Part 2—South Africa and Neighboring Territories
At the end of 1941 Brother Rutherford, who had served faithfully and zealously as president of the Society for twenty-five years, was already very sick. He was then seventy-two years of age and for many years had not spared himself in Jehovah’s service. On January 8, 1942, he sealed his earthly Kingdom service in death. Within a few days the board of directors of the Society met at Brooklyn Bethel and elected Nathan H. Knorr as the new president. The reaction from the field was very different after the death of Brother Rutherford from the way the brothers felt after the death of Brother Russell. In 1942 there was no outcry of “what shall we do now?” Of course, when Brother Rutherford died, the enemies of the truth were jubilant, and were saying: “Now that their leader and speaker is gone, their work will soon disintegrate.” But they were quickly disillusioned on that point.
In August 1941, not long before his death, Brother Rutherford had been present at the assembly in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A., where one of the highlights had been “Children’s Day” and the new book Children had been released. The features of this outstanding assembly were duplicated on a miniature scale at a convention in Johannesburg, in April 1942. The attendance this time went right up to 1,700, including 340 children who joyfully received copies of the new book. At that assembly 400 symbolized their dedication to do God’s will, more than double the previous peak. The assembly organization, for the first time, ran a cafeteria to serve 6,000 meals, which was an outstanding success, and gave them more time for good association. All the brothers were very much invigorated and refreshed and went home very, very happy.
Especially encouraged by this assembly were a number of young pioneers who had only recently started. In 1942 the number of pioneers swelled to sixty-five in South Africa. One of them was Brother Piet Wentzel, who had taken his stand for the truth at the little town of Bonnievale in the Cape Province. By December 1941 he started in the pioneer service in Kimberley. In 1945 he was joined by Frans Muller, who, at the age of sixteen, had just left school and already had some good training and experience in the work with the Pretoria congregation. The two young brothers were assigned to the town of Vereeniging, some thirty miles south of Johannesburg. They worked hard, one of them averaging 210 hours per month that year.
In spite of the pessimistic predictions of opposers, the Kingdom work did not slow down in 1942 after the death of Brother Rutherford. Instead, it swept forward at a faster pace so that, at the end of the service year, George Phillips could report a new peak in publishers of 1,582, a 26-percent increase based on the peak figure attained the previous year. What a marvelous difference from the tiny band of about 100 in 1931’
SERVANTS TO THE BRETHREN
With Brother Knorr, the new president of the Society, directing the progress of the work, among the first new developments was the servant-to-the-brethren work. It began in South Africa in February 1943. (Zone work had come to an end in 1942.) Servants to the brethren had to be single men and they needed good health and plenty of vigor to keep up their busy schedule. At first the small places received only a one-day visit, and larger congregations two or three days. This entailed much traveling, under difficult conditions, and catching trains and buses at very awkward hours of the day and night. The job was not only to check the records of the congregations carefully but chiefly to spend much time in the field with the brothers and train them in the field service.
One of the new servants to the brethren appointed in 1943 was Brother Gert Nel, who had come to a knowledge of the truth as a schoolteacher in the northern Transvaal in 1934, and as a Kingdom publisher had been very zealous and active. As a zone servant and a servant to the brethren, Brother Nel had the privilege of helping numerous publishers, both African and European, and many brothers still remember his faithful and loyal service. He was called into Bethel in 1946 as a translator for the Afrikaans publications.
An African brother who became a servant to the brethren was Thomas M’kele. It was old Brother Mulenga, one of the first African pioneers in South Africa, who helped him to come to a knowledge of the truth. Brother Mulenga was out in the field one Sunday morning when he found a group of men sleeping on the ground. On his asking them what was the matter, they said they had not slept the previous night as they had been praying the whole night at the church. At that point their minister, then the “Reverend” Thomas M’kele, asked Brother Mulenga what he had in his bag. He accepted the booklet Where Are the Dead? The next week he took several volumes, and the week after that he attended an assembly. Before long he resigned from the church, was baptized, and within the year he was pioneering with Brother Mulenga. Later, as mentioned, he became one of the servants to the brethren. He died faithful at the end of 1945.
A NEW SCHOOL HAS TELLING EFFECT
One of the new arrangements instituted by the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, that has had a great effect on the field is the weekly Theocratic Ministry School. This very fine arrangement succeeded in a short while in helping many brothers who had imagined they would never be public speakers to become very efficient on the platform and more effective in the field. In all parts of South Africa the brothers welcomed this new provision of Jehovah and put it into operation with enthusiasm. This was done not only by the European publishers but also by the African brothers despite great obstacles of language and lack of education.
One who became a school overseer in 1943 was Brother Samuel Mase. Back in 1938 he had been a member of the Communist party. About that time he bought the book Riches with the hope in mind that it would give him a good knowledge of business! Samuel was also troubled by wicked spirits and he used to pass terrifying nights. Various visits to witch doctors did not help him. But as soon as he started attending the Watchtower magazine study, his whole life changed and improved. What impressed him more than anything was the love of the brothers belonging to different tribes. He found a wonderful unity among them that he had never found among his political associates. He became school overseer in an African congregation on the Reef and later took up pioneering and was used as a circuit overseer.
The Theocratic Ministry School helped the African field to develop more quickly. In Pretoria the little group formed by Hamilton Kaphwitt had by 1945 developed into a large congregation with 181 associated. About that time the government started to move Africans to native townships away from the city of Pretoria itself. Already the African congregation was nearly twice the size of the European congregation. This shows the wonderful development that took place in the African field during World War II. At the beginning of the war the European publishers outnumbered the African publishers by two to one, but by the end of the war the position was changing and, in many places, the Africans were outnumbering the European brothers.
By 1945 Johannesburg had one European congregation of 113 associated and four African congregations with a total of over 500 African brothers associated.
Expansion was also taking place down in Cape Town. While the total of European brothers associated was 135, the Salt River Colored congregation in Cape Town had come up to 138. Very soon after that the Colored congregation was divided up and four new congregations were established.
A man who got the truth about that time was Nicholson Makhetha, an albino African. He was baptized at an assembly in 1944. Brother Makhetha became a pioneer in 1946 and later was used for several years as a circuit overseer. Since he had a good command of English, at large assemblies he was very frequently used as an interpreter from English into Sesotho. He also has been privileged to translate the Society’s publications into the Sesotho language, in his own native land of Lesotho.
ADVANCEMENT IN NYASALAND
By 1940 the number of Christian congregations in Nyasaland had grown to sixty. Religious opposition to Kingdom-preaching also was growing. Roman Catholic priests were telling the people that if the country were under Roman rule our work would have been stopped long ago. Anyway, they said, the pope would soon destroy the Society’s work and “dump Rutherford and all of Jehovah’s Witnesses into the middle of the sea.”
What happened on one occasion illustrates the underhanded methods of the false religious teachers: The playing of a record in Cinyanja upset five Roman Catholic African teachers. These men then sent in a report to the District Commissioner complaining that someone with a Gramophone was going around the villages telling the people that Armageddon is here and that all Europeans are going to be destroyed. This, of course, was done deliberately to arouse the anxiety and the animosity of the white officials, but investigations by the authorities proved the report to be false and so the matter was closed.
Superstition usually plays a big part in the life of an African. But the truth makes him free from these mental shackles. In return the slaves of superstition often use their special weapons against Jehovah’s servants. For example, when a congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses were preaching from village to village, a lion followed in their wake, taking a toll of village life. This caused the superstitious to blame Jehovah’s witnesses for bringing the lion’s attention upon them! Of course, Roman Catholic teachers made capital of this superstitious trend.
With the outbreak of World War II further pressures arose against the Kingdom work in Nyasaland, but the attitude of the government continued to be fair. This is reflected in the statement made by the governor, Sir H. C. D. Mackenzie-Kennedy, who said: “I have known the Watchtower people for twenty-five years. In some countries I have known them to be persecuted and not recognized. In this country I am not going to stop them from going about so long as they keep the law.” Some of the African authorities also played their part in keeping the way open for the Kingdom message to go in.
By 1943 the work had increased so well that the average monthly figure for publishers was now up to 2,464, with 144 congregations operating. However, in that year a new governor was appointed and also a new commissioner of police. A large consignment of the book Riches in Cinyanja was held by the government. In June 1943, Government Notice No. 77 announced a total ban on the importation of all the Society’s publications. However, this did not affect the work in the country very much, since considerable stocks were already in Nyasaland.
What did have a powerful effect was the existence of the “Watchtower movements” that were still operating and bringing reproach upon the Society’s name. In 1937 Elliott Kamwana was released from banishment in the Seychelles Islands and came back as a leader of one of these false movements. Willie Kavala was also running his little show, making false claims to be under the leadership of Judge Rutherford. With this situation existing it was a good thing that the Society issued special identifications to those who were recognized as publishers and supplied the government with the names of the people to whom they issued such identifications. In this way a clear distinction was made between Jehovah’s witnesses, under the direction of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and pagan movements bearing a similar name.
During 1944 the expression “the New World of Jehovah” made a real hit with the population of Nyasaland. One brother, in delivering a talk on the New World, explained: “When Adam sinned no children were born to him in the garden; all were born in the ‘bush’ and, friends, we are still in the ‘bush.’ We have not yet returned to the garden. But the time is near now when we will leave this ‘matekenya’ (jigger flea) world to enter the new fully established world of Jehovah.” In one part of the country the interested people followed Jehovah’s witnesses around from place to place drinking in the promises of God’s Word.
By the following year the glorious heat of Bible truth was drying up the soggy fields of false religion. A number of African clergymen, after hearing a talk on the New World, went en masse to a European missionary and said: “Why have you kept these things hidden from us? Today we see young boys and girls calling on the people and telling them the most wonderful things they have ever heard! And here you have given us doctrines to preach which are now revealed to be false! And when we stand up before the people to preach we appear foolish and are without any foundation whatsoever!”
TRIUMPHING OVER HARDSHIP IN SOUTHERN RHODESIA
In 1939 the number of European publishers in Southern Rhodesia was about 15, whereas the figure among the Africans was about 460. A very big help for the African brothers had been provided in the form of the first booklet in Chishona, the main African language of the country.
Our isolated publisher on his own gold mine, Jack McLuckie, was meanwhile bringing up his family in the truth. His home was a very simple one made of wattle poles and mud, with a floor made of senga—cow dung made liquid with water and left to dry so that it becomes hard. When it becomes hard, there is no smell, and it can be swept daily. Jack was faithfully training his children in the truth, one of his methods being to read a few verses from the Bible and then to ask questions to see what they had understood. Ian, the youngest boy, was very young then but he remembers these study sessions. This early training stood him in good stead when he later became a pioneer and a Gilead School graduate and missionary.
It was in 1939 also that another McLuckie family appeared on the scene in Southern Rhodesia. This was Bert McLuckie with his wife Carmen, their baby boy Peter and two children from his previous marriage. Bert McLuckie first contacted the truth in 1927 and had helped many of, his relatives to accept it. In fact, the McLuckie “clan’ is quite well known in central and southern Africa.
