elizabeth Adshade. They gave up their jobs as teachers and set off together in the colporteur field. During a three-month tour in northern Natal and the Transvaal, these two sisters placed 3,188 books, about 500 books each per month! A letter from one of the sisters quoted in The Watch Tower of January 1, 1924, says, in part:
“I seem to have been going at top speed all the time, catching all sorts of trains . . . Often have I arrived late at night, the train being unduly delayed, at a lone station; but, true to his promise, the Lord never leaves one in the lurch. On every occasion he put it into the heart of someone to help me. It strengthens one’s faith and increases one’s love to see his devoted and providential care.
“One day after reading again that beautiful article on ‘Service Essential,’ I was so excited that I could not sleep. At last I got up, held out the map, and discovered that we were leaving out Barberton and some other places on a branch line off our route, and at once determined that we should not leave them out. I mentioned it to my companion; and we decided that she should go there while I came on and finished my section. The place I visited next was a very small place; I made only eighteen calls, but I [placed] forty-nine Volumes [of Studies in the Scriptures], sixteen ‘Millions,’ and thirteen large HARPS. I had very little sleep the night before, only three hours; for I was talking until 11:30 p.m. to some very interested people and then packing up to 2:00 a.m. and up again to catch a train at 5:30 a.m. I would just love to tell you all the little experiences we get, and how obviously our Savior is leading us; but I have not the time.” Is that not a wonderful example for us today?
IMPORTANT CHANGES IN CAPE TOWN
Over a wide area and in many ways the work was progressing. But Brother Ancketill, in Cape Town, was now getting on in years and finding the work load heavy. So the Society’s president, Brother Rutherford, decided to send a new branch overseer. Brother Ancketill had done well, “holding the fort” during a difficult period in the development of the Kingdom work. Now clouds of further trouble were gathering over the territories of South Africa, but Brother Ancketill’s successor was to cope with this situation.
By the year 1924, important changes were taking place in Cape Town. The Society had shipped in a printing press, with type and equipment. Also, new brothers arrived from England. One was Thomas Walder, who had been assistant branch overseer in the British branch for some time. He was a young man of about thirty years of age, fair and stocky, and was sent to take the place of Brother Henry Ancketill as branch overseer for South Africa. His companion, George Phillips, a few years younger, was a tall, fair-haired Scotsman from Glasgow.
During May 1924, when Brother Rutherford paid a visit to Glasgow for an assembly, George Phillips was his chairman on Sunday morning. As they sat together waiting to go on the platform, Brother Rutherford said to George: “You heard me make that announcement last night that I was sending Brother Walder to South Africa. Would you like to go with him?” The response was: “Here I am; send me.” So George was given two weeks to pack his bags, say good-bye to his folks and the brothers in Glasgow, and be ready to leave. Brother Rutherford also told him: “It may be for a year, or it may be for a bit longer, and remember, George, there is no furlough in wartime. You will take a one-way ticket.”
When these two newly assigned brothers arrived in South Africa, there were only six persons in the full-time service there and barely forty doing a little field service. As for the territory, it was overwhelmingly extensive. It included South Africa, Basutoland, Bechuanaland, Swaziland, South-West Africa, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Mozambique, Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda, Angola, and various islands of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, such as St. Helena, Madagascar and Mauritius.
Soon a small hand-fed platen printing press arrived from Brooklyn. Under the guidance of a Cape Town brother who was a printer, Brothers Walder and Phillips telescoped a five years’ apprenticeship into about five months. They discovered what it means for a printer to “watch his p’s and q’s.” Before long the little press was turning out thousands of handbills, tracts and service forms. In addition to that, other literature was prepared in Afrikaans and in the various African languages. A brother in the Orange Free State, a farmer named Izak Botha, upon hearing that The Harp of God was being translated into Afrikaans, immediately made a donation of £500 ($1,400) to help pay for the printing.
TROUBLE FLARES UP
One of the first things that Brother Walder, the new branch overseer, did was to give attention to the Rhodesias (Northern and Southern Rhodesia) and also Nyasaland. The Society’s literature already had reached these territories, though the situation in that part of Africa was uncertain.
It is difficult at this time to form a precise picture of what was actually going on in the Rhodesias in the early twenties. In any case the clergy of Christendom were getting quite alarmed. In The Rhodesia Herald of June 6, 1924, there was a lengthy report of a missionary conference held in Southern Rhodesia, during which the “Watchtower movement” and the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society were discussed. Like Elymas the sorcerer, who ‘distorted the ways of Jehovah’ in an endeavor to hinder the Christian work of the apostle Paul, the clergy of Christendom hurled false charges against Jehovah’s modern-day Christian witnesses. (Acts 13:6-12) A clergyman, C. E. Greenfield, accused the Watch Tower Society of propagating “ecclesiastical Bolshevism.” He said that this propaganda was coming from Russia and asked if it should be tolerated in Africa. So he moved the following resolution: “That in the opinion of this conference of the missionaries of Rhodesia the teaching of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society is subversive to true religion in the Church and law in the State, and as such its propaganda among the natives of this land is particularly dangerous; the Government be therefore requested to watch over and control its operations.”
Others spoke in support of this resolution. The manager of the Wankie Colliery (in Southern Rhodesia), Mr. Thomson, described how ‘batches’ of twenty or thirty were being baptized in a pool. Attempts to control the movement, it was reported, resulted in a large increase in converts who then were said to number about 1,500. According to Greenfield, the propaganda promised the overthrow of the power of the white man. The conference carried the resolution, with a few dissents.
At that time, it was a favorite trick of missionaries and clergymen to raise the old bogey of Communism. However, even though we discount the references to Russia and Bolshevism, it is uncertain whether those 1,500 adherents claiming to be of the Watch Tower in Wankie were our brothers or members of one of the false “Watchtower movements.” The report, however, does serve to show that the name “Watchtower” already was well known in the Rhodesias by 1924 and that there was a need for a clarification of the matter.
So, toward the end of 1924, Brother Walder made a trip to the Rhodesias, seeing government officials in both Northern and Southern Rhodesia to find out what was going on in the name of the “Watchtower.” Officials told him enough to enable him to realize that action must be taken immediately to separate those sincerely interested in our work from those belonging to the indigenous movements. In the following year, 1925, a European brother, William Dawson, was sent up from South Africa. He visited all the centers claiming to have any relationship with the Watch Tower Society in both Southern and Northern Rhodesia.
The report from this brother indicated that the vast majority of these people had no real understanding of the truth as set forth in the Society’s literature. On the other hand, some were sincerely interested, and these needed mature assistance and guidance. Brother Walder, in Cape Town, promptly repudiated the indigenous movements that were misusing the Society’s name, and the governments concerned were notified of the fact. He sent letters to the responsible authorities in the Rhodesias and Nyasaland clearly stating that the Society accepted no responsibility for the false movements that religious elements were linking with the Society.
About the time that Brother Dawson visited the Rhodesias, a person called Mwana Lesa caused terror among the Africans of Northern Rhodesia. Mwana Lesa (which means “Son of God”) was an African from Nyasaland; his real name was Tom Nyirenda and he came over to Northern Rhodesia by way of the Congo. Reports speak of him as an adherent of one of the indigenous “Watchtower movements” who made himself a prophet. According to the account in the Sunday Times of July 1, 1934, by Scott Lindberg, he got hold of a copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. From this he saw how white men in olden times tied “witches” to a ducking stool and drowned them. Apparently this made a big impression on him. Traveling from village to village, he preached and told the natives “that Africa belonged to the Africans and that the white man must be chased out.”
Nyirenda then struck up a partnership with Chiwila, a headman of Lala (the southeast part of the present Copper Belt). These two made a plot for Nyirenda to wipe out Chiwila’s political enemies by labeling them “witches” and drowning them by baptism so that he could win the election for the kingship. Mr. Lindberg says: “Tom was then told the names of all Chiwila’s enemies. He called the headmen together and told them that he had been sent by God to cleanse the tribe of witchcraft, and that every man, woman and child must be baptised in the river.
“The superstitious natives were decoyed to a place where a swift river forced its way through a winding ravine among the hills, and there, on top of a boulder in the middle of the river, stood Tom, dressed in long white robes.
“He told the people that God had sent him to separate the sheep from the goats. He then baptised each person by immersion in the river, with the help of Chiwila’s staunch supporters, who held their enemies under the water, with their heads upstream, until they were drowned.
“The people sang hymns as they stood gazing at each lifeless victim, and all night long the forest echoed the frenzied exhortations of Mwana Lesa.
“Having drowned twenty-two natives that night, Tom decided to cross the border and settle in the Katanga Province of the Belgian Congo, where the Rhodesian authorities would not be able to get him.”
NEEDED CLARIFICATION AND AID
In the Congo, Tom Nyirenda committed further atrocities before he was arrested by Northern Rhodesian police, tried, convicted and hanged in Broken Hill Prison Square in front of the native chiefs. These fiendish deeds were linked to the name “Watch Tower.” But Mwana Lesa had no connection whatsoever with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, or the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s witnesses were known then. To the contrary, Mr. Lindberg reported that Tom Nyirenda “had been received into the Roman Catholic Church and given absolution while in prison” before he was executed. In spite of this the enemies of God’s kingdom, the clergy of Christendom’s denominations, did their best to pin the blame for this on the genuine Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and to prejudice authorities and the public against us to try to keep the Witnesses out of the country. So, we can appreciate the mountainous obstacle that had to be overcome to establish the Kingdom work in Northern Rhodesia.
In Nyasaland, too, our position needed to be clarified and the interested ones needed help. In The Watch Tower of December 15, 1923, is the following report from the Society’s representative: “I had a visit recently from Major——, Chief Commissioner of Police. He is a fine man, a modern Gamaliel. He has been investigating our work in Nyasaland. He is disgusted at the amazingly wicked lies circulated about us and told him by the clergy. He stated that he had disguised himself and gone to our meetings amongst the natives. He knows individually all the leaders. He tells me that the truth is spreading like wildfire amongst the natives.”
In any case, it was good that the Society sent John Hudson and his wife to Nyasaland in 1925 to investigate and arrange things. His visit was helpful. John Hudson relates that during the fifteen months that he spent in Nyasaland, he toured many parts of the country and gave talks in many places. He found that most of the brothers had very little knowledge or understanding of the truth. In his talks the brother endeavored to help them to appreciate the importance of keeping in touch with the Society and accepting its leading and direction.
Brother Junior Phiri also says that Brother Hudson counseled them on the point of husbands sitting in the meetings with their wives. In African tribal life, a husband does not eat with his wife and when the family goes to church or to religious meetings the men sit on one side of the aisle and the women on the other; so it appears that Brother Hudson gave good counsel on this point.
But, as Brother M. Nguluh relates, certain groups said to themselves: “We shall not get our teaching from men at Cape Town, but we shall do what we think is right.” So Brother Hudson’s visit must have caused a separation between those who were willing to follow the Society’s lead and those who were not. The unfortunate part is that those who were not willing to follow the Society’s lead still insisted on using the name “Watch Tower,” and apparently one of the main leaders was a Mr. Willie Kavala. One of the special features of that movement was that it did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Brother Nguluh says that these false elements refused to pay their taxes, and they said they were the rulers of God’s kingdom!
After Brother Hudson submitted a report on his visit, the Watch Tower Society’s Cape Town office sent a letter to the government authorities in Nyasaland. In part, it said:
“On behalf of the above Society I beg to inform you that our representatives in Nyasaland have been recalled . . . Our reason for sending Mr. & Mrs. Hudson into Nyasaland was due to the activities of certain self-styled native ‘Watch Tower’ Churches. This movement we cannot endorse. It absolutely perverts the Society’s teachings and in the main its followers show no inclination to submit to any direction or authority from us. We therefore entirely dissociate ourselves from it.”
For a time the ones who were genuinely interested in the truth now had to battle on their own without the guidance of a representative of the Society in Nyasaland! Meanwhile, how was the truth progressing in South Africa, where the brothers were enjoying the full direction of the organization?
AIDING AFRICANS IN SOUTH AFRICA
In Johannesburg, other Africans were coming to a knowledge of the truth, and the good news was spreading to those living in the locations and the mine compounds (hostels for African men). One of these was Yotham Mulenga. He remembers how a white brother with the Photo-Drama of Creation came to the compound where he was staying. This had a profound effect on Brother Mulenga, who obtained the first volume of Studies in the Scriptures and soon afterward started attending meetings in Johannesburg where he met other African brothers.
Some of the local European brothers were helping the Africans at that time. One such was Brother V. Futcher, then assistant manager of the compound. He helped many Africans to accept the truth. Among these was Albino Mhelembe from the southern part of Mozambique. He came in contact with the truth in 1925 through the preaching of Brother Futcher. Before the end of 1925, Mhelembe returned to Lourenço Marques, the capital city of Mozambique, and then went on to his hometown at Vila Luiza. There he started preaching the truth to members of the Swiss Mission Church at Marracuene. Mhelembe had good success, and before long the truth had taken a strong hold in Mozambique. As many as forty attended the meetings, some of them often traveling twenty miles to do so. Yes, the Kingdom work had begun to take root in yet another field.