Soon after the outbreak of World War II in 1939 the two McLuckie families and other publishers in Southern Rhodesia were in trouble. The government clamped a prohibition on the importation and distribution of the Society’s literature on November 15, 1940. Even the English translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures entitled “Emphatic Diaglott” was banned. The false grounds for the prohibition or ban were that it would foment opposition to the war effort. The Cape Town office lost no time in sending an appeal to the king of England, the British prime minister, the secretary of state for the colonies, the governor of Southern Rhodesia and all members of parliament. No official acknowledgment of this letter was received. Some days later a member of the C.I.D. called on George Phillips at Cape Town on behalf of the government of Southern Rhodesia. They were anxious to have information about the antecedents of the writer!
Bert McLuckie says that some of the brothers did fade away because of fear at the time of this prohibition of the literature, but most of them carried on with greater zest, determined to test the legality of the law by distributing the literature, come what may. This resulted in arrests, prosecutions, and inevitable convictions. Books, Bibles, phonographs and records were confiscated, later to be burned on the order of the court. Some of these cases were taken to the High Court of Southern Rhodesia, but in those years, under the pressure and fever of the war, the decision went against the Society.
According to Jack McLuckie, the number of European Witnesses at that time was about sixteen and most of them were imprisoned at one time or another for distributing the banned literature. Some went to prison two or three times. About that time, too, many brothers were imprisoned for their neutral stand in connection with the war. They used the time in prison to give a good witness and some of the warders attended Bible studies with the Witnesses after the brothers were released.
On one occasion Bert McLuckie’s wife, Carmen, was also arrested and sentenced to the usual £25 or three months. She was pregnant at the time. An unsuccessful appeal case delayed matters and meanwhile Carmen gave birth to a little girl. In the course of time a policewoman came to arrest Carmen, and Brother McLuckie had the unhappy experience of seeing his wife and baby taken away to prison in Gwelo. They could have kept the child behind, but they decided that it would be best for both mother and baby to be together. While in jail with her mother, the infant Estrella had as a nursemaid a murderess who cried bitterly when the mother and child were released after the three months’ sentence.
Brother Bert McLuckie was himself in jail a couple of times. In jail, Brother McLuckie was mixing with people who were convicted of filthy and wicked acts and he said that never before or since has he heard such vile language. Nevertheless, with two of them he found a hearing ear for the Kingdom message. So right inside prison a small immersion ceremony took place, with Brother McLuckie baptizing two prisoners while everybody else had gone outside to the courtyard for exercise.
In 1942, the European brothers in Southern Rhodesia published the booklet Jehovah’s Witnesses: Who Are They? What Is Their Work? They mailed copies to the governor and other officials and began a general distribution. Brother Bert McLuckie remembers this very well. In fact, his wife was again arrested while engaged in this work one day. But her case fell through and she was not charged.
By 1943 the average number of publishers was up to 1,090, and the crowd of Kingdom publishers was swelling rapidly in Southern Rhodesia. The following year assemblies were arranged for the African brothers. At the Bulawayo African assembly there was an attendance of 1,028 and at Mrewa they had 347 for the public talk. Fifty new ones were baptized at these two places. The European assembly was also at Bulawayo and had a peak attendance of 73. The brothers were thereby encouraged to carry on with the work while they eagerly awaited the time when permission would be granted the Society to open a depot, and they would have an official representative here.
ZEAL IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION
During 1940 there was another riot in the Copper Belt in Northern Rhodesia, and at one center several Africans were killed. This time the enemy failed to make Jehovah’s witnesses the “scapegoat.” The ringleaders were all Roman Catholics, but the government made no mention of this. Jehovah’s witnesses in the Copper Belt were by that time much stronger and more zealous than ever before.
In December 1940, a government proclamation was issued prohibiting the importation and distribution of all the Society’s literature. The homes of the brothers were raided, and a number of them were sent to prison for possessing literature. In one instance, two brothers, Gibson Chembe and Lamond Kandama, were severely beaten several times because they refused to burn their books in the presence of many persons, including chiefs. These acts were committed with the knowledge of the local police chief and magistrate. The report sent to the Cape Town branch was held up by the censors and Llewelyn Phillips was sent for by the security chief. When the facts were presented, the chief promised an investigation. A protest was lodged with both the government headquarters at Lusaka and the Colonial Office in London. A commission of enquiry was appointed by the government. They reprimanded the magistrate and police chief, and there were no more efforts at compulsory burning of books.
Next came a government notice that was published in March 1941 calling upon all Europeans and Africans to surrender all Watch Tower publications to the nearest Boma (Court) within two months, failing which, prosecution would follow. Needless to say, all genuine witnesses of Jehovah refused, and this led to further arrests. The Society’s depot was raided. The depot servant, Llewelyn Phillips, took a bold and firm stand and refused to surrender the literature in his possession. He was sentenced to six months in prison. Earlier the same year, Llewelyn Phillips had been in prison for a month because he refused military service.
Things did not ease up during the next year. Llewelyn Phillips was again arrested on the military issue, but he appealed. He spent three more months in prison before his appeal was heard. He tells his own story of this: “The appeal, which came off three months later was a full dress affair with the Lord Chief Justice on the Bench and the Solicitor General (then K. C. [King’s Counsel]) prosecuting. The judge produced a Bible with several strips of paper pointing out from different chapters. He started by asking what right Jehovah’s witnesses had to refuse war when Moses was a man of war. On being reminded that this faithful man could not have been a Christian because he lived 1,500 years before Christ, enthusiasm for Bible questions dwindled and before long the Bible was laid aside. On its being suggested that, had the apostles been alive, they would probably have been in the dock too, the judge was visibly moved.” Brother Phillips’ sentence was then reduced to the time he had actually served so he could leave the courtroom a free man. For eight of the twelve months of the 1942 service year he was in prison.
In spite of hardships due to persecution, food shortage and lack of literature due to the ban, the work went ahead. To counteract the shortage of literature, questions and answers with related scriptures had been prepared for the brothers to use in the Bible studies. Due to the war there was also a lack of cycle parts and tires. This meant that most of the Africans were deprived of their main means of transportation on the primitive tracks of the bush. Nevertheless, the work in Northern Rhodesia was making wonderful progress; the average number of publishers in 1944 was up to 3,062, a 116-percent increase since 1941! And in spite of all their difficulties they were spending an average of 30 hours per month in field service. By this time the good news had also penetrated the nearby Congo.
Up to this stage no Europeans in Northern Rhodesia had openly associated themselves with Jehovah’s witnesses. Why? A suggested reason was given in the 1943 Yearbook: “There is a deep-seated fear in the minds of many Europeans who appreciate our message, because they feel that if they make this known openly or actively their positions will be jeopardized.” Several Europeans, including government officials, had, however, manifested considerable kindness to the Witnesses. One district commissioner, in fact, paid two Witnesses 5 shillings each as a compensation for having been wrongfully detained in prison by his predecessor. Another official met his houseboy (who had been imprisoned for possessing our literature) with his car when his sentence had expired, and took him back to work! This change in attitude on the part of many Europeans was undoubtedly due to the fine witness the brothers gave through their conduct, as reported in the 1944 Yearbook: “The Society’s adherents have the best reputation of any in this [labor] Corps and it is well known that farmers and other employers specify that they specially want them.”
In 1945 Brother and Sister Bridger, a couple who got the truth in about 1916 in the Orange Free State from Japie Theron, moved from Johannesburg to Luanshya, where Brother Bridger started pioneering among the Europeans. He relates how he covered the whole town, placing 1,000 booklets. Here he contacted a family, a Mrs. Scheepers and her daughter Mrs. Joubert, with whom he had previously studied in Johannesburg. This whole family, up to the great-grandchildren today, has accepted the truth. Brother Bridger also heard of several people who “had no faith in Christmas celebrations.” He succeeded in contacting them and so came in touch with four other persons who had been associated with our work in South Africa. He started a study with them, and this formed the nucleus of the first European congregation in Northern Rhodesia. Brother and Sister Bridger also worked among the Africans at the compounds.
ON TO BAROTSELAND
Some more help came from the Union in 1945 in the person of Brother C. Holliday (husband of Sister M. Holliday mentioned earlier in this story). He was invited by George Phillips, the branch overseer in Cape Town, to serve as “traveling servant and assist Brother Llewelyn Phillips.” While in Northern Rhodesia he visited Barotseland, an area of 284,000 square miles situated on the upper reaches of the great Zambezi River, west of Victoria Falls. He was accompanied by an interested European and an African “servant to the brethren” who acted as guide and interpreter.
It was quite a difficult journey. They first traveled on a private timber train to Massesse, where they stopped over, had a meeting with some Witnesses and arranged the nucleus of a congregation. The next lap of their journey was on a borrowed ganger’s trolley, which was pushed along the rails by two Africans to a point where the travelers could get a ride on a government truck. This took them to Katima Molilo, from where another lift took them to Ngwesi. There they were met by brothers who had walked down from Senanga, to meet them and serve as their porters. For the rest of the trip to Senanga they traveled most of the way by three canoes. At one point they had a hair-raising experience with a hippopotamus. To Brother Holliday’s terror, the huge beast lifted one of the canoes into the air. But the paddler skillfully kept his balance and struck the animal with his oar. This had the desired result and the hippo swam off, to everybody’s relief.
On reaching Senanga they were welcomed by a huge crowd that had assembled. To be present, some had journeyed on the road for eight or nine days. All were intensely keen and curious about what was in store for them. This was the first visit from a European brother and many of them had never seen a white person before. The unofficial assembly they held was indeed spiritually refreshing.
While visiting the congregation at Mufulira, Brother Holliday met Mr. Ford, the compound manager, who was very impressed by the good work and reliability of the “Watch Tower boys.” He was one of the officials mentioned in the report in the 1946 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses: “The official mind is one of nonrecognition still, but individually there are some encouraging instances of a definite respect for the cleanliness, decency and industry of Jehovah’s witnesses. The huge numbers now associating with us in the mining centers (and it is no uncommon thing to attend a gathering of 800) are beginning to impress deeply those who directly control Africans, and, as an instance of this, after four months of correspondence with the Mufulira Town Management Board a free plot has been granted for the erection of a Kingdom Hall. Credit is due for this to some officials who spoke boldly for us.” This building was the first of its kind in Northern Rhodesia.
So, in spite of persecution the work was really forging ahead in Northern Rhodesia during the first half of the 1940’s. That also was true in the other countries under the South Africa branch.
PREACHING DESPITE A BAN IN BASUTOLAND
In the early 1940’s, Brother and Sister Frank Taylor made a visit to Basutoland (now Lesotho). There they found that the interest was so great that in many places the Africans actually ran after them for the literature. But the authorities were watching them and threatened to confiscate all their literature and thus forced them to move on.
During February 1941, a total ban was placed on the importation of our literature into Basutoland. As strange as it may seem, the ban was imposed before there was even one Witness living in the country. But during the period of the ban the Kingdom work started up and progressed very well. Brothers with the Society’s sound cars had toured the country, broadcasting the Society’s recorded lectures and distributing literature, but it was not until 1942 that the branch office received a report from two publishers in Basutoland. One of these first publishers was Brother L. Ramosena, who actually first heard of the truth while working in the town of Vereeniging, in Transvaal. Brother Ramosena was so enthused with the message and felt such a keen desire to spread it in his own country that he went home and began witnessing diligently, starting in a place called Teyateyaneng.
Soon Brother Ramosena was joined by another brother who had accepted the truth in Johannesburg and the two of them cycled to neighboring villages, spreading the good news. They organized little meetings and the group grew. A year later, 1943, there were four publishers—a 100-percent increase!