UNDETERRED BY PERSECUTION
In South Africa the main representatives of Babylon the Great are the leaders of the Dutch Reformed Church. On many occasions, they have bitterly persecuted those taking their stand for the truth, harassing them from one city to another just as unbelieving Jews in the first century did to the apostles Paul and Barnabas. (Acts 14:2, 5-7, 19) An interesting example of this occurred in the Orange Free State. In the mid-1920’s a well-known lawyer and his wife attended a lecture given by Brother de Jager in the town of Boshof. Attending the public meeting were many local dignitaries, some of whom afterward went with the speaker to a tearoom to ask Bible questions. The lawyer, Mr. Theo Denyssen, and his wife were much impressed, obtained literature, and in course of time became convinced that this was the truth. They soon began witnessing to friends and relatives and this immediately aroused resentment on the part of the local Dutch Reformed minister. Soon after this, Brother Denyssen and his wife resigned from the Church; and by the end of 1925 three of their relatives and eleven of their friends also resigned and their letters of resignation were read from the pulpit.
Brother Denyssen was a well-known man in that part of the Orange Free State and so his stand for the truth caused a real sensation and gave a wide witness. In 1927 he and a little group in Boshof had a share in postal work, sending out some 10,000 booklets and pamphlets, including the resolution “A Testimony to the Rulers of the World,” by post over a very wide area of the province. In April 1927, the entire Boshof congregation attended the national assembly at Johannesburg and no less than thirteen of them, including Brother and Sister T. C. Denyssen, were immersed. In that same year, to keep in step with the brothers world wide who were just beginning Sunday-morning house-to-house work, the little group also began this feature of the service. Local ministers of false religion, obviously very worried, delivered a series of sermons in the church against “Russellism.” Later a public debate was held between a couple of brothers and three local clergymen; and, as a result, a police sergeant in the audience saw the truth, took his stand and remained firm until death.
Enraged by the success of the Witnesses, the local minister at Boshof instructed his deacons and elders to visit all the church members and order them to withdraw their support from Brother Denyssen and thus cripple his practice as an attorney. By the end of 1927, the Denyssen family had to move, and went to the town of Wellington, not far from Cape Town. But there the local minister also put on a persecution campaign, so the following year the Denyssens were obliged to move to Cape Town.
Now, how were things going in those far northern territories where the situation among the Africans was giving cause for grave concern? In 1926, George Phillips, from the Cape Town branch office, was sent along with Henry Myrdal to make a tour of Southern Rhodesia. They were stopped at the border and told that they would be allowed into the country only if they would do no work among the Africans. It seemed that the authorities had accepted and were enforcing the aforementioned Resolution of the Missionary Conference!
The method used by Brothers Phillips and Myrdal on that trip was to go to a town or city, hire a hall, print advertising leaflets with their own little rubber-stamp printing set, then invite the people to come. At the meeting they would take the names and addresses of interested ones and then do their own follow-up work with sets of the Studies in the Scriptures and The Harp of God. Bicycles were the only means of transport they had by which to make all these calls. But to get from town to town they traveled by train. As they arrived at each new place they were invariably met by a “reception committee” from the police. The Criminal Investigation Department was keeping a careful watch on these two Europeans from the Watch Tower Society. So in that fashion they visited Bulawayo, Que Que, Gatooma, Gwelo, Salisbury and Umtali. At Umtali Mr. and Mrs. Gunn accepted the truth. The two brothers also paid a visit to Wankie, the coal-mining center. While there they enjoyed a trip to the beautiful Victoria Falls nearby, one of the most magnificent sights to be seen anywhere in the world, and were also conducted on a tour down a coal mine. But they kept to the restrictions laid down by the police and made no effort to contact the “Watchtower” Africans who were working at the mine. After a visit of several months, in which they placed over 4,200 pieces of literature, and aroused interest in several places, they returned to South Africa in time to attend the annual assembly in Cape Town at the end of December 1926.
ANOTHER CHANGE AT CAPE TOWN
Down in Cape Town, at the little branch, things were not going so well. Brother Walder, branch overseer, had previously been in the British branch and was accustomed to handling the comparatively large British field, and to holding large gatherings at the old London “Tabernacle.” From the very moment he arrived in Cape Town, everything had seemed altogether different and so much smaller. In the little while that he was branch overseer in South Africa, there was some progress but, to him, it seemed slow and the very smallness of things was a test. He left toward the end of 1927, after being in the country for three and a half years.
Brother Rutherford lost no time in appointing his assistant, George Phillips, as his successor in the branch, and the work carried on. Brother Phillips was well prepared for his new responsibilities. By 1927 he already had thirteen years in full-time service behind him and was an experienced man in the field and in the office. He had a deep appreciation of Jehovah’s organization, with a strong sense of loyalty to the Society, a clear mind and sterling fighting qualities, which were to stand him in good stead in the difficult times that lay ahead.
The work in South Africa soon began to pick up speed. Brother Phillips had started in full-time service at an early age himself, and all his life he has encouraged others to taste the joys of serving Jehovah as pioneers. So it is not surprising that the colporteur ranks soon began to increase.
When reading about the work they did, their perseverance in the face of opposition and their tireless efforts to push out into new territory, one cannot help but call to mind the similar experiences of the apostles of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible book of Acts.
Included among the full-time servants of those days were Pier de Jager and Henry Myrdal, who had by now teamed up and were touring the country with lectures and follow-up work. Although in many places the local clergy whipped up opposition and made attacks from the pulpit or through the press, it very rarely came to violence. However, when Brothers de Jager and Myrdal reached a little town called Dewetsdorp, in the Orange Free State, opposition did become violent. As usual, they booked a hall, prepared the handbills with their little rubber-stamp outfit, and advertised the talk. The local theater had been booked for the occasion, but on the morning of the day when the talk was to be given, the owner told the brothers that he was canceling the booking. The Dutch Reformed minister had informed him that, if he allowed the lecture to go on, the congregation would boycott his theater.
This left the brothers in a difficult situation. However, they went to the municipal authorities and obtained permission to have a public lecture in the market square. They immediately prepared new handbills, distributed them as quickly as they could, and the lecture was held that evening. About seventy-five attended.
Before the talk had gone very far the crowd began to press in on the speaker and to heckle him. The heckling increased. Suddenly Brother Myrdal, standing next to the speaker, felt a heavy blow on his head, nearly knocking him out. Happily, a policeman in plain clothes was at hand and saw what was going on. At the back of the crowd was the Dutch Reformed minister, egging his people on and deliberately causing this act of violence. Certain individuals were arrested, charged in court the following day and fined. Undismayed, the two brothers continued their lecture tour.
In 1928, the resounding resolution “Declaration Against Satan and for Jehovah” had been enthusiastically adopted by the assembly in Detroit, Michigan, bringing to a conclusion a series of seven annual messages. At that same assembly in Detroit, Brother Rutherford’s stirring discourse “Ruler for the People” was broadcast by a Watch Tower telephone hookup of 107 radio stations. In faraway Cape Town a little group remembers listening to that talk by shortwave radio. But in addition to the broadcast from America, it was arranged for lectures to be given over the air by way of the African Broadcasting Company, the sole broadcasting company in South Africa. Permission was given to broadcast seven lectures during 1928 from the company’s three studios situated at Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. In this way the good news reached remote and lonely places and many listened to the Kingdom message for the first time.
Also in the late 1920’s, a country-wide postal campaign was carried out by the brothers in order to give a witness to the people who could not be reached by the door-to-door work. Frank Smith, one of the Cape Town brothers, paid the cost of sending 50,000 booklets to all farmers, lighthouse keepers, forest rangers and others living off the beaten track. All the wrapping and addressing of this postal work was done by members of the Cape Town ecclesia. As a result, many orders for the publications were received along with encouraging letters showing that the good news, sent out in this unusual way, was bringing comfort and joy to isolated people. The orthodox religionists, of course, reacted as usual and there were numerous fierce attacks in church magazines throughout the country.
SOUTH-WEST AFRICA HEARS THE GOOD NEWS
It was this postal work that led to the Kingdom message also reaching the territory of South-West Africa, that is, the larger portion of its nearly 318,000 square miles of either desert or semiarid land. All along the western coast and some ninety miles inland lies the great Namib Desert. The thinly spread population of 610,000, of whom 60,000 are whites, is made up of South Africans, Germans and British on the European side and Hereros, Ovambos, Namas or Hottentots, Damaras and Bushmen on the African side. Added to this is a group who proudly call themselves “Basters” (literally “Hybrids”), because of their originating from the mingling of early white settlers with the Hottentots.
In 1928, this land was still absolutely untouched as far as the witness work was concerned. But during that year, when the postal campaign was organized, an up-to-date directory of the country was obtained and a copy of the booklet The People’s Friend was mailed to everyone whose name appeared therein. One of these Kingdom seeds fell on good soil in an unusual way.
A man named Bernhard Baade was working in a mine at the time and used to buy his eggs from a nearby farmer. One day the eggs came wrapped in some of the first pages of the booklet The People’s Friend. He began to read, and as he read his interest grew. But he had to wait for further supplies of eggs, wrapped in the rest of the pages of the booklet, to continue his reading. He wrote for literature and soon after took his stand for the truth.
The following year, 1929, Sister Lenie Theron was sent from South Africa to Windhoek, South-West Africa. From there she covered all the major towns throughout the country by train and post cart, traveling a total of 5,000 miles. Many of the people had received the booklet mailed the previous year and spoke with appreciation of it. Her own placements were phenomenal. In four months she placed 6,388 books and booklets in English, Afrikaans and German.
While Sister Theron was busy in South-West Africa, her partner, Elizabeth Adshade, was sent to Southern Rhodesia. Though meeting up with quite a lot of opposition from the police and magistrates in various places, she carried on bravely and covered all the European centers of population in the country.
By 1929, the Kingdom message was reaching a very wide area of the vast field under the South Africa branch. Speaking of this, the Year Book for 1930 says: “Inquiries for literature have been received by post from as far north as Kenya Colony, in British East Africa; Tanganyika and Nyasaland, in British Central Africa, and the Belgian Congo.”
PROBLEMS DO NOT PREVENT PROGRESS
Brother Paul Smit, our former schoolboy of Nylstroom, was in Pretoria by the late 1920’s. He recounts that the Pretoria group was going through a crisis, and, among other things, he says: “There was no progress in the group and organizing the company for service shook the group, and two left. At that time one of the elders (Brother Möller) was busy writing a book, and although the Society expressed its disapproval, and I appealed to him to abandon the undertaking, he persisted in his wrongful course. One Sunday morning, after the publication of the book, he brought some books to the hall and requested that the class assist in its distribution. I was shocked at this and got up and boldly stated that the Society disapproved of the publication and that whosoever opposed the policy of the Society I would oppose.” That shook the elders and they left, with their followers. The only ones remaining were an old invalid sister and Brother and Sister Smit.
Just after that, Brother and Sister Steynberg moved to the Pretoria area. This was a great encouragement to the reduced Pretoria group and also did much good for the Steynbergs. The Pretoria group had gone through a difficult cleansing period, but from then on the progress was steady and sound.
So much for the European group in Pretoria. What about the Africans there? Brother Hamilton Kaphwitt moved from Bulawayo to Pretoria in 1927; but, as there were no African meetings there at that time, he used to attend the meetings of the Africans in Johannesburg. Then, in 1931, a brother called Mulauzi came down from Nyasaland and joined Kaphwitt. These two started studying The Harp of God together. For quite a while the meetings for the African brothers in Pretoria were held in the home of Hamilton Kaphwitt. Even today many of the African congregations in the townships or “locations” near the European cities are meeting in private homes. The building of Kingdom Halls for the Africans has been opposed by government and municipal authorities until now.
In January 1930, Brother Phillips got married, and his wife joined the branch office staff. More reinforcements for the office also arrived in 1930—Llewelyn Phillips and George Spence. Llewelyn Phillips came from Wales; he was not related to George Phillips, but had also had good experience in pioneer service and had served several years in the London Bethel.
It was also in the early 1930’s that the branch at Cape Town began producing booklets in the vernacular languages such as Xhosa, Zulu and Sesotho. The Harp of God came out in the Xhosa language and The Kingdom, the Hope of the World came out in Zulu.
PUSHING INTO EAST AFRICA
In 1931, another vast field in Africa began to be opened up, that of British East Africa. This was composed of what are now three separate countries, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (consisting of Tanganyika and the island of Zanzibar). In the early 1930’s they were all under British jurisdiction. With the rise of nationalism in Africa, these states, one by one, gained their independence from Britain. In 1962, Tanganyika became the independent republic of Tanzania within the British Commonwealth. Uganda became independent that same year, and Kenya in 1963. Because of the many nationalities and tribes making up the population of these parts, there is a polyglot confusion, but happily the Swahili language serves as a common medium of expression over all of East Africa.
Religiously, the designation “Dark Africa” has been fitting. The majority of the natives have been adherents of pagan religions. Missions of Christendom, both Catholic and Protestant, have been active here for many years, but as elsewhere in Africa, they did not produce Christians who “worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) But when did the first rays of true light begin to shine in this spiritually dark region?
In Cape Town, about this time, a new brother named Gray Smith was sharing in auxiliary colporteur service. His older brother Frank was the first to get the truth, but in 1928 Gray also began to study seriously. He was baptized in 1929 and almost immediately took up auxiliary colporteur work. Later, he joined Frank in a most interesting trip to East Africa.
In 1931, the two of them were sent to Kenya to explore the possibilities of spreading the good news in East Africa. Kenya was at that time a British protectorate with a population of about 4,000,000, of which about 25,000 were Europeans. They took an automobile, which they had converted into a caravan, and sailed on the “Saxon Castle” for Mombasa, the seaport of Kenya. From there they traveled with their caravan the 400 miles to Nairobi, the capital, to which they had sent forty cartons of books. Due to the bad roads, it took them eight days to make this trip. They covered Nairobi and placed all the books in about a month. Many books were placed with Goanese Indians, but most of these publications were collected and burned by the Catholic priests.
On the return journey to South Africa both of these brothers contracted malaria. This was a real health hazard in those days. They got passage on a ship sailing from Dar es Salaam, but became so sick and delirious that they were taken ashore at Durban and put in a hospital. Frank Smith never recovered consciousness and passed away. Gray Smith just managed to survive and had to spend four months in a hospital. However, toward the end of 1931 he got back to Cape Town.
About this time, over in England, a young fellow named Robert Nisbet had just given up a good job in a London pharmaceutical laboratory and was about to take up pioneer service. Brother Rutherford, who was in London at the time, sent for him and said: “We are looking for someone to go to Cape Town; would you go?” Robert agreed and immediately began to make preparations.
On arriving at the Cape Town office, Brother Nisbet was shown another consignment of literature ready for dispatch by ship to East Africa, this time 200 cartons of it! He heard of the trip of the Smith brothers and the tragedy that overtook Frank. In spite of that, he eagerly accepted the assignment to go to East Africa. He was joined by David Norman, and they made the trip to their assignment. They were to cover the entire territories of Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika and Zanzibar—a really vast field!
Protecting themselves against malaria by sleeping under mosquito nets and taking big daily doses of quinine, which was available at all post offices in East Africa at cost price, as well as wearing topees or sun helmets during the day, they launched their witnessing campaign in Dar es Salaam, capital of Tanganyika, on August 31, 1931. This was no easy assignment, as shown by Brother Nisbet’s comment: “The glare of the sun from the white paved streets, the intense humid heat and the need to carry very heavy loads of literature from call to call were just some of the difficulties we had to face. But we were young and strong and enjoyed it.”
Within a fortnight these energetic pioneers had placed nearly a thousand books and booklets, among which were many “Rainbow Sets,” so called because of the varied colors of the books. This stirred up the ire of the clergy, and a notice was placed on the Catholic church’s bulletin board calling the attention of all parishioners to No. 1399 of the Canon Law prohibiting Catholics even to have such literature in their homes. Most of these books were placed with Indians. Because they had no literature in Swahili and due to lack of education on the part of these Africans, the brothers could not work among them.
From Dar es Salaam they moved on to Zanzibar, an island about twenty miles off the coast, once the center of slave trade. This city with its twisting narrow streets, where a stranger could easily get lost, was enveloped in a constant aroma of cloves, for Zanzibar supplies practically the whole world with cloves. It had a population of a quarter of a million, of which about 300 were Europeans—at that time the rulers. The great majority were Swahilis and about 45,000 were Indians and Arabs. Many books were placed with these Indians and some with the Arabs, but again the majority of the population, being Swahili, was not reached with the Kingdom message.
After a stay of ten days at Zanzibar, they boarded a ship to Mombasa, the seaport of Kenya, en route to the highlands of Kenya, with their abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit, and moderate climate. They traveled by train and worked the towns along the line all the way to Lake Victoria. Here they crossed this inland sea, 250 miles long and 150 miles wide, to Kampala, the capital of Uganda. They distributed a great number of books here and obtained subscriptions for The Golden Age. Fifty miles out in the jungle a gentleman saw a friend enthusiastically reading the book Government. He came to Kampala to find the young men distributing this literature. He took a copy of all the books and subscribed for The Golden Age.
Before commencing their return journey by car they visited another town twenty-five miles farther inland, and were thrilled that they had been instrumental in bringing the printed message of the Kingdom, for the first time, so far into the interior of Africa. They came back from this town by another route and had the enjoyable experience of visiting the Ripon Falls, the source of the Nile River. On their way back to Mombasa they worked a few more towns along the railway line. After witnessing in Mombasa in indescribable heat, placing much literature and giving two well-attended talks, they went to one more place along the coast and then, on board the “Llandovery Castle,” sailed back to Cape Town, South Africa, a journey of three thousand miles.
On these first two trips into East Africa over 7,000 books and booklets were placed and many subscriptions were obtained for The Golden Age. Some of these seeds undoubtedly fell on good soil, for one gentleman who had received some booklets wrote to the Society in Cape Town and ordered a full set of Judge Rutherford’s books and booklets. He was managing a gold mine in the bundu (an isolated area) in Tanganyika. And so at a great cost in money, effort and even life itself on the part of devoted and zealous pioneers, the message was getting into British East Africa and the Kingdom work was progressing.
Yes, in 1931 a tremendous field was reached by the faithful few in South Africa at that time. That year a total of 68,280 books were placed in the South African field and eight service conventions were held to strengthen the faith of the brothers. How many were there to accomplish all this work over such a wide field? Only about a hundred publishers in the whole of southern Africa’.
FORWARD, AS JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES!
To crown the year 1931, the thrilling news came through from the convention at Columbus, Ohio, in the United States, concerning adoption of the name “Jehovah’s witnesses.” This brought great joy to Jehovah’s people around the world, including the small but energetic band in South Africa. Many brothers felt overawed at the thought of using the illustrious name of God, but it helped them to appreciate all the more their privilege in declaring Jehovah’s name throughout the whole of southern Africa. The Kingdom work and its development in southern Africa had reached another turning point.
Stimulated by their Scriptural name “Jehovah’s witnesses,” the brothers in southern Africa went forward with great zeal and determination in the early 1930’s. More and more spiritual weapons and theocratic instruments were being provided, and in 1932 the most powerful was undoubtedly the special booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World. In all countries Jehovah’s witnesses were busy placing this booklet and joining in the campaign of visiting every clergyman, politician and big-business man in the territory. Many of these had never been personally contacted before, but now they were given their opportunity.
Of course, high-ranking government officials and members of parliament are often difficult to contact. Hence, the brothers took advantage of the fact that at certain times of the year members of parliament move from Cape Town, the legislative capital, to Pretoria, the administrative capital. At just the right time, when these gentlemen were waiting at the Cape Town station before departing on their journey, the brothers came along and presented them with their copy of this special booklet. With the long trip of nearly 1,000 miles ahead of them, they had a good opportunity to read the contents of the publication and think upon it.
Another instrument that came into use during 1933 consisted of recorded talks by Brother Rutherford. The African Broadcasting Corporation agreed that the powerful message of these electrical transcriptions could be put on the air once a month from their three main stations at Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. In this way the message reached many homes—and, no doubt, many hearts too—in South Africa, Southern Rhodesia and as far north as Northern Rhodesia, 2,000 miles up into the African continent. Upon hearing the talks, many people accepted the literature more readily. After a year, however, an Advisory Committee on religious broadcasts was formed. This was composed of clergymen from orthodox religions, who saw to it that the Kingdom message on the air was silenced.
However, it was impossible to stop the zealous publishers of those days. In the small towns, where the large Dutch Reformed church was the main building for miles around, farmers used to gather together on the church square on the Sundays when Communion was celebrated (in Afrikaans this is called nagmaal which actually means “evening meal”). They would camp there with their tents and ox wagons. Often the brothers moved around among them, and this resulted in many discussions. The Afrikaans-speaking brothers, especially, just loved a spiritual fight with the weapons of truth. Later, these encounters would be retold with great gusto at their testimony meetings.
Very early in his pioneer experiences in the northern Transvaal, Fred Ludick came down with a bad attack of malarial fever. Some Africans came to his aid and made a concoction from a wild fruit, and this cured him. But on another occasion things did not work so well for Brother Ludick’s partner, Sidney McLuckie. This brother developed typhoid fever. Says Fred: “This strapping chap of about 165 pounds went right down to 90 pounds in just a few weeks, and he died. We buried him next to the mountains at Cala in the Transkei (Cape Province).” Thus another faithful servant of Jehovah had given his life in the development of the Kingdom work in southern Africa.
For a while Brother Ludick served in the Bushveld of the northern Transvaal and there worked with an isolated group including Brother Muller and his family. In the early 1930’s, Brother Muller did a tremendous work over all the northern Transvaal and even into the northern Cape and helped many to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Of course, they had their difficulties as well, including the time when Fred Ludick called at a Catholic mission station. There he met the priest and began explaining the purpose of his call but noticed that the face of the priest was getting redder and redder. Suddenly the priest rushed back into the building, returned with a gun and aimed it at Brother Ludick. However, Fred kept calm and just turned around and walked back toward the car, but with a chilly feeling in his spine.
By this time Brother Ludick had “graduated” from his bicycle to a 1928-model Fiat car with wooden spokes. With this he and Brother Muller covered a wide area of wild bushveld. They often had to sleep out under a tree at night, listening to the roar of the lions. But after a hard day in the field, traveling those very rough roads, mending the tires, puncture after puncture, they slept like logs—lions or no lions! The brakes of the car also gave them trouble. On one occasion, while going over the dangerous Soutpans Berg Pass, they had to tie a piece of rawhide rope to the spokes of the front wheels and pull hard on this when going down the steep parts—an ordeal accompanied by the smell of burning rubber! After an experience like that, the two brothers were happy to get back to the Muller farm, where a warm welcome would be waiting for them from Sister Muller and the children. These children were already getting good training at home and some of them later took up full-time service. Two of them are still serving at the South Africa branch office; one of them, Frans Muller, is the present branch overseer.
ST. HELENA RECEIVES A WITNESS
While this stirring activity was taking place in the Transvaal, pioneers were preparing for a trip to the island of St. Helena, a little speck in the Atlantic Ocean, some 1,200 miles off the west coast of Africa. The island is only 47 square miles in area and has less than 5,000 inhabitants, mostly Colored and very poor. This remote island was considered a safe place for the exile of Napoleon from 1815 to 1821, when it belonged to the British.
Gray Smith, now having recovered from his terrible sickness after the trip to East Africa, was ready for another real pioneering effort and prepared for a visit to St. Helena. His partner this time was Hal Ancketill, son of the previous branch overseer, Henry Ancketill. They took along a good supply of literature and worked the whole island thoroughly, placing nearly 1,000 pieces of literature.
As a result of this visit, a policeman, Thomas Scipio, accepted the truth and began publishing the Kingdom message. When he retired from the police force, Scipio, sixty years of age, became a pioneer and supported himself by growing vegetables. His son George Scipio became the first presiding overseer of the congregation later formed on the island.
Brother Scipio, senior, appreciated right from the beginning his responsibility to share the good news of the Kingdom with others. He gave a bold and wide witness to his relatives and the other islanders. A year later some had joined him in the witness work, and as soon as phonographs and Bible talks on records were available, he obtained this equipment. For years afterward this proved to be his most effective method of giving a witness to those who were willing to listen.
By 1935 a little group of six publishers was formed at Jamestown, the only town on the island. The faithful activities of the little group of publishers there brought results, and it grew. One of the new brothers who owned a café also obtained a phonograph and never lost an opportunity to play the records for his customers. By 1939 there were two groups organized, one at Jamestown and the other a few miles away at Longwood, where Napoleon had been kept in custody.
RETURN TO SOUTH-WEST AFRICA
After this very successful visit to St. Helena, Brother Smith decided to go to South-West Africa in 1935. For this trip, Brother Smith took along his wife and one of his sons. They had a van equipped with one of the new transcription machines and some records.
They certainly had a wonderful time, placing no less than 13,000 books and booklets in just five months and obtaining 70 subscriptions for The Golden Age. The clergy, mostly Lutheran, Catholic and Dutch Reformed, did not take kindly to this. In one place the Dutch Reformed minister charged Brother Smith with selling books without a license, but the magistrate just laughed and took some of the literature himself.
Again some of the seeds of truth fell on the right soil. One man in the south, Abraham de Klerk, who obtained some of the literature, read it and almost immediately became convinced of the truth. He stuck to his newfound faith and taught his family the best he could. Jehovah blessed his efforts, for his wife and some of his children accepted the truth. And as for “Oom” (Uncle) Abraham, one of the first Witnesses in South-West Africa, he continued faithfully serving Jehovah until he died in the late 1960’s.
SWAZILAND DURING THE 1930’S
Now let us cross over to the eastern side of South Africa and visit another colorful country, Swaziland. It is surrounded on three sides by the Transvaal and on the east has a common border with Mozambique. The area is about 6,700 square miles, with a population of some 420,000, of which only a few thousand are Europeans.
Pioneers visited Swaziland in the early 1930’s and a wonderful witness was given in the country. In addition to calling on the Europeans living in the towns, they also visited the paramount chief of the Swazi nation, King Sobhuza II. This man showed great friendliness to the Witnesses and gave them a royal welcome at his kraal. He assembled his personal bodyguard of a hundred warriors to hear a musical selection and a recorded speech by the Watch Tower Society president, J. F. Rutherford. Also, Brother F. Ludick, who was there, says it was quite an experience to witness to the king, who was surrounded by some fifty of his wives!
On another occasion, Robert and George Nisbet also witnessed to this king. After hearing several recordings by Brother Rutherford, the king was so delighted that he wanted to buy the machine, the records and the loudspeaker. An embarrassing situation for the pioneers! Eventually they succeeded in satisfying the king by leaving him a large supply of literature.
REACHING MAURITIUS AND MADAGASCAR
In 1933 the branch in South Africa decided to send two experienced pioneers to Mauritius and Madagascar (Malagasy Republic). Robert Nisbet and Bert McLuckie were given the fascinating assignment to visit these two islands off the east coast of Africa. They first went to Mauritius.
Before leaving Durban for Mauritius, they spent some time trying to learn French, which they understood would be the principal language. When they got to their destination, however, they found that most of the inhabitants spoke Creole, a sort of French dialect or patois. So the pioneers could not understand the people, and the people could not understand the pioneers. In fact, the problem for Brother Nisbet was even more complicated, in that he had a pronounced Scots accent. It happened on one occasion that a householder said to him: “Please talk to me in English, as I do not understand that language!”