Sharing in the preaching work from house to house in Lesotho is quite different from in most other countries. Whether the householder is inside the house or outside, the publisher will greet with a clear, friendly “Khotso!” meaning “Peace!” The householder will reply with a “Khotso!” The publisher will then be invited in and given a seat and they will inquire about each other’s health. The traditional greeting having been completed, the publisher can now begin to explain his mission.
Although the Catholic Church and the French Mission are well established in the country and many people belong to either one or the other of these religions, many Basutos have still held on to their pagan traditions of ancestor worship and, until recently, ritual murders, the killing of humans to obtain certain body parts for so-called medicinal purposes, took place. But, despite these obstacles, the little group of Kingdom publishers grew and in 1948 there were nine publishers of the good news.
Since many of the chiefs are Catholics they are often opposed to the Kingdom work, but there were some honest-hearted ones among them. In 1951 a pioneer visited a chief’s kraal in Leribe. He was invited to a meal. Two clergymen were also present. The pioneer gave a witness to the chief and as he made each point he proved it from the Bible. The two priests became annoyed and left in a huff, but the chief was delighted and a study was started with him. Later he encouraged the people of his area also to have studies, resulting in so many wanting Bible studies that the local pioneer could no longer handle them all. The work was developing well and by 1951 there were five small congregations in Basutoland. The following year there were 53 publishers, on the average, as well as 10 pioneers.
THE LIGHT BRIGHTENS IN TANGANYIKA
Farther north, in Tanganyika, the work among the African brothers also made progress. During the years since 1936 isolated letters that reached the Society’s Cape Town branch from Tanganyika showed that rays of truth were shining in this part of Africa, although dimly. In 1942, 158 brothers had some share in the work. According to the Yearbook of 1945, the reports from Tanganyika indicated increased opposition and confiscation of literature, but there was a monthly average of 75 publishers reporting just over 8 hours per publisher in the field. The only avenue by which to encourage these brothers was through correspondence, and this the Society did. By 1945 the nearly 6,000,000 inhabitants in this country were witnessed to by only three organized congregations consisting of 144 publishers. Their work consisted mainly of oral testimonies, return visits and studies. Once in a while reading matter reached them and there was great rejoicing. They made good use of such items to the benefit of all. By 1946 they had increased to 227 publishers and 7 congregations. These brothers experienced considerable opposition from the organizations of false religion and were in great need of closer supervision and literature in Swahili.
In January of 1948 a Cibemba-speaking servant to the brethren was sent from Northern Rhodesia to visit the congregations in Tanganyika. He worked with the eight congregations in the Mbeya district, encouraging and building up the brothers. The only other congregation, on the border of Northern Rhodesia, was served by another servant to the brethren. Results were forthcoming and even chiefs were manifesting an interest in the truth. Also, Tanganyika now came under the newly formed branch in Northern Rhodesia. Today Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are directed by the Society’s branch in Kenya. The Kingdom work is developing swiftly in that area and bringing much honor to Jehovah’s name.
A NEW CAMPAIGN BEGINS
The public meeting campaign began in South Africa during June 1945 and received enthusiastic support from the brothers in the field. As a result of the Theocratic Ministry School, many speakers were now available. The outlines provided were translated into the main African languages and the brothers in that field also began to organize this new campaign.
Of course, many of the brothers felt shy and fearful about speaking from a public platform. Among these were Piet Wentzel and his partner, Frans Muller, serving as pioneers in Vereeniging. When the Informant (later called Kingdom Ministry) discussed the campaign, they both agreed that this was not for them. They had never been on the public platform. However, reminders in the Informant encouraged them, so they selected talks and started on the preparations. For practicing their delivery they chose a quiet spot on the river bank and, placed sufficiently apart, began to “address” their softly flowing “audience”—the river! For about a month they went down to the river every lunch hour and practiced until they felt sufficiently confident to speak to a real audience. Handbills were ordered and much advertising was done. When the date came, they had 37 at their public talk and were very grateful for such a fine start.
STRONGER ORGANIZATION IN EVIDENCE
In comparison with the previous years, 1945 was a comparatively quiet year as far as opposition was concerned. There were several small incidents, however, one of which occurred in the town of Kimberley. This has been an important diamond-mining center ever since the 1870’s when diamond digging began in that area. For no apparent reason the Town Council of Kimberley passed a resolution to the effect that Jehovah’s witnesses should not be permitted into the municipal locations (for the Africans) to spread their beliefs. The superintendent of the African locations was instructed to stop any activities of the Witnesses and close down their meeting places. A local paper published the item under the caption “Russellites Banned in Local Locations.”
The superintendent of the locations, a man by the name of O’Brien, lost no time in taking action. In the absence of the brothers, he broke into the Kingdom Hall, seized their literature and transcription machine, and smashed to pieces the little handcart for wheeling the machine around. Then he triumphantly handed the pieces to onlookers for firewood. The branch also lost no time in reacting. The Town Council was given a 48-hour notice to return the seized property and to pay damages for the cart; otherwise legal action would be taken. As a result, the Town Council was £10 out of pocket for damages, and O’Brien had to back right down and personally restore the seized property to the Kingdom Hall. To cap all of this off, the local press published an item showing that Jehovah’s witnesses had won another victory and were carrying forward their educational work in the local locations as usual!
At long last, in May 1945, in Europe the war that had lasted almost six long weary years came to an end. Hostilities still continued for a while in the Far East, until the atomic bombs shattered the resistance of Japan. South Africans, generally, heaved a big sigh of relief. But although the Witnesses had fought and won the “battle of the ban,” their long-running fight with the “seed” of the Serpent was not yet over.
However, at nineteen places God’s people held the United Announcers’ Assembly during the World War. For the first time in the history of the Kingdom work in South Africa, the brothers were able to enjoy the same good things simultaneously with the brothers in America and elsewhere. The program and the new releases were all there on time.
Down in Durban the number of publishers had come up to approximately 100. This small band put on a powerful campaign to advertise the public talk. Leaflets to the number of 50,000, 2,000 special invitation letters, 1,000 posters plus many banners, large and small, were used. The city was electrified. They had never seen anything like this before. Attendance at the public talk was 900, of which number approximately 750 were the public. The nationwide attendance for that series of assemblies reached a new peak of 5,001.
At the branch office in Cape Town the family was now up to fourteen, still all living out in private homes and boardinghouses and having their meals at local restaurants. The little printery had been having a busy time and in 1945 produced an all-time peak of 2,562,817 pieces of printed material. The new book “The Truth Shall Make You Free,” published in 1943, had been translated into Afrikaans, Zulu and Sesotho.
So the organization in southern Africa emerged from World War II far stronger and much larger than at the beginning. The work had progressed and grown in spite of all the efforts the opponents, had made, the banning of the literature, the “smear’ campaigns by the religionists, adverse publicity in the press, court cases, police raids and arrests. The number of congregations in South Africa had more than doubled, having increased from 115 to 244. In the whole of southern Africa the average number of publishers had risen from 3,179 (in 1939) to 12,289 (in 1945), an increase of 286 percent. Even more marvelous was the increase in the Union of South Africa, from 439 publishers in 1939 to 2,991 in 1945—an increase of 580 percent!
BUILDING TO THE FUTURE
In view of the tremendous increases during the war years, the Kingdom work in South, Central and East Africa had to be well organized if it was going to be productive in the years that lay ahead. An increase from 3,179 Witnesses in 1939 to an average of 14,089 in 1946 is what the records show. About 25,000,000 people then lived in all the territories under the supervision of the South Africa branch office at Cape Town. Ninety percent belonged to the various African tribes in the southern half of the continent. The majority of the Europeans (white people), however, lived in the Union of South Africa itself.
The next few years were to see further amazing growth. New branches of the Watch Tower Society would be opened in these territories, so as better to care for the interests of the sheeplike ones.
There was still much misunderstanding about the work in many areas. When a few of the African brothers from Northern Rhodesia wanted to come to Johannesburg for the convention in October of 1946, immigration officials would not permit, them to do so. One asked: ‘Has not the Watchtower been guilty of subversive activities?’ The facts were laid before these officials, but the brothers were still not permitted to enter the country. The reason given was that there would not be sufficient accommodations for them in Johannesburg, where thousands were already living in makeshift structures in the African townships. The authorities did not want to accept the fact that Jehovah’s witnesses themselves would care for the accommodations of their visiting brothers.
Publications such as “Let God Be True” and “Equipped for Every Good Work,” released at the 1946 Cleveland, Ohio, assembly, were enthusiastically received by the South African brothers at their assembly in Johannesburg some two or three months later. These publications did much in making the servants of Jehovah more qualified as real teachers of the Word. The work with the portable phonograph and recorded Bible lectures was still going on, but now it was time for Kingdom workers of all races to learn how to do more of the preaching and teaching themselves, with their own mouths.
One of the African circuit overseers at that time, M. Nguluh, reports that quite a few African clergymen of various religions accepted the truth during this period. One of these, Bethuel Rikhotso of the Swiss Mission Church, was contacted by Brother Nguluh while Brother Nguluh was on a circuit visit to Graskop in the northeastern part of Transvaal Province in 1946. This man accepted the truth on the first evening it was presented to him, and at the next visit of the circuit overseer he had arranged for a special talk to be given at the “kraal” (group of huts) of the paramount chief of the Shangaan tribe. This led to a powerful witness being given and, in later years, a large congregation developed in this area. Rikhotso himself became a pioneer in January 1947.
CIRCUIT WORK AND ASSEMBLIES
The work of the African circuit overseer was sometimes perilous in those days. Brother Nguluh mentions that twice he nearly drowned when crossing flooded rivers. Even today, to get from one congregation to another, African circuit overseers have to walk many miles through the bush, loaded with luggage, and often accompanied by a wife and a baby.
In February 1947, a new circuit arrangement went into effect and South Africa was divided into fourteen circuits.
In some areas the interest of the African people was remarkable. One African circuit overseer tells of giving the same public talk three times the same day! He had been sent to a certain area to organize a new congregation and he arranged for a public lecture on a Sunday in August 1947. The attendance was 173, nearly all newly interested ones. He writes: “After the lecture those present went away to invite others to come to hear the truth. At 3 p.m. I had to deliver a second public lecture. At 5 p.m. another large group came to the hall and earnestly asked ,me to repeat the talk as they had heard from the 3 o’clock group that the truth was being spoken in that hall. So from 6 to 7 p.m. I gave the talk for the third time that afternoon.” This type of interest was to set the pace for marvelous increases.
In April 1947, the first circuit assembly in South Africa was held in Durban. Milton Bartlett, a graduate of the fifth class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead for missionaries and the first Gilead missionary to come to South Africa, was the district overseer at this assembly. The African brothers had a whitewashed hall in a municipal compound near the center of the city. This was a happy occasion. Brothers had traveled considerable distances, as the entire province of Natal was included in the one circuit at that time.
Brother Bartlett gives this very vivid description of local color at this African assembly: “It was a thrilling experience to see the attitude of the African Witnesses. They were so clean, quiet, neat in their person, so sincere and eager to learn more of the truth, very eager for field service. Although they were right inside the compound (hostel grounds) they had their three-legged pots and had slaughtered a beast and did their food preparation in that compound. Every Witness had brought with him his own enameled plate, his enameled cup and a tablespoon, or soup spoon, that he used for all his eating requirements. But when it came time for eating the mealie meal (maize porridge) in its stiff form they rolled it in their hands and immersed it in some of the soup in the bottom of their dishes and then popped it into their mouths.”