Since the main influence and power on the island was Catholic, it is not surprising that these two brothers soon were in trouble. Complaints, inspired by the priests, reached the police, who cabled South Africa for confirmation of the brothers’ identity. The police defended the right of the brothers to preach, but warned them that the holding of meetings without permission was prohibited and that in their case no such permission would be granted. Also, the local newspaper, La Vie Catholique (Catholic Life), issued a warning about these two “false prophets.” Although this brought about a drop in their placements, it did not diminish their joy and determination in searching for the prospective “sheep.”
Visiting Mauritius at the same time as these two pioneers was the Roman Catholic Cardinal Hinsley, from Britain, for the purpose of officiating at the installing of a priest as the new bishop of the island. The place was full of visiting Catholic dignitaries and priests who had come for this special occasion. This gave the pioneers an excellent opportunity to offer the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World. It was Robert Nisbet who offered the booklet to Cardinal Hinsley himself, and he accepted it without fuss. Bert McLuckie tried the newly installed bishop, James Leen, who quietly took the booklet, tore it into shreds and threw it into the wastepaper basket!
In those days, on the island of Mauritius, travel costs were very low, probably lower than in any other part of the world. For instance, one could go right around the island by train, then again by bus and train for as little as a half crown ($0.35). In that way the pioneers covered every part of the island. In addition to literature in French, they placed booklets in Chinese and various Indian languages, such as Tamil, Urdu and Hindi. On one occasion the editor of an Indian newspaper enjoyed a lengthy article in The Golden Age that fearlessly exposed the wrongdoing of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. The editor started printing this article in serial form. But before it was concluded the police stepped in and gave the editor a serious warning of possible consequences, which made him stop publishing the material. In spite of much opposition from the priests, however, the two pioneers finished their assignment.
Their visit to Mauritius gave a wide witness on this island and they left a little group that continued doing some informal witnessing. How happy Brothers Nisbet and McLuckie must have felt with this fruitage of their labor! But what about their visit to Madagascar?
This huge island (fourth largest in the world) lying off the southeast coast of Africa is about 1,000 miles long. The east coast receives the full brunt of the monsoon winds and has a very heavy rainfall. But other parts of the island are much drier and so the flora of the country varies from desert types to rich tropical growth.
Madagascar has a population of about six million people of very mixed origin. It appears that Arabs and Hindus established trading posts on Madagascar in very early times. Since then the Portuguese, French and British all had a hand in trying to colonize the island. Finally, it was the French who took possession, and in 1896 it became a colony of France. Since then French culture and the French language have had a big influence on the island and its inhabitants. This meant that in the 1930’s, when Jehovah’s witnesses first called there with the Kingdom message, the Catholic religion was the prevailing one.
Robert Nisbet and Bert McLuckie arrived in Madagascar by ship in 1933. They began their work cautiously, making a start in Tamatave, the chief seaport, where they disembarked. They quickly covered the territory, placing much literature in the process, and then moved on to the capital, Tananarive, situated inland.
On arriving in Tananarive they came in contact with a Greek storekeeper who had some of the Society’s literature in his own language. He had received this from relatives in Brooklyn, New York. The brothers were most encouraged by this, and were delighted when this hospitable Greek gave them free accommodations in a room above his store.
Brothers Nisbet and McLuckie were not able to establish any group or congregation on this visit. Of course, they had a very big problem with the language, since very few people understood English. But they remained in Tananarive until they had placed all their literature before returning to South Africa. Thus many seeds of truth were sown on this island.
EARLY EFFORTS IN MOZAMBIQUE
Another vast field where little had yet been done was the Portuguese possession called Mozambique. The area is almost 300,000 square miles and is mainly flat and low lying. Its population now is 6,650,000, of which only a small percentage are whites. The capital city is Lourenço Marques, an important port situated in the extreme south near the border of South Africa. The other important port and city is Beira, a few hundred miles farther north.
The Catholic Church has dominated the religious field for centuries, although there is supposed to be freedom of religion, and there are quite a number of small Protestant sects operating in the cities. Forced labor was used on the farms, and for this African workers got very little remuneration. Also, the punishment of Africans was severe. On the brighter side is the fact that Portuguese East Africa has no official color bar. There are no signs “Europeans only” and no segregation in transportation, banks, shops, or anywhere else. What they do have is distinction among the Africans themselves between “uncivilized” Africans and what they call assimilados, or “civilized” Africans. Any African may rise from his status as “uncivilized” and become “civilized” by a process of law. He passes certain tests and becomes a “white” man instead of “black,” no matter what his color. An African who wishes to do this applies to a local tribunal and must prove that he is literate in Portuguese, belongs to the Christian faith (Catholic), has a certain financial standing, and is willing to live in the European manner. The main thing is that he should be capable of adopting the white man’s way of life. He then has a right to a passport, his children are entitled to free education and he has a right to vote, but he becomes subject to military service, and has to pay a high income tax. Only a very small proportion of Africans are able to qualify.
In 1925, the Kingdom seed had found good soil among the Africans in this part of the earth, and for several years grew steadily without hindrance. But in the late 1930’s the authorities started checking up on those who were subscribers for The Watchtower and quite a number were arrested. Those arrested in southern Mozambique met up with other brothers in prison, who were down from Nyasaland, so that there was quite a large group all together. It was only after two to three years that they finally had a trial, which resulted in some being deported to the penal colony of Saõ Tomé for twelve years, while others were sent to work camps in the northern part of Mozambique for ten years. In the sentence it was stated that they should not be together in one place, for then the area would be ‘poisoned by their teaching because it is very strong stuff.’
In the group sentenced was a brother called Mahlanguana. He recalls that one of the places where he worked in the north was on a large coconut plantation near the small port of Antonio Enes. One day the chief of police came around to check up on him and found him preparing a Bible sermon. The chief reported this to the director of the penal colony, but he said that this would not do any harm. The police chief, nevertheless, gave Brother Mahlanguana a beating and put him in prison for four months. Years later, having completed his sentence, Brother Mahlanguana returned to Vila Luiza. The Kingdom-preaching work had come to a standstill there. But his return helped the local interested ones to make a fresh start and the work grew well.
In that way a fine start had been made in the African field in southern Mozambique. But what about the Europeans?
It was in 1929 when the first European arrived in Lourenço Marques and began doing some witness work with the Portuguese whites. This was Henry Myrdal, who had given up pioneer service in order to marry Edith Thompson. These two carried on by themselves, finding it rather hard going at times. But in 1933 Piet de Jager, who had by this time married the zealous colporteur Lenie Theron, was sent by the Society to help out with the European field in Mozambique. Brother and Sister de Jager covered all the European territory there and placed large quantities of literature in both English and Portuguese.
Two other pioneers paid a visit to Lourenço Marques in 1935, but their stay was very short indeed. The pioneers were Brothers Fred Ludick and David Norman. They made their home with the Myrdal family. Here is their story: “On the fifth day of our work while we were sitting just like two well-behaved visitors, having tea on the public square, Brother David said to me: ‘Fred, don’t look that way, but to the left, over there, two men have been watching us now for nearly half an hour’ . . . When we got home that very same day, Sister Edith Myrdal said: ‘The secret police have been here repeatedly looking for you two.’ Her words were hardly out when the siren of the van came screeching around the corner and we were immediately packed into the Black Maria (the van used for picking up or transporting criminals).”
The two brothers were taken before a high-ranking official, Senhor Teixeira, to whom David Norman boldly said that he knew that the bishop was behind the whole conspiracy. This touched a very sore spot and Teixeira jumped up and roared: “If you were my citizens I’d have you here and now banned to the Island of Madeira, but because you are South African citizens I’ll have you deported at once.” That same day the brothers left Lourenço Marques for the border of South Africa with one carload of policemen in front and another behind, all armed to the teeth with guns and swords. On reaching the frontier, the brothers, who still had some literature with them, witnessed to the police guards, placed literature with them and then shook hands all around and said good-bye!
Further action from the bishop of Mozambique came in 1937, when Brother Myrdal was called to an interview with the chief of police, who said that he had received a complaint from the bishop. His complaint had been that the literature of the Society being distributed in the country would result in people’s rising up in arms and causing a revolution. Brother Myrdal tried to explain, but the official would not listen and informed him that if he continued to distribute literature he would be deported immediately.
However, Brother Myrdal fought back. He arranged for an interview with the governor-general in order to appeal the decision of the police. The governor, though kindly, put the matter into the hands of his assistant, Senhor Mano. As it happened, Mano was a very reasonable person, nominally a Catholic, but in disagreement with many of the Church’s doctrines. He read through the Society’s literature carefully and came to the conclusion that the accusation that it would foment revolution was false. Senhor Mano was very impressed with the books and said he was taking no further action. So the plan of the bishop to get rid of Jehovah’s witnesses had been thwarted.
Meanwhile, Brother Myrdal employers were very annoyed by the possibility of his being deported. Owing to their attitude, Brother Myrdal sent in his resignation; but instead of accepting it the firm eventually decided to transfer him to their Johannesburg store, to take effect later, in 1939.
Yet another attempt to send European pioneers to Lourenço Marques was made in 1938. David Norman came again, this time with a new partner, Brother Frank Taylor who had recently arrived from England. But within a few days of their arrival, the police were on the job again. Their instructions were that the two pioneers must stop working or they would be deported immediately. The Cape Town branch advised that the pioneers should return to South Africa, but leave their large stock of Portuguese literature with the Myrdals.
In the meantime the governor-general, who had been friendly and sympathetic, and who was well-loved by the people, was demoted by the Portuguese government and transferred to the little Portuguese colony of Goa, in India. A rabid Roman Catholic official took his place.
Realizing that the stay of the Myrdals in Mozambique was now running out, the Society suggested that copies of the literature be sent by mail to each government official throughout the land. The Myrdals made up envelopes with Portuguese literature and the very day before leaving the country they posted these hundreds of packets in various mailboxes.
Although no definite interest had been established in the European field in Mozambique, progress was steadily being made in the African field in spite of persecution. By 1940 the number of African publishers in Mozambique had reached a peak of thirty-eight. They had meetings at four different centers.
ORGANIZING IN NYASALAND
After Brother Hudson’s visit to Nyasaland in 1925, the few who continued to look to the Society for guidance kept in touch with the office in Cape Town. Then, in 1933, it became evident that there was a nucleus of sincerely interested ones who needed help. So an application was made to have a European representative in Nyasaland. The application was favorably received by the governor. Accordingly, in May 1934 a depot was opened in that country, at Zomba, under the supervision of the South Africa branch. As far as the Cape Town office could judge, there then were about a hundred sincerely interested ones in Nyasaland. Bert McLuckie was sent from South Africa to organize the work in that field.
His destination was the home of Richard Kalinde, where he stayed for a month or so. This African brother was to become his close companion during his stay in Nyasaland. Brother McLuckie had hardly got started when he suffered a severe attack of malaria, which put him in the hospital for two weeks. After his recovery he was able to obtain two rooms to be used as the depot of the Society in Nyasaland. He used one as the office and the other for sleeping accommodations.
His main job at first was to bring order to the chaotic conditions caused by the so-called “Watchtower movements.” This did not prove as difficult as he had expected. For one thing, the chief of police in Nyasaland recognized that the false African movements had nothing to do with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Also, the branch in Cape Town had given Brother Bert McLuckie a clear lead or guide in handling the situation. He visited group after group in all parts of Nyasaland. After giving a talk at each place and with Brother Kalinde acting as interpreter, he would simply read the resolution as it appeared in the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World. This resolution was in connection with the Scriptural name Jehovah’s witnesses. All those in favor of this resolution were requested to signify this by raising their hands. The majority did raise their hands, but many were insincere, as later events proved.
Brother McLuckie made further visits to the congregations from time to time, and many were helped in this way to withdraw support from the false “Watchtower movements” and their leaders. In doing this work Brother McLuckie had many interesting experiences, as some of the congregations were well off the beaten track. Sometimes the local brothers actually made roads extending miles out into the bush, for his car to travel over in order to reach their meeting places. One very isolated group could be reached only by canoe. This was quite a dangerous trip of a score of miles through crocodile-infested waters. Brother McLuckie sat on a chair in the center of the canoe, careful not to rock it, and the African brothers took turns paddling. He certainly appreciated how the brothers provided accommodations and food and showed their appreciation for spiritual things.
Brother McLuckie also worked among the Europeans in Nyasaland and at one stage visited a place called Karonga. To get there he had to travel by auto down the Livingstonia Mountain along a road with several hairpin bends so sharp that he had to stop the car in order to negotiate them by slowly reversing and then going forward. One of his contacts was with two Greek businessmen who took publications in their own language. Later, one of them was baptized.
In November of 1934, two pioneers from South Africa made a trip through Portuguese East Africa and into Nyasaland. They were able to witness to the small European populations of Zomba, Blantyre, Limbe and other places. The records show that they placed seven hundred books and booklets on that trip. Apparently this was the first time that any systematic house-to-house work had been done among the European people there.
So at long last solid theocratic organization was being established in Nyasaland. Reports for field service were also being collected and for 1934 the average number of publishers was twenty-eight. Soon after this Brother McLuckie was recalled to work in the Cape Town branch office. His brother, Bill McLuckie took over the depot in Nyasaland on March 17, 1935, and served there faithfully for many years.
As the theocratic organization established itself among the many interested ones in Nyasaland the number participating in and reporting field service grew very rapidly. The year 1935 saw the number of publishers rise from 28 in 1934 to 340.’ Meanwhile, local opposition was also increasing and some of the missionaries of Christendom were inciting the government officials to interfere with the activities of the brothers. They did succeed in having one of the booklets and the magazine The Golden Age banned in that country as of November 1934. But growth continued and by 1937 the number of congregations was up to 48, and the peak of publishers was up to 1,319.