The brothers enjoyed their circuit assemblies very much. The branch report for that year tells of African brothers in Zululand walking seventy-eight miles to get to a circuit assembly and then home again, all together five days of walking. As the branch overseer said: “The zeal of many of these friends is really remarkable and it does one’s heart good to see their eagerness to learn and take to heart the instruction received.”
Accommodations problems do not worry these brothers either. They come with a bundle containing a blanket and a few personal belongings, a baby on the back of some of the women, and a small wooden box for their books and Bible. The box is often used as a seat at the assembly sessions. Should they have to spend a night or two on the journey to the assembly place, they easily find some friendly Africans willing to give them a corner in which to sleep. If they have to sleep in the open, they have their blankets to keep them warm.
Now and again there is no hall available and so the assembly is held in the open with the vault of heaven as a ceiling. On the other hand, a temporary structure is made of poles covered by a tarpaulin. Temporal needs are met by appetizing meals consisting of mealie meal (maize porridge) and meat. If they have a plate of their own, good and well. Otherwise, they eat out of a common dish. If someone does not have a spoon—well, fingers were made before knives and spoons!
JOYOUS VISIT UPBUILDS SPIRITUALLY
The highlight of the Kingdom work in South, Central and East Africa during 1948 was the long-awaited visit of the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr. What a joy this was to all the brothers in southern Africa! Ground then was purchased for the building of a new branch office, factory and home near Johannesburg.
January 3 to 5, 1948, were the days set for the national assembly in South Africa. It was held in Johannesburg; but owing to official requirements the European and Colored brothers had to meet in one place and the Africans at another. Although the brothers were given short notice, some 3,600 attended the opening sessions and 9,246 came to the two public meetings. A total of 416 were immersed, of whom 378 were African brothers. After the assembly, Brother Knorr and his secretary, Milton Henschel, spent three days in Cape Town at the branch office, giving counsel and encouragement to the Bethel staff.
In all the countries and territories under the direction of the branch at Cape Town there was a peak of just over 27,000 publishers in 1948. As a result of Brother Knorr’s visit that year, some new branches were organized to function on their own in the central parts of Africa, rather than being mere depots sending reports to the Society’s Cape Town office. It seems appropriate at this point to consider the progress in some central African lands till then under the supervision of the branch in Cape Town.
KINGDOM PREACHING PROSPERS WITH RESTRICTIONS REMOVED
In Southern Rhodesia (now simply called Rhodesia), the battle to remove restrictions on Kingdom activity continued. The Cape Town branch had been faithfully sending off applications for the removal of restrictions and in 1945 assurance was given that the application would receive consideration at an early. meeting of the cabinet. The following year saw restrictions finally removed, and once again the Society’s literature could be freely circulated in Rhodesia.
By 1947 Bert McLuckie’s family circumstances were such that he felt free to take up pioneer service again. To his great surprise and happiness, he was assigned to open a depot for the Society at Bulawayo, then Southern Rhodesia, on July 1, 1947. Thanks primarily to Jehovah, the long, hard battle for the Kingdom work to be established fully and represented properly in that land had been won! By that year the peak of publishers had passed the 3,000 mark, with 82 congregations organized.
The first depot office was rather a family affair, with Bert McLuckie working in the home of his fleshly brother Jack McLuckie. In the beginning, Bert McLuckie did all the work himself. Then he called in two African brothers to translate Watchtower magazine articles, one into Chishona and the other into Cinyanja. For quite a time they made copies of these translations on a mimeograph machine, and the magazine had to be collated, folded and stitched by hand. As Brother McLuckie himself admits, the final product left much to be desired. Now in 1975 these magazines are produced with a very high standard of quality on a modern rotary press at the Elandsfontein branch, with the Cinyanja translation having a printing of 25,000 and the Chishona translation a printing of 13,900 copies per issue.
All these developments and improvements naturally brought great joy and encouragement to the hearts of the Kingdom publishers in Southern Rhodesia. But we can imagine how thrilled they all must have been when the news came through in October 1947 that Brothers Knorr and Henschel were due to visit them in January 1948. Thousands of leaflets, hundreds of posters and many banners were prepared to advertise the talks to be given by Brother Knorr to Africans and Europeans in Bulawayo and Salisbury. About this time, Eric Cooke, Southern Rhodesia’s first missionary from Gilead School, also arrived on the scene.
Difficulties arose in Salisbury when the Native Administration Department canceled the arrangements previously made for the use of the hall in Harari Township for the convention period, January 16-18, 1948. They also canceled the sleeping accommodations that had previously been arranged for African brothers. So on January 13 Brother Cooke had an interview with the director of the Native Department to find out the basis for his objections. It was found that he had a wrong idea concerning the Society, believing that it was ‘against the government.’ Brother Cooke overcame this erroneous idea by reading a section of the Yearbook Jehovah’s Witnesses. This impressed the official so much that he restored the use of the hall in Harari and made sleeping accommodations available for the thousands expected to attend the assembly. Thus the way was opened for a successful assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses, with a peak attendance beyond the 6,000 mark.
During his short visit Brother Knorr took time to call on government officials to discuss certain important restrictions on the Society’s literature due to shortage of dollars in sterling countries. Brother Knorr ironed out this problem with officialdom by saying that all literature supplies for Southern Rhodesia would be sent in free, thus avoiding currency problems.
It was during this visit that Brother Knorr arranged for the depot to become a branch office on September 1, 1948, with Eric Cooke as the branch overseer. It was the beginning of a new chapter for the Kingdom work in Southern Rhodesia. At that time the peak in publishers there was 4,232.
WAKING UP NYASALAND
Much the same pattern is seen in the history of the work in Nyasaland (now Malawi) in those days. By 1946 Jehovah’s witnesses were really making their presence felt in Nyasaland. The number of publishers passed the 3,000 mark for the first time, and the brothers were really waking the country up.
The public meeting campaign was now in full swing and having much success in awakening people everywhere. Of course, the false religionists made every effort to prevent Jehovah’s witnesses from conducting these meetings in their villages. Permission had to be obtained from the village headmen to give a public talk. So, if the headman came under the influence of the local religious leaders, no public meeting could be held. In the Zomba area, the deacons and elders of a certain church threatened to deprive one headman of his chieftainship, but he just told them to go ahead. As a contrast, the headman of a neighboring village actually beat up two of Jehovah’s witnesses who had approached him to make arrangements for a public meeting in his village. The man was taken to court, but he being an influential person and a member of the church, the local African court said: “We can do nothing in the matter.” However, when the district commissioner heard about it, he gave both the court and the opposed headman a severe reprimand.
Many chiefs now began to send invitations to Jehovah’s witnesses to give talks in their villages. One chief, who, at a public talk in a place called Lizulu, had heard the truth about the condition of the dead, shortly afterward attended a funeral service conducted by some religious leaders. The audience was told that the child who had died “is now an angel in heaven.” The old chief grunted, climbed stiffly to his feet, turned to his induna (headman) next to him and asked for some snuff. Then, snuffing vigorously, he moved off the scene, saying: “Huh, we heard at Lizulu where the dead are; this is all lies!”
So powerful was the message of Jehovah’s witnesses that false religionists were trying to imitate our expressions and methods. They were trying to say: “We, too, are preaching the new world.” Some of them had attempted making return visits on their members; but in a few weeks they had to give it up.
At one open-air public meeting, widely advertised by word of mouth and by notices pinned on trees, some 300 people gathered under the shade of mango trees to hear the talk. It so happened that a clergyman came by on his bicycle at the crucial moment when the speaker quoted from Micah 3:11, “the priests thereof teach for hire.” (King James Version) The clergyman became offended and complained to the local headman, who ruled that Jehovah’s witnesses should stop holding public meetings. Of course, the brothers could not accept this and they appealed to the next-highest native court, where the decision was reversed with the warning that from then on anyone found troubling Jehovah’s witnesses would be fined £5. By the time it had all quieted down, some fifty interested persons had taken their stand as active publishers of the Kingdom!
Many headmen of the villages that had been opposed became friendly and admitted that they had been influenced by the religious leaders. When a circuit overseer approached a village headman, also a Roman Catholic, with a request to hold a public meeting in the village, he was told: “You hold a meeting here? Why, at —— village you held a meeting and now the church there has tumbled down; you were received at —— village and at —— and in both cases it has happened. Now you want to enter into my village and pull down the church that we have built here! No, never!” However, the next morning two hundred brothers marched through the village singing as they went. The Roman Catholics tried to cause a disturbance by shouting and beating their tom-toms, but a large crowd joined the brothers in their march and all went to a place just outside the village where a very successful public meeting was held.
FIGHTING THE BAN
Part of the waking-up process in Nyasaland was accomplished by a petition circulated during the 1946 service year requesting the release of our literature, which the government had been holding. This somewhat isolated British colony was impressed by this energetic move on the part of the brothers. The petition forms were signed by 47,000 people, and this really worried the authorities.
The branch in Cape Town sent a long and powerful letter dated 5th September, 1946, to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London. This letter pointed out that the conduct of Jehovah’s witnesses in Nyasaland had been irreproachable, that those who had been responsible for imposing the ban on the literature had been strongly influenced by the Jesuits operating in Nyasaland, and that bans on the Society’s literature had already been removed in other parts of the British Commonwealth. The response was encouraging, in that the governors of the four different British territories making up the East African bloc (Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Kenya and Tanganyika) were called upon by the colonial office to make a joint recommendation concerning the Watch Tower Society and Jehovah’s witnesses. The governors were requested to keep in mind two main points, (1) the principle of freedom of worship for all, and (2) that prohibitions similar to those then existing in these lands had been withdrawn in every other part of the Empire. However, the matter was shelved by the authorities, who said that they would carefully examine the Society’s literature.
A VISIT GIVES IMPETUS TO THE WORK
A very special event for Nyasaland took place on January 13, 1948. A plane landed on a short flight from Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, with four brothers on board. They were Brothers Knorr, Henschel, Phillips, the branch overseer at Cape Town, and I. Fergusson, a new Gilead graduate assigned to help in Nyasaland. A meeting had been arranged at the Blantyre Town Hall for the Europeans and Indians. Considering the fact that there were then only 250 Europeans in Blantyre, an attendance of 40 to hear the public talk was good. The next day the group attended the African assembly near Limbe where Bill McLuckie interpreted the talks of the speakers into Cinyanja. For the public talk in the afternoon there was an attendance of 6,000. As there was no public-address equipment, the brothers on the program had to speak with strong voices so that all could hear. At one point heavy rain interrupted the talk, and the public began to scatter to the shelter of trees or houses nearby. But the brothers remained and Brother Knorr brought his talk to a close while holding an umbrella over his head. The very fact that the president of the Society, a European, stood in the rain to finish his talk showed the Africans that the people associated with the Society are truly interested in their welfare, for local Europeans would never have done that.
During the visit Brother Knorr talked with the Chief Secretary of the government and the Police Commissioner and was able to clear away doubts and misunderstandings about the Society’s publications. The government representatives promised to review the entire matter to see if the ban on the literature could be lifted.
The visit of Brother Knorr gave a tremendous impetus to the work in the country and 1948 was certainly memorable in the history of the Kingdom work in Nyasaland. The peak of publishers was now past the 5,000 mark, and new ones were joining the ranks very fast. By 1948 the number of publishers in Nyasaland was increasing so fast in some places that it was hard to find sufficient territory in which to witness.
On September 1, 1948, a branch was established in Nyasaland and Bill McLuckie was appointed branch overseer. This marked another forward move in the history of the Kingdom work in Nyasaland, resulting in the further strengthening of the brothers. The next year, 1949, saw the arrival of two British graduates of Gilead missionary school, Peter Bridle and Fred Smedley.
TRUE WORSHIP ADVANCES IN NORTHERN RHODESIA
Northern Rhodesia (now called Zambia) was not lagging behind at all during this period. Much of the increase centered around the progressive copper-producing area. Here in the Copper Belt the organization was expanding by leaps and bounds. To cope with this great influx, a ten-day course was arranged at the depot for all full-time workers and any who wished to enter their ranks to produce more competent servants to the brethren.
This advance of true worship really worried the false shepherds of Christendom. One parson, in an effort to stem the tide, arranged for members of his congregation to call at the huts of the people like Jehovah’s witnesses and invite them to “church.” But some were met by astonished householders who, after listening to their halting talk, told them that they had no message like the “Watchtower people.” After this unsuccessful effort the dispirited churchgoers returned and their congregation was no larger!
Whole villages accepted the truth in Northern Rhodesia. Some missionaries of Christendom showed a meek disposition, like the European missionary at Mumbwa who, impressed by the zeal of Jehovah’s witnesses, started reading the Society’s books and visiting the local presiding overseer of the congregation.
Here the Witnesses were harassed for years by a government official who had imprisoned the publishers, broken down the Bible study shelters, and disrupted their meetings. This magistrate was fined for illegal conduct and replaced by a man that was fair and just. The depot overseer visited this district and had an interview with all the chiefs and counselors at their quarterly meeting. The result? Permission was granted for the erection of study centers throughout the district. Within a short time little grass shelters or stronger structures had popped up over all this district and even headmen were seen attending the studies regularly. Fourteen of them told their chiefs that they had accepted the truth, and their numbers kept increasing.
Also in Barotseland, the chiefs and royal family received an excellent witness when permission was granted for a European representative of the Society, who was there to attend a circuit assembly of 2,800 publishers, to address the khotla, the supreme Barotse ruling council. So from the throne, with the paramount chief beside him, he was able to explain why our work is different and what our message is about. All of this was in the presence of the chiefs, the stewards and the royal family. Thereafter the royal drums were beaten with traditional vigor.
One of the old members of the royal house who accepted the truth, though too aged to walk, used to ride daily on a donkey to the fork of a native path and there he would call the people passing to witness to them. An enemy killed his donkey with a spear and he was sad indeed, but he was given another by a publisher so that he could continue his work.
A great burden carried by the interested ones at this time was illiteracy. Many publishers memorized scriptures and sermons. But they have since learned to read and write their own language through the literacy classes arranged by the Society.
In early 1947, representations were made to the British Colonial office in London by a personal visit from the South African branch overseer on his way back to Cape Town from the Gilead School. This was supported by a petition presented to the government that was signed by 40,909 persons who deplored the action banning the work of distributing Bible literature, which they knew to be a beneficial Christian educational work. In response to this petition, the government of Northern Rhodesia promised to reexamine the position regarding the literature, and on June 19 some items, notably “The Kingdom of God Is Nigh” and The Coming World Regeneration, were removed from the proscribed list. However, the Society’s official magazine The Watchtower was still not free for circulation. Hence, efforts to make available to the brothers this necessary spiritual food could not be relaxed. In fact, the need was greater than ever, as 1947 ended with 6,114 preachers of the good news in 252 congregations.
By 1948, the once trackless and malaria-ridden bush country of the Copper Belt had become the home of some 25,000 Europeans, mainly to augment the mining fraternity. They lived under conditions that compared favorably with the standards in the countries ‘from which they had come. Until this year, little public preaching had been possible among this English-speaking population.
ORGANIZATION RECEIVES AID
Fortunately the organization in Northern Rhodesia received help at this stage in the form of two Gilead missionaries, Harry Arnott and Ian Fergusson. Brother Arnott arrived just ahead of Brothers Knorr and Henschel, who made their first visit to this country in January 1948.
During the visit of Brothers Knorr and Henschel, accompanied by George Phillips, they spent a few hours at a four-day assembly in Lusaka. This gathering was held on a plot of ground belonging to a European lady who not only stuck to her promise for them to use her ground regardless of pressure from enemies of the Witnesses, but also attended the assembly. Indeed, the setting was picturesque. The brothers had gathered clay and built up an earthen platform. Poles were implanted in the dirt and a grass roof was made to cover the platform. This time the audience was still separated, with the sisters on the left of the speaker and the brothers on the right. Brother Knorr was so impressed with the singing that he asked for a recording to be made. The booklet “The Kingdom of God Is Nigh” in the Silozi language was released to an assembled audience of 3,103 during the course of the four-day convention.
Brother Knorr met with the Secretary of Native Affairs and the Attorney General on January 16, 1948, about the ban on some of the literature that the Society wanted to ship to Northern Rhodesia. He was informed that within thirty to sixty days, the officials felt sure, the ban would be lifted, with no further restrictions on the Society’s work. This made a fitting climax to the visit of the Society’s president and his secretary.
With the extra help from the Gilead-trained missionaries, the European field also received better attention. Mid-1948 saw Harry Arnott assigned as a missionary to the town of Luanshya, and Ian Fergusson, who had been in Nyasaland for a while, to Chingola. Intensive house-to-house preaching was soon under way, and the response was exciting. The virgin territory absorbed substantial quantities of Bibles and Bible literature, and home Bible studies developed quickly. Within one year two small European congregations were established in these towns, and arrangements were being made to extend the preaching work to Mufulira and Kitwe.
The arrival of Gilead School graduates was seen as an excellent opportunity for transmitting some of the advanced theocratic organizational benefits to the congregations of Jehovah’s people throughout this central African territory. All appointed traveling representatives, together with those from the pioneer ranks who might qualify for this service, were invited to the branch office at Lusaka to enjoy a “mini” Gilead School. This school for circuit overseers covered some of the groundwork in organization and Bible teaching presented in these early years of Gilead School. Subjects taught were Bible themes, theocratic records, theocratic ministry and related matters. Written reviews were conducted and homework assignments given out for evening work, and they even had “graduation exercises” with a distinct African flavor.
Following the first visit of the Society’s president to this part of Africa, the brothers were encouraged to give more than the usual attention to learning to read and write their own language, and thus be better equipped to study God’s Word and to preach the good news to others. Arrangements were soon made by the branch office for literacy groups to be formed in each congregation. Initially, teaching aids were obtained from the educational departments of the government and used as a basis for these group instruction classes. Often the periods for instruction formed an extension to a congregation meeting, and, for the greater part, the students were the sisters in the congregation. “Each One Teach One” became a familiar slogan in the promotion of the campaign for more literates. Husbands were urged to spend time teaching their wives, and other persons already literate were encouraged to give their time to teaching another in the congregation.
A NEW BRANCH OFFICE
On September 1, 1948, a branch office was established, with Llewelyn Phillips as the branch overseer. At that time there were over 11,600 publishers in Northern Rhodesia’s 232 congregations. The ban on the Watchtower magazine was lifted, but some of the books were still banned.
This new branch in Northern Rhodesia now became responsible for several territories to the north and east, including the territory then known as the Belgian Congo, which up to August 31 had been under the jurisdiction of the South Africa branch. How had the Kingdom work progressed in the Belgian Congo up to this stage?
CHRISTIAN PROGRESS DESPITE CONFUSION
The Belgian Congo (Republic of the Congo, Kinshasa, now called Zaïre) is a vast country of over 900,000 square miles, larger than Texas and Alaska combined, with a population of over 23 million people. It lies to the north of Zambia and Angola and its principal physical feature is the great depression of the Congo river basin. In the southeast, bordering on Zambia, are rich copper mines that provide the main economic wealth of the country. The climate is generally hot and humid and much of the area is thick jungle. In 1885 it came under Belgian rule, with the result that the official language became French and the predominating religion Roman Catholic.
There was no organized Kingdom-preaching work in the Congo until the 1940’s. However, there was growth of the local false “Watchtower movement” or Kitawala. The book Kitawala (in German) by Greschat, page 71, states: “You find whole villages calling themselves Watch Tower, which merely means they have been dipped, baptized, and they vaguely accept various notions about the end of the world and, provided they live in a certain way, think that God will give them rewards on this earth.”
In the Congo, as elsewhere, the native term “Kitawala” was often used when referring to the indigenous “Watchtower movement.” Kitawala is a corruption, it seems, of the word “tower” preceded by the prefix “ki.” Some used the longer expression “Waticitawala,” an obvious native corruption of “Watchtower.” It is not difficult to understand how the uninformed could associate the two together; the names “Watch Tower Society” and “Watchtower” (movement) or Kitawala are very similar. And how gleefully the enemies of truth have used this similarity over and over again to prejudice the minds of government officials and to cause trouble for the true servants of Jehovah!
Uprisings, rebellions, tribal clashes and, in fact, any spectacular occurrences among the native people were often conveniently linked with the “Watchtower” movement. The name became a stench as far as public officials and authorities were concerned. One can imagine what reproach this brought on the name of Jehovah and his true organization in those areas!
As explained earlier, this confusion was initially due to the work of Joseph Booth and his followers in Nyasaland in the early part of the twentieth century. Mr. Booth, along with his disciple Elliott Kamwana and others, misused the early literature of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and this was responsible for the birth of the false “Watchtower movement” in central Africa. From Nyasaland the teaching apparently spread south and west to the Rhodesias and into the Congo.
In the years that followed, the Society sent letters to the authorities in the Congo setting out the facts, but the officials, to one degree or another, for many years chose to continue associating the activities of these indigenous religious movements using the name “Watchtower” with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and the work of Jehovah’s witnesses. Church influence and pressures had much to do with this situation.
Regular efforts were made by the Society to get mature representatives into the country, but these were unsuccessful. Direction and help were needed, but Jehovah’s organization was refused permission to send that much-needed help, and for many years the authorities either could not or did not wish to make a distinction between the true servants of Jehovah and the indigenous “Watchtower movements.”
It was early in 1948 that Llewelyn Phillips, the depot overseer in Northern Rhodesia, was sent to the Belgian Congo to intervene in behalf of the persecuted Witnesses there and to try to have the ban on the work lifted. He had private interviews with the Governor-General and other government officials and was able to explain our work and show how far removed our beliefs and principles are from those of the false “Watchtower movement” called Kitawala. Official letters dated March 15 and April 7, 1948, were placed before these authorities so that the matter would be on record. During the interview with him the Governor-General wistfully asked: “And if I help you, what will happen to me?” A very good question, as the Congo was almost completely under the control of the Roman Catholic Church!
What a blessing it was when the work of Jehovah’s people was finally recognized! The branch began working under the official name of “Jehovah’s Witnesses” instead of “Watch Tower Society,” so as to avoid any further confusion. Now the sorting out of the true Witnesses from those associating with the false “Watchtower movements” could go on apace. From that time forward there were tremendous increases in the numbers taking up the pure worship of Jehovah God.