Soon after this some talks were recorded in Cinyanja and these were very much appreciated by the African brothers. Many of the congregations were clubbing together to buy sound equipment, some arranging for fishing parties to Lake Nyasa, then putting their catch on the market and adding the proceeds to their “phonograph fund.” In some areas of the north they would buy a huge tree, and then cut it down and float it to their village. There they would set about hollowing out the trunk and shaping it into a canoe. This would then be sold, and with the money they would be able to get themselves a phonograph. This would mean months of hard work for the publishers, but it enabled them to get a phonograph and to make their Kingdom activity more effective. The book Riches was published in Cinyanja that year, providing the congregation with wonderful spiritual food. Consequently, the depot servant was able to report that never before had there been such unity among the brothers.
RENEWED EFFORTS IN BRITISH EAST AFRICA
As mentioned earlier, British East Africa was visited in 1931 by Brothers Gray and Frank Smith, and later by Robert Nisbet and David Norman. Much literature had been placed during these visits and a wide witness given. But it was time for another visit.
The third campaign into East Africa was in 1935, by four pioneers from South Africa. They were Gray Smith, his wife and the two Nisbet brothers, Robert and George. This time they were well equipped with two three-quarter-ton delivery vans fitted out as living quarters, complete with beds, kitchen, water supply and a spare petrol (gasoline) tank, also removable wire gauze screens for protection against mosquitoes. This mobility enabled them to reach places not formerly witnessed to, although the roads were sometimes overgrown with grass up to ten feet high. They often slept out in the wilds and could see, hear and feel the throb of the heart of Africa with its abundance of wildlife—roaring lions at night, peacefully grazing zebras, giraffes and the ominous presence of rhinos and elephants.
On reaching Tanganyika they parted company. Brother Smith and his wife stayed in Tanganyika for a time, while the Nisbet brothers went on to Nairobi, where the Smiths were to meet them later. While in Tanganyika the Smiths were arrested and ordered to return to South Africa. But Brother Smith decided to go on to Nairobi as he held a South African passport endorsed “British subject by birth.” On arriving in Nairobi, Kenya, he and his wife immediately went to the police officials and got permission to stay, upon depositing £100 ($280), which they received back on returning south.
They proceeded to Uganda. On reaching Kampala, they found it to be a hostile place where the police kept them under continual surveillance. Nevertheless, they succeeded in placing a lot of literature before they were compelled to leave Uganda due to a deportation order by the governor. So they traveled back to Nairobi, where once again they linked up with the Nisbet brothers.
Here, too, they experienced opposition from the authorities, but an excellent witness was given, with over 3,000 volumes and approximately 7,000 booklets distributed and a number of subscriptions obtained for The Golden Age. A vigorous protest was made against the deportation orders, but with no satisfactory explanation forthcoming from the authorities.
During this campaign Robert Nisbet contracted typhoid fever and was left behind in the Nairobi hospital while the rest of the party started back. Brother Smith and George Nisbet tried to get into Zanzibar, but permission was refused; so they returned to South Africa. Robert Nisbet recovered well and later, in 1955, became the first branch overseer of Mauritius. His brother George, after a period of missionary service in Mauritius, was sent back to South Africa and began serving in the South Africa branch in 1958.
These pioneers who blazed the trail into “Dark Africa” indeed had great faith to face all the hardships and dangers that this activity entailed. Of the six pioneers, four had extended stays in hospitals—the result of blackwater fever, malaria and typhoid fever. Through their efforts a tremendous amount of literature was distributed, laying a foundation for the spiritual building work Gilead School graduates were to start in the 1950’s.
FURTHER PROGRESS IN SOUTHERN RHODESIA
The last visit to Southern Rhodesia (now Rhodesia) had been made in 1929 by a lone pioneer, Sister Adshade, who had encountered many obstacles from the authorities. The next visit by pioneers from South Africa was in May 1932. This was a group of four pioneers in two cars, Brother and Sister Piet de Jager and Brothers Robert Nisbet and Ronald Snashall. The party arrived at the border on a Saturday afternoon, when the officials were enjoying a game of tennis. The brothers stated that they were representing the International Bible Students Association, and the officials, perhaps anxious to get back to their game, made no further inquiry; hence, they did not realize that they were allowing representatives of the real Watch Tower Society into the country. But soon the fat was in the fire. After only a few days’ work in Bulawayo, the pioneers were called into the C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Department) headquarters and to the police station and had to make lengthy written statements.
Several days later, on the order of the governor, the brothers were told to leave within forty-eight hours, and no appeal was allowed. They consulted a friendly man who had legal experience and, on his advice, insisted on making an appeal, refusing to go until a decision had been given. They presented their appeal to the chief of the C.I.D. for transmission to the governor. The very next day the newspapers in England and South Africa published reports on the incident. The Cape Times of May 30, 1932, said: “BULAWAYO, Saturday. Four European visitors from the Union, who arrived here three weeks ago with the intention of carrying on missionary work, have been ordered to leave the Colony by Monday next, being deemed by the authorities to be ‘undesirable inhabitants or visitors.’
“The authorities, it is said, disapprove of the doctrines which they believe the missionaries intend to propagate.”
Meanwhile, the brothers had contacted the branch in London, and from there the Society sent a cable to the High Commissioner for Southern Rhodesia. As a result, the decision was altered and the party was allowed to stay for six months, provided they did no work among the Africans. This was now the third time that a fine witness was given to the European population in Southern Rhodesia. Although there is no record of any outstanding interest aroused on that occasion, a personal testimony and copies of the book Vindication and the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World were given to almost all the rulers in this country.
During their stay, Brother P. de Jager paid a special visit to Mr. Moffat, the prime minister of Rhodesia, at his farm. Apparently, they had a very friendly conversation. As a result, Brother de Jager wrote letters to the authorities, applying for permission to send European representatives so that the work of the Watch Tower Society among the Africans would come under proper supervision. He did this in October 1932. Already the branch office in Cape Town had sent a letter for that purpose to the colonial secretary of the government of Southern Rhodesia, dated September 14, 1932. However, this combined effort on the part of the Cape Town branch and Brother de Jager met with failure. It seems that the Rhodesian authorities, incited by the local clergy, had closed the door on Jehovah’s witnesses in Rhodesia.
The branch in Cape Town did not take this lying down, and wrote another long letter to the colonial secretary of Rhodesia in October of 1932, which put the case very strongly. The reply came quickly and curtly: “The Government is unable to reconsider its decision previously conveyed to you, whereby certain representatives of your society were declared to be prohibited immigrants to this Colony.” Yet another try, a letter directed to the Minister of Internal Affairs in Rhodesia a year later in November of 1933, brought the same response.
The branch in Cape Town kept firing away, and each year for several years wrote a long letter to the authorities in Salisbury requesting permission to send special representatives of the Society to organize and direct the Kingdom work. The government, in turn, regularly wrote back refusing permission. The fact that in 1934 the authorities in Nyasaland gave permission for a depot to be opened and for a European brother to organize the work there, and that a similar arrangement was made in Northern Rhodesia in 1936, gave the branch office in Cape Town fresh ammunition to use in this fight. In 1938 apparently two applications were made and in answer to the second one, a letter dated 16th November, 1938, from the Secretary for Native Affairs, said: “I am directed to inform you that the Government are not prepared to recognise the Society until they have had further time to observe the effect of recognition in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. And further that it is improbable that the Government will agree to accord the Society recognition until their literature is less unsuitable for the Natives of this Colony.”
However, the efforts to further the Kingdom work in Southern Rhodesia took other forms than just a regular exchange between the Cape Town branch and the Southern Rhodesian government. On October 25, 1935, the Southern Rhodesia Government Gazette published the text of two bills formulated to control preaching work. One was referred to as “Native Preachers Act, 1936,” for the purpose of controlling religious movements among natives by the issue of certificates to native preachers and teachers. After much discussion and debating this bill did not get passed as a law. Another bill, referred to as the “Sedition Act, 1936,” was for the purpose of suppressing seditious utterances, newspapers, books, pictures and Gramophone records. Subsequent discussions and debates made it very clear that this bill was particularly directed against the work of the Society. This Sedition Bill, before it became law, being so obviously a new weapon forged against the Kingdom work, drew the fire of the Society’s Brooklyn office. President Rutherford himself wrote a letter to the prime minister of Southern Rhodesia and all members of the legislative assembly warning them of the dangerous course they were following. The Cape Town branch printed 25,000 copies of this letter and these were sent to every European whose name appeared in the Southern Rhodesia directory.
But, in spite of this, the Sedition Bill became law and very soon afterward fourteen of the Society’s publications were declared to be seditious (seven bound volumes and seven booklets). As a test case, copies were immediately posted to an African brother, Brother Kabungo, who was visiting the congregations in Southern Rhodesia at that time. These were seized by the customs officials on arrival in Bulawayo, and the Society replied by making application for their release. The case came before the High Court of Southern Rhodesia in May 1937. The Society’s advocate, Mr. Beadle (later, chief justice in Rhodesia), had made a careful study of the literature. In discussion with Brother George Phillips, the South Africa branch overseer, for two days before the case began, he showed that he was very familiar with the contents. The merits of the books were fully discussed in court for several days. Brother Phillips, up from Cape Town, had the unusual and interesting experience of sitting beside Counsel in court and helping him to find relevant scriptures and to make proper explanation on extracts from the publications under discussion. After the hearing, the judge, Mr. Justice J. Hudson, intimated that he would read the books before giving his decision. His decision was delivered on September 23, 1937. The judge discussed the pros and cons of the arguments of the defense, then summed up his opinion by saying: “They can all be characterised as publications written in good faith with intention of calling attention to remedying the fundamental defect in the organization and administration of all earthly governments. . . . My opinion then is that none of the publications is seditious.”
This was an important victory for the Society. However, the government’s answer to that was to lodge an appeal. This came before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the Union of South Africa on March 15, 1938. Judgment was delivered on March 22, 1938, by Justice N. J. de Wet, and this upheld the decision of the Southern Rhodesia Court. Much publicity was given to the case in newspapers of Rhodesia and South Africa. In fact, the Bulawayo Chronicle quoted the opinion of the court in full. In this way an excellent witness was given and the Society’s publications were released.
Work among the brothers was increasing well. By 1938 the number of Kingdom proclaimers had risen to 321, and 20 phonographs were being used in the field. The number of company organizations, or congregations, was then 34.
Early in 1938 the Society applied for permission to send two European representatives once again to work and encourage the European field and this was granted, “provided each, either before or on arrival, gives a written undertaking not to distribute any literature or conduct public meetings or any propaganda among the native population of Southern Rhodesia.” So, although the tide of battle was turning in the Society’s favor, it was by no means over.
The two pioneers sent up by the Society in 1938 were Robert Nisbet and Jim Kennedy, a South African who was fairly new in the pioneer service. At the border post of Beitbridge they were stopped by the authorities, questioned and finally allowed to enter the country for six months. They had a very fine time working among the Europeans and left much literature wherever they went. At one place, a gold-mining area, they placed nearly 200 bound books in one day. The police, of course, were keeping a watch on them and they had to report constantly to the local police station. Almost everywhere people seemed to have heard of them and were expecting their visit. The farmers were mainly friendly and hospitable, but, on a few occasions, when they heard the name “Watchtower” it was like flagging a bull.
In Bulawayo they met a Brother McGregor, who had been in the truth in Scotland but had grown spiritually cold. He was much encouraged by the pioneers and after some time he made another start in the work. The pioneers also found the Gunn family who had been contacted by George Phillips and Henry Myrdal some twelve years previously. They too were inactive, but were revived spiritually by the two pioneers. So, in 1938, they were able to organize a group in Bulawayo. It was the first European study group in Southern Rhodesia, with about seventeen persons showing interest. In time, Brother McGregor acted as the Society’s representative in Rhodesia and did much useful work in collecting reports and looking after the Kingdom interests in that country.
FACING DIFFICULTIES IN NORTHERN RHODESIA
The Witnesses were winning the battle in Southern Rhodesia. But how were they faring in the neighboring country of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), where, back in 1925, Mwana Lesa had caused such difficulty?
The years that followed the episode of Mwana Lesa were difficult. Groups of interested persons were to be found in most of the main centers along the railway line. The line had been laid from Livingstone, on the southern border, to the Copper Belt area and the Congo border adjacent to the Copper Belt. These groups were formed from among persons who had developed some contact by mail with the Brooklyn, New York, office of the Society or with the Cape Town office. The extent of the communications was limited to literature orders and donations. The one corresponding became recognized as the group leader and those associating with the group acknowledged him as such.
Because of continual harassment from the secular authorities and lack of organizational direction, most meetings were limited to small groups in homes. Nevertheless, sincerely devoted Christians were pursuing a serious study of God’s Word with the limited material available.
A young man looking for direction was Thomson Kangalē. In 1931, Thomson, in his early twenties, found himself looking for employment after the closing of the Bwana Mkumwa Mine due to the world depression. He thus sought and found new employment with the Nkana Mine at Kitwe. Soon he was assigned to supervise two football teams of mine employees. Sharing accommodations with him was a young boy, a goal-keeper. One Sunday, this young lad chanced upon the local meeting of Jehovah’s witnesses, and returned with a pocket edition of a volume of Studies in the Scriptures. Thomson, stimulated by this boy’s determination to understand the contents of the book, decided to go to these meetings and see for himself. At the meeting he attended, special emphasis was given to the use of The Harp of God, and Thomson procured a copy. He records that he devoured the contents of his new book, and soon “capitulated all my feelings heartedly to do God’s work,” qualifying as a candidate for water baptism in the same year. Brother Thomson Kangalē entered the pioneer service on October 13, 1937, and has served as servant to the brethren, and district servant (circuit and district overseers), taking the good news into the areas of Tanganyika and Uganda on assignments from the Northern Rhodesia branch office.