MARKED DEVELOPMENT ON MAURITIUS
After the successful visit of full-time Kingdom publishers (pioneers) in 1933, there was a gap of eighteen years before special representatives were able to visit the island of Mauritius again. Not until 1952 does the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses tell us that two Mauritians, while serving as soldiers in World War II, came in contact with the Kingdom work in Egypt. The faithful service of publishers in Egypt bore fruit. These two men, although serving in the military forces, became very interested and started writing to the Society’s Cape Town office and getting supplies of literature. Soon they also had a number of fellow soldiers interested. Upon returning to Mauritius, they sought to ‘let their light shine’ and actually sent reports to the Cape Town office during 1951.
In the same year, 1951, two Gilead School graduates, Robert and George Nisbet, arrived in Mauritius to establish the work on a permanent basis. In those eighteen years since the previous visit of Robert Nisbet, great changes had taken place. Meetings were no longer prohibited, and education had been greatly improved. The danger of malaria had been largely eliminated and living conditions had advanced. The Church had lost its political dominance but apparently still had a strong influence.
These Gilead School graduates found quite a number of people who remembered the visit in 1933 and were very glad to make contact with Jehovah’s organization again. One man, on being approached by a missionary, asked, “How is Judge Rutherford getting along?” This well illustrates how the people on the island had been out of touch with the developments of the Society, since Brother Rutherford had died some nine years previously. The same man showed a July 4, 1934, issue of The Golden Age and also a well-worn and well-read eighteen-year-old copy of La Harpe de Dieu (The Harp of God). This man resubscribed for the magazine and a Bible study was started with him.
Brother Robert Nisbet reports that among the first interested ones were two sisters, Mrs. Sooben and Mrs. Vacher, with their families, and these formed the basis of the first congregation. So in 1951, the combined report for the world lists Mauritius under South Africa, with a peak of eight publishers and an average of two pioneers. By the following year the peak of publishers was up to thirteen. The priests were still very busy, constantly collecting literature that had been placed with the people, and threatening them with excommunication.
A GLANCE AT MOZAMBIQUE
Returning to the mainland, let us pause for a moment to see how things were progressing in Mozambique, also known as Portuguese East Africa. It seems that very little had yet been done among the Europeans, except for the work mentioned previously, but progress was being made among the African people. The work had continued to grow steadily, especially in the north, and by 1948 the number of publishers rose to 398 with four full-time workers in the field. Meanwhile, persecution was steadily increasing in intensity and some were being arrested and imprisoned, and deported to penal colonies and work camps. Shipments of literature from the South Africa branch were being seized on arrival in Mozambique.
EMBRACING “THE WAY” IN SWAZILAND
Bordering on Mozambique is the little country of Swaziland, hemmed in on the other three sides by the Transvaal. The west side of the country is mainly high and mountainous, though beautifully green. Toward the east the countryside is mainly flat, covered with thornbushes and often the victim of prolonged droughts.
In previous decades, pioneers visiting Swaziland had been well received by King Sobhuza II, but they were not able to get an organization established. In time, one who embraced “The Way” was Joshua P. Mhlongo. (Acts 9:2) His original desire to learn something of the teaching of Jehovah’s witnesses had been aroused by the headmaster of the school where he was attending as a pupil. The headmaster continually repeated to his classes that J. F. Rutherford taught people not to believe in hell fire or to worship their ancestors. This created in Joshua a desire to learn more about Jehovah’s organization. But he was dismayed to hear that the government had stopped the work of the Witnesses and had placed a ban on their literature. Joshua eventually came into possession of various books through an aunt who was a publisher in Johannesburg. Soon he and his mother were sharing the good tidings with others. During 1943, while still a schoolboy, he symbolized his dedication by water immersion. Brother McCoffie Nguluh well remembers the visit to these isolated publishers. Joshua Mhlongo expressed his desire to become a pioneer upon completing his education, and Brother Nguluh gave him encouragement to do so. Sure enough, he later entered the pioneer service and in time served as the first circuit overseer in the newly formed Swazi circuit.
The four years from 1947 to 1950 saw phenomenal growth. The total publishers for the country increased from 5 to 60.
A strange situation obtained in Swaziland during this period. The ban, which had been placed upon literature of the Watch Tower Society during the second world war, continued in force. In terms of this proclamation it was an offense to distribute any literature published by the Watch Tower Society. Paradoxically, King Sobhuza himself was the proud possessor of an almost complete library of the Society’s publications! The ban on the Society’s literature hampered the spreading of the good news into isolated areas. When brothers and interested persons were found to be in possession of the Society’s literature, they were often cruelly beaten and maltreated by the police. Brother M. E. Bartlett, who at that time was serving as the only district overseer for South Africa and the Protectorates, had his first brush with this law during his second visit to Swaziland in July of 1951. He was charged with importing prohibited literature. The District Commissioner and Magistrate was very friendly toward Brother Bartlett and viewed the ban on the Society’s literature as an anachronism. He jovially requested that Brother Bartlett supply him with some of the “most objectionable” magazines in his possession. When the case was finally heard in September, another magistrate, who was not so sympathetic toward the work, found Brother Bartlett guilty and fined him £1.
It was also during this visit by the district overseer that the Scriptural requirement of monogamy was clearly outlined to the brothers and interested persons. While most were happy to make their lives over in accord with the complete will of God, one presiding overseer refused to accept God’s standards and led a small group away from the sayings of everlasting life. Those who loved God and sought his approval, however, continued to stand steadfast for right principles.
SERVING UNDER BAN IN BECHUANALAND
Going west, clear through South Africa, we come to Bechuanaland, now called Botswana. It covers about a quarter of a million square miles, mostly semidesert, and lies between South Africa, South-West Africa and Rhodesia. The native people are, for the most part, extremely poor. Cattle raising is their principal occupation, along with the growing of beans, kafir corn (sorghums), and so forth. A certain amount of hunting is also engaged in to supplement their diet. In 1970 the population was estimated to be over 630,000.
The area came under British rule in 1884, but in 1967 it gained independence and became known as Botswana. Most of the territory is divided into reserves where the chiefs of the various tribes administer their tribal law, wielding tremendous power over their subjects. These chiefs were generally antagonistic to the work of Jehovah’s witnesses.
It seems that in 1929 the seeds of truth first began to be sown in this hot and dusty land. One publisher was active there that year, but for only two months. Then, toward the end of 1932, two pioneers from South Africa visited the country and were permitted to speak about matters of religion, provided they did not do so among the African people. Nevertheless, 1,676 pieces of literature were placed with the European population.
In 1941, due to the war hysteria, a ban was placed on the importation of the Society’s literature into Bechuanaland in spite of the fact that there were no resident Witnesses there at the time. According to a law passed by old Chief Khama, only three religious groups had the right to establish churches in this country: the London Missionary Society, the Seventh-day Adventists and the Roman Catholics.
There was a lot of movement of people back and forth from South Africa under work contracts. Men who worked in the bigger centers of South Africa would hear the truth in these places, go back to Bechuanaland and talk. about the good things they had heard. Also, Rhodesian brothers and those from Nyasaland would occasionally find employment in places like Francistown, and there they would talk about the truth. So, by 1946 there was an average of sixteen Kingdom publishers in Bechuanaland.
In the early 1950’s, the Society sent representatives into Bechuanaland to present our case to the authorities, but without much success.
For the entire country there was an average of 114 doing the preaching work by 1952. Increases continued to come during the next few years but problems were also building up. Some of the brothers and sisters had not properly registered their marriages with the government, and there was still much looseness of morals among many of the new ones. Through correspondence from the branch and with the aid of visiting overseers, these matters were cleared up. Today the organization is spiritually and morally sound.
NOTABLE INCREASE ON ST. HELENA
Out in the Atlantic Ocean, well off the coast of South-West Africa, we come once again to the lonely little island of St. Helena. Intermittent reports were received from the few publishers on the island and an occasional literature order was filled by the Society. But the Witnesses there needed a great deal of help and training. So it was that in May of 1951 the South Africa branch office sent a pioneer brother, J. F. van Staden, to spend some time there.
The postal service to this little island is very poor indeed and there was no one to meet Brother van Staden. However, he eventually met George Scipio, the son of Thomas Scipio the retired policeman. Brother van Staden gives his impressions of this meeting: “What a wonderful relief this was to me! He quickly took me to his father, the person for whom I was actually looking. It was simply wonderful to see the obvious joy over the help for which they had waited so long.” Brother van Staden lost no time in arranging a meeting with the little group of about ten or twelve persons. At first he had great difficulty in expressing himself in English, but after a few weeks he became much more fluent. He discovered that the only meetings they had been holding were “open-air services,” which they conducted in various places on the island. The brothers had their own little band, consisting of two violins and a piano accordion, which would start off their open-air service by playing Kingdom songs. When they had attracted a crowd, they gave impromptu talks (generally personal testimonies), and different brothers had a share in this.
It was clear that much needed to be done to help the brothers to get organized properly. So Brother van Staden immediately started conducting all the meetings. The local brothers showed wonderful appreciation and gave their wholehearted support. An elderly lady at Jamestown offered a large room in her home as a Kingdom Hall and another family at Levelwood also offered their home for a second meeting place. The meetings made a wonderful impression on all who attended, and the result was that some of those who came for the first time seem to have never stayed away again. In this way they learned the truth and were baptized later without ever having had a personal Bible study.
Getting to the meetings, however, was no easy matter. George Scipio had a little motorcar and with this he would pick up three persons and then drop them off some distance farther along the road. These three would keep on walking. Meanwhile George would turn around and pick up three more, take them some distance, drop them off and turn around again. He usually took the best part of the morning to get all the folks to the meeting. After the meeting the same procedure was followed to get them home. Sometimes this walking took place in pouring rain and they would arrive home late and wet. Yet, they experienced a feeling of deep satisfaction and sincere joy.
Brother van Staden soon had local brothers sharing with him in the house-to-house work. He gave them good training and was surprised to see how quickly they became efficient in preaching the good news at the doors.
Three months after his arrival Brother van Staden arranged for a baptismal service, in August 1951. Since they had difficulty in finding a suitable place they decided to dig a pond and then cement it and fill it with water. However, they were saved the trouble of filling the pond since the night before they had the baptism it rained heavily and the next morning the pond was filled to the brim! When Brother van Staden gave the baptism talk and asked the candidates to stand, he was amazed to see twenty-six getting up to answer the questions. He says: “My cup of joy was indeed running over and deep in my heart I was grateful to Jehovah that he had sent me to such a wonderful privilege. After the talk I baptized all twenty-six in the cold water.” Soon after the baptism a little congregation was formed in Jamestown. A few months later another congregation was started in Levelwood.
All this activity and success for the Kingdom publishers naturally stirred up enemy action. Bitter opposition came from the local Anglican bishop, who succeeded in turning some of the interested people against the truth. The local Seventh-day Adventist pastor challenged Brother van Staden to a debate, but was probably quite sorry that he had done so, since even some of the new publishers were easily able to refute many of his arguments. The worst trouble, though, came from the local commissioner of police. This man continually threatened Brother van Staden, saying that he would have him sent away from the island. Brother van Staden says: “He regularly took me to the courtroom once a month, just he and I, and then he would question me and warn me that I must stop this work.”
This opposition, however, in no way discouraged Brother van Staden or the local publishers. The fine experiences the brothers had more than made up for all the opposition and any difficulties they had with weather and rugged terrain. For example, one morning as Brother van Staden and Brother George Scipio approached a door they heard a man reading from the Bible. They could clearly hear him reading Isaiah chapter 2; so, when he came to verse 4, they knocked. The friendly old man invited them in and they picked up the “thread” from Isaiah 2:4 and started preaching the good news of the Kingdom to him. They arranged for a study immediately. It was conducted regularly and eventually this old man dedicated his life to Jehovah.