However, looking back a few years prior to Brother Kangalē’s contact with the truth, we see that the preaching work was greatly opposed in Northern Rhodesia. All efforts of the Society from 1927 to 1934 to send European representatives on a permanent basis to supervise the work in Northern Rhodesia were either refused or ignored. The two latest applications made in that period were, one on October 12, 1932, and the other on September 20, 1934, the latter being acknowledged but no considered reply sent. Subsequent events proved that a scheme to suppress the work entirely was then afoot.
By this time some of the Society’s literature such as The Harp of God and a number of booklets had been translated and published in Cinyanja. The Harp of God was the textbook used by interested Africans in their studies. An incomplete report in the 1935 Year Book of Jehovah’s Witnesses showed that 11,759 pieces of literature were distributed during 1934 by a handful of publishers in the two Rhodesias. This activity aroused the ire of false religionists and political elements, who charged the beliefs and misdeeds of members of indigenous movements against the representatives of the Society, and engineered mischief by law.—Ps. 94:20.
‘TROUBLE FRAMED BY DECREE’
This mischief was framed by an amendment to the Penal Code of Northern Rhodesia that was piloted through the Legislative Council by Attorney-General Fitzgerald, an ardent Roman Catholic, on May 3, 1935. This law became known as Ordinance 10 of 1935. It was obvious that it was aimed at the literature of the Watch Tower Society. Said Mr. Fitzgerald: “It makes it an offence to sell or distribute seditious newspapers; it also gives power to certain officers to search packages in the post with a view to seeing whether they contain seditious matter; and, finally, a most important section, it gives the governor power by proclamation to prohibit importation into the territory of any newspaper, book or document.” He also admitted that they acted on the advice of others, undoubtedly that of a missionary conference held at Victoria Falls! Some of the freedom-loving members of the Council opposed this bill. The bill was, nevertheless, passed and proved a ready tool in the hands of the enemies so that the sudden outbreak of the 1935 riots in tile Copper Belt gave them just what they were waiting for to get at Jehovah’s witnesses.
Right from the outset it was evident that enemies of Jehovah’s witnesses were determined to make them the “scapegoats.” At the time of the riots there were only 350 witnesses of Jehovah in both Rhodesias. In an effort to bring the work in Northern Rhodesia in line with the way it was done in other countries, the African Witnesses had held an unofficial assembly at Lusaka, May 10-12, to discuss the preaching work and the need for clean Christian living. Doubtless thinking that the Lusaka meeting had some connection with the Copper Belt disturbances toward the end of May, C.I.D. (Criminal investigation Department) raids upon Jehovah’s witnesses took place throughout Northern and Southern Rhodesia. At Luanshya six of Jehovah’s witnesses were arrested on June 5, and kept in prison for three days, after which they were released with no charge filed against them. At Ndola an orderly in the government hospital lost his job because he was one of Jehovah’s witnesses. All over the country the same treatment was meted out to Jehovah’s witnesses at the instigation of government officials. In a letter dated July 1, 1935, to the Chief Secretary of the Government of Northern Rhodesia, the branch overseer in Cape Town defended Jehovah’s witnesses against all these false charges and asked him to take the necessary steps to stop the persecution of Jehovah’s witnesses.
The evidence taken by the Commission of Enquiry into the disturbances and which was published two volumes proved that not a single one of Jehovah’s witnesses was implicated in the uprising. To the contrary, Mr. J. L. Keith, district commissioner for Ndola, went on record as saying: Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower itself as an organization took no part in the strike.”
Evidence given clearly proved that the Awemba, who were predominantly Catholics and very opposed to Jehovah’s witnesses, were behind the disturbances and that the chief causes were the increase in head tax and the way it was introduced. Said the manager of the Roan Antelope Copper Mine (Luanshya): “It seemed every time we asked anybody the cause of the disturbances it constantly kept coming back to the increased tax.”
Just before the hearing of the Commission, which started on July 8, 1935, the Cape Town branch of the Watch Tower Society received an answer to its persistent requests for permission to send a European representative to Northern Rhodesia. A letter from the Northern Rhodesia government, dated June 24, 1935, stated: “The Government . . . will now raise no objection to any such move which may be conducive to better supervision and control of your followers in this country.” It was decided to send Piet de Jager, but the Northern Rhodesia government objected to this, stating they wanted “some more senior member of the Society’s staff.” When they were assured that he was being sent only to make investigations and submit a report and that a man of British extraction would eventually be in charge, they agreed. But because the Watch Tower Society and Jehovah’s witnesses had been drawn before the Commission of Enquiry through false accusations and the Government had submitted a number of specially selected “extracts” from certain of our publications to determine their “subversive character,” it was decided to send Brother de Jager in time to give evidence on behalf of the Society. He gave an excellent witness explaining all those so-called subversive “extracts,” which even Mr. J. L. Keith, a government official, admitted were no more subversive than extracts from the Bible.
The findings of the Commission were published on October 2, 1935. In summing up, it said: “The Commission find that the immediate impelling cause of the disturbance at Mufulira was the sudden bawling out by the mine police in the evening that the tax was increased all round to 15s.; and that it was the false announcement of the success of the strike at Mufulira, together with the challenge to the natives to show that they were not old women, which was the immediate impelling cause of the disturbances at Nkana and Luanshya.” But the enemies of Jehovah’s witnesses gloated over the following statement about the Watch Tower Society: “The Commission find that the teaching and literature of the Watch Tower bring civil and spiritual authority, especially native authority, into contempt; that it is a dangerously subversive movement; and that it is an important predisposing cause to the recent disturbances.
This was just what they wanted, so on October 4, 1935, the governor, Hubert Young, used the powers given him by Ordinance 10 of 1935 and banned a whole list of our books, including The Harp of God, the only book in Cinyanja widely used by the natives, and another that had been out of print for ten years! Eventually all but two booklets written by J. F. Rutherford were banned.
Much publicity was given in the public press concerning the report of the Commission and the subsequent banning of our literature. Most of it was prejudiced and adverse, but the Cape Town branch defended the truth in every case. An excellent witness was given through a special issue of the Northern Rhodesia Advertiser, October 16, 1935, of Ndola, which published the Society’s evidence before the Commission, written representation and correspondence in full. In this edition the editor extended an invitation to the people to come and see the banned books at his office. “We have the whole range for reference in our office. Any one that wishes to consult them can see them here. . . . Do not be afraid; come and see what all the talk is about and form your own opinion.” As soon as the Commission’s report was published, copies of the booklets Government and Intolerance, with a covering letter, found their way into the hands of every European in Northern Rhodesia.
SOME SUCCESS ATTAINED
The Northern Rhodesia Advertiser, in drawing the attention to some inconsistency in the administration of Northern Rhodesia, said: “Whether we agree with Jehovah’s Witnesses or not, it is plain that there is something radically wrong with the administration of this country if the Governor of Nyasaland welcomed these people in 1933, while as Governor of Northern Rhodesia he (the same man) allows them after much hesitancy. Then, after two months he requests them to leave the country without any valid reason whatsoever, and that while wrongful practices on the part of natives of the ‘indigenous Watch Tower,’ so-called, were due to the fact that the Government had not allowed them into the territory before.”
The editor of the newspaper was referring to the fact that the Society was asked by the Northern Rhodesian government to recall Brother de Jager after two months “as formal protest has been made by European residents of Ndola against his presence there, and his activities appear to have a disturbing effect. In answer to this, the Cape Town branch pointed out that the Northern Rhodesian government had granted permission to send a European representative “after mature consideration of the whole situation,” and that Brother de Jager’s mission to Northern Rhodesia was only a preliminary step to establishing permanent control over the work there. It was then proposed that the Society send the European representative, Llewelyn Phillips, whom they wished to take permanent control of the work and immediately open a depot in Lusaka, by this time the new capital of Northern Rhodesia. They received a letter stating “that the matter is under consideration and that a decision will be communicated to you in due course.” This subject was broached again by the branch overseer in a letter dated November 25, 1935, to the State Secretary of Northern Rhodesia “to inquire if I may complete my arrangements to send Mr. L. V. Phillips to act as our representative in that country.” The reply: “It is unlikely that you will receive a definite reply for some time.”
In the meantime Brother de Jager, a fearless fighter for the truth, stayed on at Ndola and, wishing to test the validity of the law banning our literature, he offered copies of two of these books to the editor of the local newspaper on October 21, 1935, which led to his being charged under the proclamation, convicted and fined £2 by the magistrate of Ndola. The case was appealed to the High Court of Northern Rhodesia.
While this appeal case was still pending, the matter of Jehovah’s witnesses and the Watch Tower was raised in the House of Commons in England, when Mr. Thurtle asked for “an assurance that Jehovah[‘s] Witnesses and the adherents of the Watch Tower movement would get fair play in Northern Rhodesia.” Mr. J. H. Thomas, Secretary of State for the Colonies, “stated that he was in consultation with the Governor of Northern Rhodesia in regard to the policy to be pursued.”
The branch office in Cape Town acted immediately by sending the following cable to the Secretary of State for the Colonies: “Respectfully request opportunity submit representations our work Northern Rhodesia before you decide future policy. Writing you Airmail.” That same day a long letter went off to him with detailed explanations of the plot to crush our work in Northern Rhodesia, starting at the missionary conferences, covering the Mwana Lesa episode, the Copper Belt disturbances, and telling of the struggle to get a European representative established to direct the work and help the sincere Africans. It also told of the persecution the African Witnesses had to endure. Then came the appeal: “Sir, I call upon you to take steps to end the unjust discrimination that is going on against Jehovah’s witnesses in Northern Rhodesia; to have the prohibition of the literature removed, and to see to it that our genuine adherents are permitted to exercise their God-given rights to worship Jehovah God according to the dictates of their own conscience, without interference.”
This had the desired results, because the Cape Town branch overseer received a letter from the Northern Rhodesia Secretariat in March 1936. The Chief Secretary wrote: “I am directed to . . . invite you to send Mr. L. V. Phillips as your representative in place of Mr. P. J. de Jager, to set up a Depot in Lusaka. . . . Also to refer to your letter dated 11th December addressed to the Secretary of State of the Colonies and to say that the Secretary of State has carefully considered the matters raised therein. His Excellency the Governor has already recommended that a European representative should be admitted to Northern Rhodesia and the Secretary of State has now approved of the proposal.” What a victory after a long battle!
ANOTHER BATTLE CONTINUES
But the fight for freedom of worship was far from being over, for our literature was still prohibited and the appeal case was pending. The case came before the High Court on May 20, 1936, and judgment was handed down on June 18. It dismissed the appeal. Brother de Jager immediately applied for leave to appeal to the Privy Council. On September 15, 1936, the High Court of Rhodesia refused leave of appeal. However, the Society did not leave a stone unturned in this fight for freedom of worship. The help of legal counsel in London was engaged to work with the Society’s legal counsel in Northern Rhodesia to try to get the case before the Privy Council. The final outcome, however, was that the judicial committee of the Privy Council in London refused to hear the case.
In January 1936, copies of a special letter by the Society’s president, J. F. Rutherford, addressed to the members of the Legislative Assembly of Southern Rhodesia were also sent to the Northern Rhodesian members of the Legislative Council, the Governor and the Press.
During 1936 Jehovah’s witnesses in the Union of South Africa were also very active distributing 50,000 copies of The Golden Age, No. 425, and 20,000 copies of a special publication containing the same information were distributed in the Rhodesias. Herein were set forth the facts establishing ‘the innocence of Jehovah’s witnesses in Northern Rhodesia, including a very strong letter from the president of the Society, Brother Rutherford, sent to Alison Russell, the Chairman of the Commission of Enquiry, after their report was published. So the public was fully informed as to the schemes of the enemies of the truth to suppress it.
ANOTHER TASK IS UNDERTAKEN
At long last the Society’s efforts to have a depot in Northern Rhodesia were crowned with success! The depot was opened on July 16, 1936, in Lusaka, just opposite the police station, with Brother Llewelyn Phillips appointed as depot servant. But a tremendous task remained. It was to cleanse the organization of all undesirable elements due to the influence of the indigenous “Watchtower movements” and lack of supervision, to educate the sincere ones in sound Bible doctrine and to organize the work on a proper basis.
The first thing Brother Llewelyn Phillips did was to visit many of the main centers. There, by arrangement with government officials, he met many of the persons claiming association with the Watch Tower Society. What did he find? He tells us: “It became abundantly clear that the vast majority were like the people of Nineveh in Jonah’s day who ‘did not know the difference between their right and their left hand.’ Many were sincere; some prouder ones felt the Society held out a measure of autonomy unequalled by any of the other religious organizations. Some, as Jude put it, were ‘ungodly men, turning the undeserved kindness of our Lord into an excuse for loose conduct’ (like having community wives which they called ‘the baptism of fire’!).”
Apart from the confusion caused by the indigenous “Watchtower movements,” there was the problem of lack of literature due to the ban and the illiteracy of the majority of the brothers. There were many unscriptural tribal customs. The women, for instance, sat separately from men at meetings. Also, an African sees his wife as the mother of his children, the cook, the gardener, the carrier of loads and the part builder of his home. She is seldom, if ever, considered as a real companion or “complement to him.”—Gen. 2:18.
In addition, most of the brothers had difficulty in relating to everyday life the truths they were learning. The brothers had read our literature and knew that the Kingdom was established in the heavens in 1914, but if asked how many years ago that was they had no idea. Many knew that the worldly governments were under Satan’s control, but they did not understand their proper relationship to those governments. Because of the isolation in small bush villages and little or no contact with the outside world, many of the things in the Society’s publications were beyond their comprehension. For example, the only contact that many villagers had with the government was through the local district commissioner and their own native court. The African’s only contact with religion might be a local mission school and all he knew of business, apart from his own bartering, was the local trading store. Thus when religion, politics and commerce were discussed in the Society’s publications as being world forces, what would come to the minds of these brothers were the local mission school, the district commissioner and the trading store.
A reassessment of the number of real Kingdom publishers had to be made, because many, although very willing, did not Scripturally qualify to share in the work due to their lack of understanding and their way of life. The first full service-year report under the depot arrangement showed that there was a monthly average of 756 publishers, with a peak of 1,081, during 1937. These brothers were visited by pioneers who acted as regional overseers, and who had first received training at the depot, with detailed instructions on doctrinal, moral and organizational matters.
These visiting brothers needed a real love for Jehovah to stick to their assignment, for they had to put up with many hardships. Some of the villages were situated as far as 1,000 miles from the railway line, as there was only one railway line that transversed the country, with no branches apart from that to the Copper Belt. These brothers had to travel most of the time by bicycle or walk hundreds of miles through dry, hot and dangerous country to the scattered groups of interested ones. Furthermore, they needed a lot of patience and love to get new congregations going. Sometimes they had to stay with a new congregation at least two months before anything like organization could be effected. They had to fight the tendency among some to be a “chief” in the Lord’s organization, which made these hesitant to accept the arrangement of the Society. But their hard labors were blessed, for by 1939 the average number of publishers had increased to 1,191, with 7 pioneers, and a new peak of 2,378 in 1940, with 88 congregations in operation.
A STRONGER ORGANIZATION IN SOUTH AFRICA
While this battle was going on in the northern territories the African brothers down in Johannesburg were, on a much smaller scale, winning the battle against bad elements of the “Watchtower movement” there.
Also, changes had been taking place at the branch in Cape Town. In March 1933 the Society arranged for the branch office in South Africa to move to bigger premises in Cape Town. These consisted of two office rooms on the sixth floor of a large office block, No. 623 Boston House, and the basement storehouse in a neighboring block, Progress Chambers, Progress Lane, which was used for the little printing press, storage of literature and shipping. The small amount of printing done at that time was handled by Brother Phillips, and also by a local brother in Cape Town. These new premises were more central and more commodious, and were to be the center of theocratic organization for southern Africa for nearly twenty years.
Two years later, in 1935, a brother with a knowledge of printing was sent out by Brother Rutherford to help with the printing work in the Cape Town branch. This was Andrew Jack, who, in addition to being a qualified printer, had been in full-time service in the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The ban on the work there was followed by his deportation and return to his home country of Scotland. On arrival in South Africa, Andrew Jack soon arranged to obtain more type and other printing equipment and before long their little one-man, one-machine factory was going at full speed. In the year 1937 the first automatic printing press was installed. It has turned out millions of handbills and forms in the last thirty-eight years and is still going strong today in the Elandsfontein branch, South Africa.
PRODUCTIVE SOUND SERVICE
Out in the field, transcription machines with Brother Rutherford’s powerful talks, either in the hands of the congregations, or in sound cars provided by the Society, were doing a tremendous work. For example, in Pretoria the congregation had obtained permission to broadcast the talks every Sunday evening on Church Square, the very center of the city. After a while complaints were lodged with the city council, and the brothers had to remove the transcription machine from the Square. But that problem was soon overcome. Brother Smit had a friend who lived in an apartment overlooking the Square and from an open window of the apartment the Sunday-evening program continued without hindrance.
In the mid-1930’s, one of the Society’s sound cars was being run by Robert Nisbet, and he used it widely among the Africans in the nearby territory of Zululand. This is a large area of northern Natal and for many years has been the homeland of the Zulu nation. Especially at the sugar mills and the coal mines of northern Natal, large numbers of Africans gathered to hear the music and talks presented by the sound car. This led to the placement of large quantities of literature. In fact, later, when the book Riches was being featured, Brother Nisbet’s house car came to be known as “Imoto Yobucebi” (“The Riches Car”).
In 1935 the brothers in all countries were thrilled at the new light on the subject of the “great crowd” of Revelation 7, and those not of the anointed were overjoyed at the prospect of living forever in happiness on the earth. With the greater understanding of the “other sheep” class and more attention being directed to the “great crowd” from then on, these numbers were soon on the increase.—John 10:16; Rev. 7:9.
While working in the mining section known as the Reef, pioneer Iris Tutty had the privilege of serving with one of the sound vans, and she describes it in this way: “This was a very neat affair, black and highly polished and on top it had a loudspeaker. On each of the panels were the words, ‘Kingdom Message, Serve God and Christ the King,’ and on the back door a linen banner announcing the latest talk by J. F. Rutherford. This van came to be well known all over Johannesburg and the Reef as the ‘Bible Van.”’ Various congregations on the Reef had worked out a schedule for using this van. On the weekends this schedule was a very tight one, since the van was used to cover a wide area, giving recorded lectures in many different places, including boys’ homes, hospitals, market squares, and the steps of the Johannesburg City Hall.
On one occasion, at the last-named place, during the period just before World War II started, and when political tension was mounting, the lecture being played was “Fascism or Freedom.” That evening there was a particularly large audience. As the talk progressed, shouting and screaming broke out. Bottles and tomatoes were thrown at the publishers. The mob was just about to attack the equipment when police suddenly arrived. With a baton charge they cleared the whole area, flung a cordon around the brothers and then helped them to pack up and get out of the danger zone. The brothers were most grateful to Jehovah for his protection.
Undoubtedly the sound cars did a wonderful work in those days, covering all parts of the country and reaching many people with their powerful loudspeakers. By 1937 there were five sound cars in constant use, with two pioneers traveling in each van. Furthermore, there were twelve large transcription machines in action in various parts of the country. It was in the same year that work with portable phonographs began in real earnest after a special appeal by Brother Rutherford. The branch at Cape Town was busy making recordings in Afrikaans, Cinyanja, Sesotho, Xhosa and Zulu.
By 1938 the Society was handling literature in thirty different languages, having established congregations at eighty centers. The main publications at that time, such as the book Riches, the booklet Uncovered and others, were outspoken against the Catholic Hierarchy, and these religious leaders were getting worried. Their newspapers warned the people against Judge Rutherford’s leaflets and booklets that were flooding the country. The Catholic press made the suggestion that halls should be denied to Jehovah’s witnesses to prevent them from holding public meetings.
The pioneers in South Africa had, by 1938, reached the total of 30, among whom, as already mentioned, was Iris Tutty of Johannesburg. On one occasion Sister Tutty had to climb a long flight of steps to reach a door. As she arrived at the top, the door was flung open by a woman. Her face crimson with rage and screaming abuse, she pushed Sister Tutty right down the steps and then slammed the door. As Sister Tutty picked herself and her scattered belongings up, she felt like weeping but decided that prayer was the best solution. It so happened that at the very next house a man and his wife were kindness itself. They gave Sister Tutty a cup of tea, and said they were deeply shocked at what had happened at their neighbor’s house, especially as the woman happened to be the wife of their minister. This turned into a very fruitful call, and in course of time led to this couple’s becoming baptized witnesses of Jehovah.
Along with other publishers, the pioneers found that the mines along the Reef were a very fruitful field for placing literature. They used to stand at the shaft head and offer the publications when the miners, whites and blacks, came up after doing their shift. Men still wore their lamps glowing in the front of their helmets, and were wet with the slime of the underground passages. The African miners were very keen to obtain literature in their own languages and sometimes pioneers would have a line of men waiting their turn. They were anxious to obtain Bibles or books to send to their families and children at home. Years later Sister Tutty had the pleasure of meeting a little group of Africans in Johannesburg who recognized her. One of them, with a broad smile, said: “You remember me? Me buy Bible, and now me go to Bible meeting.”
CONFRONTING THE CLERGY
In the late 1930’s the message of the Kingdom began to take hold in a very conservative community in the eastern part of the Cape Province. This was in the neighborhood of King William’s Town, about thirty-nine miles north of East London. Many of the local farmers and inhabitants were descendants of German people who settled there in the mid-nineteenth century. As a result, the dominant religion of that area is Lutheran, and it was while doing some building work on the house belonging to a Lutheran clergyman that a certain Mr. Kieck obtained literature from a Kingdom publisher. Mr. Kieck enjoyed what he read and ordered more, and soon started spreading the message among his relatives and friends, most of whom thought he had gone mad. Eventually, however, several of his relatives began to take an interest. In 1938 they arranged for a public debate between three of their Lutheran clergymen and Mr. Kieck, with some hundred church members present. During the debate Mr. Kieck produced a German Bible used under Hitler’s regime in which some of the Psalms as well as other verses of the Bible were missing. This embarrassed the clergymen somewhat; but that was nothing compared to their feelings when powerful scriptures were read from the Bible. At one stage one of the ministers actually threw the Society’s literature on the table, saying: “Damn these books!” As a result of this episode, six of the church members who were already interested became convinced of the truth and took their stand on Jehovah’s side.
There is a very interesting sequel to this. In 1938 the Minister of the Interior for South Africa banned the importation of the book Riches and several booklets on the grounds that they were “objectionable.” This was done in spite of the fact that in March 1938 the highest court in South Africa, at Bloemfontein, had ruled that the Society’s literature was not seditious and had no subversive intent. It is good to keep in mind that the book Riches and other publications show clearly the connivance between Fascism, Nazism and the Catholic Church. It came to light later that certain Lutheran clergymen were responsible for maneuvering the action of the government in banning this literature. But soon after this these same clergymen were interned, as it appeared that they were furthering Nazism in the country during World War II.
The Society made an appeal to the Minister of the Interior, protesting against the decision to ban the publications; but he would not change his mind, give any explanation or allow any appeal to the court. Consequently, the Cape Town branch published a large four-page pamphlet entitled “A Protest.” It included bold-print headlines: “Religious Intolerance in South Africa, Banning of the Bible Study Book ‘Riches.’” The pamphlet contained convincing proof that the German Lutheran clergymen of the eastern province of the Cape had provoked this ban and that the book Riches had been included in the June 1938 prohibited list of sex and crime magazines. The pamphlet published in English and Afrikaans was widely distributed throughout the country, and many orders for the book Riches were received.
ZONE WORK BEGINS
In that same year, 1938, the zone work was organized. Thereby traveling representatives of the Society visited the congregations and isolated publishers, giving them instruction and encouragement.
One of the first zone servants in South Africa was Frank Taylor, whose wife Christine had recently arrived from England. Christine found working among the Africans a strange but interesting experience, and her husband says that he will never forget the look on her face when she placed her first booklet with a Zulu woman who was dressed only in beads and a skirt. The woman took the contribution for the booklet, a coin called a “tickey” (3d), out of her woolly hair!
Soon after starting on zone work Frank and Christine went to East London where they had the happy job of getting together that little group of interested families, the Kiecks, the Horrmanns and the Schanknechts. They had broken away from the German Lutheran Church in King William’s Town. In the course of time the East London European congregation was formed with these new ones, most of whom are still alive and active today.
KINGDOM WORK PICKS UP MOMENTUM
The month of January 1939 saw a further step forward taken by the branch in South Africa in that the Consolation magazine was published in Afrikaans for the first time. Piet de Jager, who up to this time had been translating the Society’s books into Afrikaans while pioneering, was now called into Bethel to serve as full-time Afrikaans translator.
This meant more work for Andrew Jack in the little printing department at the branch, since the text had to be composed from hand type. This was the first magazine of the Society to be printed in South Africa. As yet no magazines were being produced in the local African languages.
Yes, the Kingdom work in southern Africa was really developing quickly now. In 1939 there was a new peak of 555 publishers in South Africa. It is worth noting that of these only 180 were Colored and African. The monthly average for publishers in South Africa was 439; for Southern Rhodesia, 473; Northern Rhodesia, 1,198; Nyasaland, 1,041; Portuguese East Africa, 17; and St. Helena, 11. This made a grand total of 3,179 publishers in the field for all the territories under the Cape Town branch, and in that year they devoted 1,042,078 hours to ‘the preaching work. This shows clearly that since receiving clarification on the “great crowd” in 1935 the increase was coming much faster and many new ones were taking their stand.
WAR STIRS UP KINGDOM PUBLISHERS
When Hitler began his blitzkrieg on Poland in September 1939, the world was plunged into a period of violence and suffering such as it had never known. As the Nazi-Fascist war machine took over country after country, the Kingdom work in Europe suffered terribly. South Africa, under its new prime minister, Jan Smuts, took up the conflict against Germany, and many South Africans saw action in the north of Africa and Italy.
South Africa, being far from the main theater of conflict, did not suffer very much from the war conditions that prevailed in many other countries. In course of time, there were shortages of certain food items and other restrictions. But the Kingdom work in southern Africa by 1940 entered a period of growth and expansion such as it had never seen before. The stupendous events of the war shook the complacency of many people and directed their minds to the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
By this time the Consolation magazine in Afrikaans was having great success. So, the Watch Tower branch in Cape Town decided that it was time to publish the magazine The Watchtower in Afrikaans. In January 1940, the Informant (later called Kingdom Ministry) outlined new work with the magazines—street work, house-to-house work and magazine routes. It was clear that greater quantities of magazines would be needed. A linotype machine was installed as well as a folding machine. Also, a brother from Durban, with experience in printing, was called in to help Brother Jack in the little printing department. So, as of June 1, 1940, Die Wagtoring (The Watchtower in Afrikaans) was first produced by the Cape Town branch.