The thirteen months that Brother van Staden spent on the island were very busy ones, especially when he reached the point of conducting eighteen Bible studies a week. He left St. Helena in June 1952 and returned to South Africa to take up circuit work in the eastern Cape Province. He had done a good job. In the thirteen months he was in St. Helena the two little congregations that had been formed reached a peak of forty-one publishers.
THEOCRATIC INCREASE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Let us now go back to the Union of South Africa and give you some idea of the conditions and the problems experienced by the brothers in South Africa a quarter of a century ago. The Funk & Wagnalls Standard Reference Encyclopedia, Volume 24, under “Union of South Africa” mentions the Group Areas Act of June 1950 as “providing for the separation of the four main racial groups, i.e., the Europeans (whites), the Africans (Negroes), the Coloureds (part whites), and Asiatics (including Indians), into specific areas, from which the other groups would be excluded.” Some expected that this could create problems for the brothers as far as the preaching work was concerned. As it turned out, however, it was simpler for the brothers and sisters to work with their own people in their own language. True, the law does not attempt to prevent a person of one racial group from speaking to a person of another group about matters of religion. But when it comes to loving Christian association, as the Bible encourages, the brothers enjoy their fellowship together mainly within each racial group, and at the same time they are obeying the principles of Romans chapter 13. The good news is being preached, people of all racial groups are learning the truth and enjoying necessary Christian association.
Jehovah’s witnesses had, for some years, been calling their hired meeting places “Kingdom Halls.” But in 1948 a pioneer was assigned to work at Strand, near Cape Town, and he was privileged to organize the building of the first Kingdom Hall in South Africa. This was in 1949 and 1950. A local publisher, Sister van der Bijl of Gordon’s Bay, helped greatly by financing this project. Bethel brothers came out from the branch at Cape Town not far away, and assisted with the dedication program. The branch overseer, Brother G. R. Phillips, said that he wished he could ‘put the new hall on wheels and take it around the country, not to display the building, but to encourage the brothers to build more Kingdom Halls.’ Since then many Kingdom Halls have been built by European and Colored congregations throughout the country.
During these years more and more help was given to the African brothers and sisters. January 1, 1949, was a great day for the Zulu brothers. It was the date of the first issue of The Watchtower in Zulu. At that time the magazine was printed on a small hand-operated duplicating machine at the Society’s offices in Cape Town. It was not the bright and attractive magazine that the INqabayokulinda (The Watchtower in Zulu) is today; but just the same, it provided the food at the right time for the Zulu brothers and sisters.
It was also during this period that the first special trains were arranged for taking the brothers to assemblies. In 1949, for instance, the “JW Special” had room for 750 to travel from Johannesburg to the assembly in Pretoria, but 1,000 packed into the train. These were Africans from about a dozen different tribes, and yet not one unruly incident occurred. The trip must have been quite a witness for the railway officials. How could Africans from these different tribes get along so well together? Without the power of the truth, which had made over the thinking of these people, there would certainly have been incidents of tribal fighting, so common among the African people. Each tribe considers itself to be superior and ‘faction fights’ often occur.
The organization was further strengthened in 1949 by the release of the booklet Counsel on Theocratic Organization. To push the work further there were now eleven Gilead graduates in the country, and nearly 10 percent of the publishers were sharing in the full-time preaching work.
There were 6,766 at the Memorial celebration that year and 265 partook of the emblems. But the scene was set and the work geared for far greater things. The little printery at Cape Town put out more than 6,400,000 pieces of printed material that year. This was a new printing peak for them and included nearly 135,000 magazines and 625,000 copies of various booklets in 8 languages.
In 1949 and 1950 literacy classes were begun. These were held three or four days a week. Classes were conducted in Zulu, Sesotho, Xhosa, Tswana, Sepedi and English. About thirty lessons were required before the pupils could read.
Polygamy, a widespread custom among native tribes, has been a real problem for many brothers in Africa. When Brother Knorr visited in 1948, polygamy was one of the main points discussed with the African brothers. At first the inclination among new ones was for a man to keep the wife he loved most, usually the youngest one, but later the Society pointed out that it was Scripturally proper to keep the woman he took first as his wife and put away all the others.
Forty-one South Africans were able to attend the international convention at New York in 1950, and nine were invited to stay on for the sixteenth class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Those who could not attend this international assembly, nevertheless, had the same spiritual feast during their five-day “Theocracy’s Increase” National Assembly on the Reef in October of the same year. It was attended by over 6,000 publishers from all parts of the Union, the Protectorates and South-West Africa. There was tangible evidence of the Theocracy’s increase in the 855 candidates who presented themselves for water baptism. The public talk was attended by 10,185. One of the new releases that really thrilled the brothers was the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures.
Further proof of the Theocracy’s increase was the fact that over 2,000 persons symbolized their dedication by water immersion during the 1951 service year. New congregations were formed and a second district was organized to care for the 43 circuits then in operation with a peak of 9,586 publishers.
BRANCH OFFICE MOVED
One of the great milestones in the history of the work in southern Africa was the moving of the Society’s headquarters from Cape Town to Elandsfontein in the Transvaal early in 1952. Since 1917 the work had been directed from Cape Town, the southernmost point of the territory. Now the need was felt for moving the branch up to the Reef for several reasons. The greatest concentration of population in South Africa was on the Reef, and, as a result, the majority of the brothers were to be found within a radius of 100 miles of Johannesburg. As the South Africa branch was doing printing for other branches in southern Africa, the Reef would be a more central location from which to carry on such activities, and great savings in railage to these countries would result.
When Brothers Knorr and Henschel visited the country in 1948, it was decided to purchase two stands in a new industrial township of Germiston, Activia Park, near Elandsfontein Station and Post Office. Although this area was undeveloped at that time, this decision later proved to be a very wise one. The new location was only five miles from the center of Germiston, the biggest railway junction in the country, only ten miles from Johannesburg, the largest city in the Union of South Africa, and just five miles from Jan Smuts International Airport. However, certain technical difficulties experienced by the township company from whom the ground was purchased delayed the building program and it was only toward the end of March 1952 that the move was finally made.
To appreciate what a great change this was for the Bethel family, it is necessary to consider what conditions were like before the change. The brothers who worked in the office and factory in Cape Town did not live together as a Bethel family. In fact, the expression “Bethel” was rarely used in connection with the Cape Town branch; it was usually referred to as “the office.” Brother and Sister Phillips lived in a little flat, while the other members of the family were accommodated with various publishers throughout the Cape Peninsula. Some brothers had to travel ten miles by train to and from work daily, while others traveled by bus or walked. Each one had breakfast where he stayed. If his accommodations were close enough he might rush home for a midday meal. Those who could not go home would be given one shilling and six pence extra each day to have something at a café. For the evening meal everyone went home. They never had a Bethel family study of the Watchtower magazine.
Every morning the family met at 7:45 in the change room of the little factory. After a discussion of the day’s text and prayer, they commenced work at 8:00 a.m. In order to get to this discussion in time some members had to rise before six o’clock and start traveling soon after.
The new branch structure at Elandsfontein was one of the first buildings in the township, Activia Park. It was a two-story building with 21,103 square feet of floor space. On the ground floor was an office, factory, a shipping department, laundry and boiler room. The family lived in twenty-two comfortable rooms. Additionally, there was a kitchen, a dining room and a library upstairs for the convenience of the family.
Much additional printing equipment was installed at the new factory. A large new flatbed G.M.A. printing press came from Sweden, and this could take a sheet of paper four times the size of that previously used in Cape Town. An additional linotype machine, large cutter and stitching machine were installed. It now became possible to print The Watchtower in African languages. The Zulu Watchtower, you will recall, was previously prepared on a duplicating machine. When the new press and equipment went into operation, The Watchtower was printed in eight languages and Awake! in three, besides twelve issues of Kingdom Ministry in eight languages.
WORKING ISOLATED TERRITORY
The year 1952 proved to be a time for consolidating the organization and strengthening the brothers. The branch also worked out an unassigned territory campaign. The brothers and sisters spent thousands of hours visiting people in about 400 villages and towns where no regular work was being done by any congregation of Witnesses. As a result, more than 10,000 names of interested ones were sent to the branch office and each one subsequently received a special letter and sample magazines from the Society.
One congregation of about twenty Africans had difficulty getting accommodations when they reached previously unassigned territory. A farmer was not prepared to put them up without their showing a permit from the police. The police station was far away and it was late. Some of the farmer’s employees then took the Witnesses to a minister of the First Church of Christ living near the farm. He refused to assist and was extremely unkind. One of the flock sympathized, condemning the attitude of the minister, and took the Witnesses to a nearby empty house. Hardly had they settled in when the police arrived. The European policeman was very considerate and even gave encouragement after he had been shown the territory assignment card. It was the clergyman who had called the police. The following_ morning, however, the clergyman showed a complete change of attitude, apologized for his behavior the night before and offered his church for the public meeting. He invited his “flock” to the meeting. The result was an attendance of 80 (60 were strangers). All stayed for the Watchtower magazine study afterward. And the clergyman was among those who obtained literature that day. During each of two later visits, the minister offered his church for the public talk. He attended not only the talk but also the Watchtower magazine study held afterward. As a result of the work done there, instead of having only one publisher active in the area eventually there were seven.
A BENEFICIAL VISIT
For the first time in the history of the work in South Africa the total of publishers went over the 10,000 mark in 1952. That year was certainly an eventful one for the development of the Kingdom work in South Africa. To crown the year, Brothers Knorr and Henschel paid a visit to the country in November. Brother Knorr was very happy to see the fine two-story brick and stucco branch building on a nice plot of well-situated land. What a difference he found this time from the small office in Cape Town with no living quarters! He enjoyed a tour of the building and meeting all the members of the family.
A few days later Brother Knorr, along with Brother Phillips, paid a visit to Durban, that fine modern city on the shores of the Indian Ocean. He had to give his talks in three different places, in accordance with local segregation regulations. At the Colored meeting he was happy to see fifteen Indians present and took the opportunity to speak to some of them after the meeting. There is a very large Indian population in Durban and the Kingdom message was just then beginning to break through to them.
The African meeting in Durban was held in Lamontville, a new township on the southern side of the city. The singing of the Zulu brothers at that meeting deeply impressed Brother Knorr. That meeting was held on Sunday afternoon, and in the evening a meeting was held for the European brothers, with 435 present at a hall in the center of the city.
Soon after returning to Johannesburg, Brother Knorr made a call at the office of the British High Commissioner for Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland. This was in connection with a ban on the importation of the Society’s literature into those three protectorates since the year 1941. Since at the time of Brother Knorr’s visit, there were more than 400 Witnesses engaged in spreading the good news in those territories, the Society was making repeated attempts to have the ban lifted. Brother Knorr was able to speak with the chief secretary of the commissioner, answer all his questions, and present a clear picture of the fine educational work being done by Jehovah’s witnesses. However, the ban continued for several years after that.
By this time Brother Henschel had arrived and an encouraging meeting was held at the Germiston Town Hall, arranged by the Germiston European congregation. Many of the brothers on the Reef came, so that the total attendance was 725.