The timing of this first issue was perfect and was obviously done under Jehovah’s guidance. Though the first few months of 1940 were very quiet as far as the war in Europe was concerned, suddenly Hitler’s “panzer” divisions began their onslaught on western Europe. Until that time Afrikaans-speaking brothers in South Africa had relied upon the Dutch issue of The Watchtower, coming from Holland. But in May the Society’s branch in Holland suddenly had to close down and supplies were cut off. The brothers in Cape Town did not know this was going to happen. But exactly at the point that the Dutch copies of The Watchtower stopped coming through, the new translation of The Watchtower in Afrikaans filled the breach!
The brothers took up the magazine work joyfully and enthusiastically, so that, as a result, the monthly distribution of the magazines went up to 17,000. As in other countries where the work was not underground, magazine bags began to appear on the streets, with the publishers calling out slogans.
By the end of the 1940 service year Brother Phillips, in his office in Cape Town, was able to report to Brother Rutherford an outstanding increase in publishers. The new peak for South Africa was 881 publishers, with an average figure of 656, which was an increase of 50 percent based on the previous year’s average. The war had really stirred up the Kingdom publishers in South Africa.
CATHOLIC MALICE LEADS TO A BAN
The chief publication of the Catholic Church in South Africa, the Southern Cross, in its issue of October 2, 1940, carried a leading article drawing attention to what had taken place in Canada (where a total ban was placed on the Kingdom work in July 1940) and then made the following malicious statement: “The activities of these people [Jehovah’s witnesses] who condemn loyalty to the authority of either the State or the Church are even more dangerous in a country like South Africa, with its huge Native population. The Government should certainly curtail the spread of their propaganda here.” Immediately thereafter subscribers’ copies of The Watchtower and Consolation began to be seized by the censorship authorities, and when the branch office wrote to find out why, the authorities refused to give any explanation.
Since it was known that the Catholic Church was behind all of this, a special copy of Kingdom News was prepared in reply to the Catholic attack in the Southern Cross and 200,000 copies were quickly distributed in all parts of South Africa. This was followed up by a statement giving the facts concerning Jehovah’s witnesses and their work. Copies were sent to every member of parliament, the judiciary and the press. For members of parliament and the judiciary, copies of the article dealing with the subject of Christian neutrality, in The Watchtower of November 1, 1939, were also included. Sometime later the police were instructed to seize all copies of this Watchtower article. An appeal was made to the prime minister, and a reply was received from the Chief Control Officer of the Union. Among other things, it said: “Although your intentions may have been, and are, of the best, it cannot be accepted that you should be allowed to thwart the steps taken by the Government for the successful prosecution of the war. If your Society succeeds in its efforts to convert everyone in this country to this point of view the enemy would meet with no active opposition, and it is, therefore, difficult to see how you can expect the Government to sit still and refrain from any action against you.”
The next move of the branch was to prepare a petition addressed to the government. It complained about the seizure of the publications of the Society and respectfully petitioned the government to release this Christian literature and thus restore freedom of worship in the country. In a short space of ten days, 50,000 signatures of Europeans living in all parts of the Union were obtained. About the same time the official announcement was made that The Watchtower and Consolation had been banned by the government.
Further action by the government consisted of seizing complete shipments of magazines as they arrived. It soon became clear that a total ban had been placed on the importation of Watch Tower Society literature. The very first booklet to be seized was Theocracy. In quick succession, six or seven shipments of literature all met with the same fate. The reason given for the seizure was that these publications were considered “objectionable.”
All of this was due to the influence of the Catholic Church and also the emergency situation of the war, since many of the publications under ban had been admitted into the country for many years without any difficulty. The branch office took steps to claim the seized literature, and this led to court action. The case came up before the Supreme Court in Cape Town. Although the circumstances seemed to weigh heavily against the Watch Tower Society, the brothers who attended the hearing were thrilled to find that the judge displayed an impartial attitude and ruled that the minister responsible for the ban should give reasons for his action and also grant an interview for further representations to be made.
The legal struggle continued for some time, and it was not until April 1942, after the fight had been on for a whole year, that the grounds upon which the publications were supposed to be objectionable were presented. The branch was given fourteen days in which to reply to these points, which was done, and at the same time Brother Phillips expressed his desire to make personal representations in harmony with the decision of the court. However, the court had not fixed the time limit for these representations to be made or received, and the months rolled by. It was two years before the matter was settled.
During August 1941, all the outgoing mail from the Cape Town branch office was seized by the censorship authorities. It was not until several weeks later that the branch became aware of this, when letters were sent by brothers in the field, and a protest was lodged. It was acknowledged, but no explanation was given. The suspicions of the authorities that the Society was engaging in correspondence bearing on the war effort were found to be quite unjustified.
In September 1941, the Minister of the Interior issued an order under the emergency regulations to seize all of the Society’s publications in South Africa. The results of this at the branch were quite exciting. At ten o’clock in the morning, the C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Department) arrived to execute the order. They came with trucks for the purpose of removing all of the Society’s stock of literature. But the branch overseer was alert. He quickly checked the order and saw that it was not in harmony with the regulations. He then took prompt action, making the C.I.D. officers wait at the Society’s office while he personally made an urgent application to the Supreme Court for an interdict to restrain the Interior Minister from seizing the literature. His application was successful. At twelve o’clock the interdict was obtained and the police had to clamber back into their empty trucks and drive off! Five days later the minister withdrew the order after paying the Society’s costs. One can imagine how pleased the Cape Town branch Bethel family was at this important victory!
THE BATTLE GOES ON
Our fight continued. The Afrikaans edition of Consolation was banned under the Customs Act, which governs importation. Since the magazine was printed and published in South Africa, it was obvious that this was a mistake. Nonetheless, a pioneer was convicted at Kroonstad for distributing the magazine. The case was appealed and the Supreme Court reversed the decision. Later, on September 12, 1941, the Government Gazette intimated that the ban had been withdrawn. Another round to the Theocracy!
Much of this stirring action was reported on fully in the newspapers, and this caused tremendous publicity to be given to the Kingdom message and to the work Jehovah’s witnesses. Realizing that the public in general needed enlightening on this matter, the branch published two special booklets, Why Suppress the Kingdom Message?, and Jehovah’s Witnesses: Who Are They? What Is Their Work? These booklets were given a very wide distribution in English and Afrikaans during October 1941.
Such a wide-scale clarification of the work being done by Jehovah’s witnesses was very necessary because many of the newspapers were carrying distorted reports about them, and rumors and charges of their being “Fifth Columnists” and “Nazis” were being spread about. One of the leading dailies, the East London Daily Dispatch, published an article that made a libelous attack on the Society’s president, J. F. Rutherford. Since the editor refused to publish a letter of explanation, a libel action was begun and the paper was sued for £5,000 damages. When the editor saw that the brothers were determined, he quickly backed down, published an apology and paid all the costs the case.
REACTION TO THE BAN
The reaction of the brothers to the ban on some of the publications was to hide the banned literature in their homes. They were “cautious as serpents.” (Matt. 10:16) In Johannesburg the police made various raids on publishers’ homes, but there they usually had advance notice of such raids from an interested person in the detective force. In Pretoria, Frans Muller, still a schoolboy, under the direction of his parents, dragged carton after carton of literature into narrow passages underneath the low wooden floor of their home where they knew the precious books would be quite safe. All this meant that the publishers had less literature to work with in the field, but locally printed publications such as the book Children were used to a great extent. As one Colored brother in Cape Town says: “Supplies were limited, but this did not slow down the work. We were told to’loan books to people and start studies with them. This we did and it was amazing to see how our Bible studies shot up. Many started coming into the truth during this period.”
The peak of publishers went up to 1,253, and they were working hard. The attendance at the Johannesburg assembly that year rose to about 800, with 186 baptized. Many new congregations were organized, the figure going up from 127 in 1940 to 172 in 1941.
Although the Watchtower magazine coming from America was on the banned list, Jehovah lovingly provided spiritual food. The brothers at Cape Town were never short of material to print on their presses and to send out under the name “Food Convenient.” One of those who, during the war, never missed a single copy of his subscription for The Watchtower and who always sent it to the Cape Town office after reading it himself was a Brother J. J. van Zyl, since his copies came addressed to “Sergeant J. J. van Zyl, South African Police, Kranskop, Natal.”
VICTORY AT LAST!
Certainly, the fight against God and his Kingdom work in South Africa was unsuccessful. From 1941 the fight for the removal of the ban and the release of our literature went on without letup. Toward the end of 1943, stocks of literature at the branch were running very low and the brothers were praying earnestly that the literature that had been seized might be released. Then things started to happen. A new Minister of the Interior was appointed. Another letter was sent by the branch overseer to the Controller of Censorship requesting the removal of the ban. A copy of the letter was sent to the new minister, together with a request for a personal interview, which the previous minister had agreed to but never granted.
In January 1944, the interview took place and the minister agreed to release the seized shipments, remove the ban on the magazines, and release the other publications that had been seized. He also promised to rescind the order issued under the Emergency Regulations declaring all the literature to be subversive. A week later the branch received confirmation of all this in writing, and a few days thereafter that huge stock of literature (about 1,800 cartons) was delivered to the branch office. It was none the worse for being detained for three years. How happy the brothers in the branch and the field were about this! What a wonderful victory in answer to their prayers!
BOOK BANNING ELSEWHERE
In the early part of World War II there was a real book-banning craze in many parts of the British Empire and other countries. It was just as Jehovah had long ago caused the prophet Daniel to foretell—the ‘small horn’ (of which the British Commonwealth of Nations was a part) was ‘putting on great airs,’ “throwing truth to the earth” and committing “transgression” against the holy things of God. (Dan. 8:9-12) This extended to the three British protectorates in southern Africa—Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland. An official ban on the Society’s literature was imposed in February 1941. It remained in force until 1960 in spite of all efforts to have it removed. Even the King James Bible was banned, if it happened to be printed by the Watch Tower Society. This occurred in spite of the fact that in those three countries in 1941 there was not a single witness of Jehovah.
FRUITFUL YEARS IN SOUTH-WEST AFRICA
The eventful year 1939 opened another chapter in the history of the work in South-West Africa. No groups had been formed in those parts yet and this large field was lying open. A pioneer couple, Barry Prinsloo and his wife Joan, fell the urge to go and witness to the people of that territory.
Barry bought a truck and transformed it into a house car. On it he also mounted a gas-plant installation, correctly anticipating a shortage of gasoline due to the war. To get to South-West Africa from Johannesburg, they had to travel through the Kalahari Desert. There were hardly any roads and they had to follow tracks left by a previous car or donkey cart, and even these were completely obliterated at times.
They finally reached Windhoek, and from there pushed farther north, preaching and placing literature. For a time the police followed them and collected the literature that they had placed. Eventually they were apprehended and charged with selling without a license. On the advice of the Society, they had the case postponed, pending the outcome of some cases of a similar nature in South Africa. A few weeks later Brother Prinsloo appeared in court and a favorable verdict was handed down.
News of an assembly in Johannesburg reached them, and although it meant an arduous trip of some 1,000 miles, they decided to go. But tragedy struck. Most rivers in South-West Africa are no more than dry, sandy ravines that only flow when there is an exceptionally hard downpour. Trying to cross one of these rivers, their car got stuck. That night the river came down in a flood, sweeping the house car a few hundred yards downstream. There they found it the next morning, broken in two and with the chassis buried deep in the sand. They salvaged what they could and notified the Society of the disaster and their disappointment at not being able to attend the assembly. But, very promptly, they received a gift sent from the branch overseer, and a telegram explaining that it was for a “little holiday.”
After the assembly they returned and camped near the disabled house car to repair it. At the same time they witnessed to the Ovambo farm laborers, using Johannes as interpreter. Johannes was a Bushman whom they had hired to accompany them on their travels through the territory, and he may well have been the very first Bushman to have accepted the truth. The Bushmen are a nomadic tribe of desert dwellers who make a living mainly by hunting with bow and poisoned arrow. By far the smallest of all the Africans in the southern part of Africa, and comparable in size to the Pygmies of Central Africa, these hunters are extremely primitive in their living habits. Communication between them and others is rendered very difficult, not only due to the inaccessible places that they inhabit, but also by their language with its limited vocabulary and incessant flow of click sounds. Some of them, however, do become farm laborers. Due to the banning of literature and the general situation, the Society eventually recalled the Prinsloos to South Africa.
So, although pioneers went into South-West Africa during 1929, 1935 and 1942 and placed many pieces of literature, there was no real cultivating of the field, with the result that little fruitage was forthcoming. The year 1950, however, marked a turning point in the history of the work in South-West Africa. The Society now sent in four missionaries, Gilead School graduates, namely, George Koett, Fred Hayhurst, Gus Eriksson and Roy Stephens. Early in 1950 a missionary home was established in Windhoek.
Although these brothers were not merely to concentrate on the placement of literature, but on the finding and feeding of the Lord’s “other sheep,” they still had excellent placements. (John 10:16) At the same time they were able to make contact with five African brothers who had moved into the nearby African location from the Union of South Africa, and these were organized into a company (congregation). One of the missionaries also started no fewer than twenty-five studies in this African location. To all appearances the work in this territory, especially among the Africans, was off to an excellent start with good prospects for increase.
[Map on page 77]
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ZAÏRE (Belgian Congo)
ZAMBIA (Northern Rhodesia)
RHODESIA (Southern Rhodesia)
[Picture on page 93]
George Phillips typesetting by hand in Cape Town office
[Picture on page 98]
A Zulu home