On December 8, Brother Knorr and Brother Phillips flew to Windhoek, the capital of South-West Africa. The three missionaries there were very happy to see them and to hold their very first assembly in that country. There were about ten at the regular sessions and a peak of 25 at the public meeting.
Back at the Elandsfontein branch, Brothers Knorr and Henschel gave attention to many matters pertaining to the organizing of the work and the problems that had to be handled. The Society’s president was able to help the branch on points that would affect the work for years to come. He also met the traveling servants from the field and gave them much counsel and encouragement.
An assembly was held December 11-14, and was the climax of the visit of Brothers Knorr and Henschel. In Johannesburg, we had succeeded in getting permission to have all three ethnic groups in the one stadium, although sitting in different sections. For all the African brothers to be able to attend from all parts of South Africa and the protectorates, a tremendous amount of work had been necessary to obtain individual passes and permits for those over sixteen years of age. Owing to the language difficulty, there were three addresses of welcome given, first in English, then in Afrikaans and finally in Zulu. The European brothers enjoyed listening to that talk in the Zulu language, with its fascinating clicks, and at the end of it they applauded as heartily as the Zulu brothers!
One of the points that Brother Knorr stressed when he spoke to the African brothers was the need for them to learn to read and write so that they could have a better knowledge of the truth and be more efficient preachers in the field. Unfortunately there was a lot of rain during the four days of the assembly. In fact, at one stage, the weather was so bad that the platform itself had to be abandoned. In spite of this, the assembly was a great success and 339 people of all races were baptized. Saturday evening the attendance went up to 5,441 and for the public talk it was 7,267. The South African brothers all went home happy and grateful for the fine counsel received and determined to press on in the Kingdom work in South Africa.
By late in 1952, the average of publishers of all the countries that had been or were still under the South Africa branch totaled up to 50,087. What a stupendous increase in the twenty-one years since 1931 and that “tiny band” of 100 publishers then!
NEW WORLD SOCIETY ASSEMBLIES
Following the New World Society Assembly held at Yankee Stadium in 1953, nine assemblies were arranged for South Africa—one European national assembly and eight African and Colored district assemblies. At these, the brothers enjoyed the same program, as the key talks given at New York were also presented in South Africa. For the first time lapel badges were introduced here, and this has since been a regular feature of all district and national assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses in South Africa. These badges make it easier to get acquainted and they promote a happy, friendly atmosphere among the brothers. Those nine assemblies were all well attended, with a grand total of 11,000 at the public talk “After Armageddon—God’s New World,” and 634 were immersed.
NEW FILM AN EYE-OPENER
When the Society’s 16-mm full-length film “the New World Society in Action” began to be shown in 1955 the brothers began to realize what a tremendous amount of work was needed to produce the publications they used. The film took the viewer on a tour of the Brooklyn Bethel home, the Society’s factory and Gilead School. This film had a tremendous impact on the brothers and greatly enhanced their appreciation of the organization. It made them realize that the brothers at the Elandsfontein Bethel too were working hard to provide the literature in different languages, especially as new ones were being added, such as the Xhosa Watchtower magazine, in August 1955.
The film also did much to break down prejudice against Jehovah’s witnesses. In some of the African areas, where it usually was difficult for European district overseers to gain entry, permission was readily granted to show the film. The district overseers carried electric generators with them and this enabled them to show the film in many isolated areas where there was no electricity. To many Africans this was the first screen production they had ever seen and some aspects of it amazed them. One little African boy, for example, was very impressed by a scene of a railway train hurtling off in a certain direction. He wondered about this and the following day he asked the farmer on whose land he lived, when this train would be coming back!
At a small circuit assembly of Colored brothers, 200 packed out the hall. It was a warm summer evening and the film was to be shown in the large open courtyard at the back of the hall. Since it was still too bright to start showing the film, the brothers began to sing Kingdom songs. The public was soon attracted by the beautiful singing and in no time 650 had assembled in the courtyard. They were most appreciative of the film.
A RETURN VISITOR FROM BROOKLYN
In October 1955 Milton G. Henschel revisited South Africa. At first it seemed as if he would not be able to attend our assembly, as the Department of the Interior, after having issued a visa for him, later canceled it. Just the day before he was due to arrive, the necessary visa was reissued, but with the reservation that no public speeches would be permitted. In great haste, several brothers at Bethel were assigned to prepare talks and stand in for Brother Henschel, if necessary. However, when Brother Henschel arrived, he had an interview with the Secretary for the Interior, was given the “green light” and everything went forward as originally planned. This decision brought great joy to all the brothers and a sigh of relief from the few hard-pressed Bethel brothers who had been hastily preparing talks to substitute for Brother Henschel.
All three racial groups again had the privilege of meeting at Wembley Stadium, as in 1952, but still observing the law by sitting in segregated groups. How the brothers were thrilled to hear the keynote address by Brother Henschel, assuring them that they were being led in a triumphal procession by their King, Jesus Christ—a sweet-smelling odor to Jehovah although a stench to the enemy! A total of 10,754 attended the public talk “World Conquest Soon—by God’s Kingdom, and 407 symbolized their dedication by immersion. The assembly was further climaxed on Sunday when all the new releases were made available that day, as they had arrived in Johannesburg only late on Saturday night.
DIVINE WILL ASSEMBLIES
The eyes of all the Witnesses in South Africa were focused on the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York, July 27 to August 3, 1958. What a thrilling experience it was for 123 brothers and sisters from South Africa to fly together as a party to London and then on to New York!
In South Africa a series of thirteen Divine Will District Assemblies were held to follow up the international assembly in New York, and at these, new publications were released for the South African field. Among these was the book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained. It has proved an outstanding help for brothers when conducting their family Bible studies and helping their children to gain Bible knowledge.
In October 1958 the brothers in South Africa heard that their African brothers in Malawi had experienced a disaster. A terrible fire razed to the ground the huge structure they had built for accommodations at an assembly and they lost all their clothing and possessions. Within a few days the South African brothers lovingly collected and sent 3,000 pounds of clothing to their brothers in Malawi.
ANOTHER MEANINGFUL VISIT
The following year, 1959, Brother Knorr made another visit to South Africa and an assembly was arranged to coincide with his visit. Efforts were made to have a national assembly with all races together, similar to the ones held in 1952 and 1955. However, permission was refused by the governmental authorities and the branch had to arrange for two assemblies, held in different parts of Johannesburg. Special trains brought 1,600 brothers from Natal and Zululand. From all over the Union and the surrounding countries the brothers poured into Johannesburg. Much interest was aroused by the preliminary advertising, and hundreds of strangers attended the public meeting “A Paradise Earth Through God’s Kingdom,” and other sessions. The European meeting was attended by 4,541 at Wembley Stadium, while 12,648 Africans met at Orlando Communal Hall, where, the hall itself being too small, several large tents provided extra shelter. The total number of those who were baptized was 546.
When Bethel moved from Cape Town to Elandsfontein in 1952 there were 8,580 publishers, on the average, in the South African field; by 1959 the number had increased to 14,451. Bethel had become cramped and the family had outgrown its existing quarters. Prior to Brother Knorr’s arrival, plans for the extension of the Bethel and factory had been sent by the branch overseer to Brooklyn and approved by the Society’s president. Building work had commenced during his visit. This extension was a neat, handsome structure, bigger than the original building. Twenty-two bedrooms were added, as well as a Kingdom Hall for the Bethel family. The factory extension included a new machine shop, and other new equipment, but also allowed for plenty of storage space. All of this truly was needed, as the production figures show. During the first year after the new factory at Elandsfontein went into production, over 740,000 booklets and magazines were turned out. By 1959 the production figure for magazines alone was almost two million.
But how was the work progressing during this period in the other countries under the supervision of the South Africa branch? Let us consider the work in the three British protectorates, Basutoland, Swaziland and Bechuanaland.
OVERCOMING OBSTACLES IN BASUTOLAND
An obstacle for the average African in accepting the truth is the difficulty he has in breaking away from ancestor worship and witchcraft. Although many people in Basutoland claim to be Christians, their clergy join with the people in making sacrifices to pacify the “spirits” of dead chiefs and forefathers. Clergy and laity alike use the services of witch doctors.
In 1953 a former principal of a Dutch Reformed Church mission school, Joshua Thongoana, was sent to Basutoland (now Lesotho) as a circuit overseer. He and his wife arrived there at a time when Basutoland was still notorious for ritual murders as part of their witchcraft, and it was rumored that foreigners were the targets of such murders. Brother Thongoana and his wife relied heavily on Jehovah, who proved to be a real protection to them. Also, they received much kindness and hospitality from the brothers.
In the Maluti mountains Brother Thongoana had to use a horse to travel from one isolated group to another. His first journey on horseback, from Mokhotlong to Bobete, took a whole day. When they arrived at their destination, the brothers who were used to riding on horseback were all right, but he was exhausted and his whole body ached so much that he could neither sit nor lie down. On their way back they had to cross the Orange River, which was in flood. His traveling companions told him what to expect; if the river was too strong for the horse, it would try to get rid of its rider so that it could swim across. He was terrified, as he was not a good rider. His horse walked into the water and his apprehension grew, but, fortunately, all the horses crossed safely.
Snow often falls in the Maluti mountains and this is followed by biting winds. When they awoke one morning, they saw that the whole area had been blanketed by snow and changed into a winter wonderland. As they walked to their territory, their feet sank into the snow; quite a new experience for them. They desperately needed fire to keep warm, but there was no wood or coal to be had. Nevertheless, they were cared for. When they felt they could not last much longer, an interested person kindly gave them enough dry cattle dung to make a fire.
Basutoland continued to make steady progress in the 1950’s. During 1953 this country had 67 publishers, on an average, and by 1959 this figure stood at 111—an increase of 81 percent.
BAN LIFTED IN SWAZILAND
A situation similar to that in Basutoland existed in Swaziland, where the chiefs were generally favorably disposed to the Witnesses. Although the brothers in Swaziland continued to operate under ban, the sympathetic attitude of the paramount chief made it possible for them to distribute the literature as long as they exercised caution. Publishers would write their own name in each book placed with an interested person as evidence that they were not selling the literature but were simply loaning it to the interested persons.
In 1958, Dennis McDonald, a district overseer, visited the only dedicated sister at Goedgegun (now Nhlangano). This was the first visit that she had ever received from a representative of the Society. She booked the local courthouse for the public talk. Brother McDonald was a bit apprehensive about giving a public talk in a courthouse in a country where the Society’s literature was banned.
The sister’s husband, who had something to do with the local government, assured him that he would have “quite an audience.” That Sunday afternoon there was indeed “quite an audience,” including two Dutch Reformed ministers, an Anglican minister, the local magistrate, the local policeman, the superintendent of the C.I.D. and a few interested persons. Brother McDonald realized that these men were present for a purpose. The public talk was an exposé of Communism’s failure in contrast with the hope of God’s kingdom. The whole talk was recorded and sent to Mbabane, the capital, to be considered there. It was sometime after this that the ban on the Society’s publications was lifted, and it seems quite likely that this public talk had some bearing on the matter.
The showing of the Society’s film “The New World Society in Action” also helped to overcome prejudice. At one large compound the European manager wished to see the film before giving permission for it to be shown. A private showing was arranged, with seven present. The manager was very much impressed. He remarked: “This is different and most interesting. This is a very big organization and it is well organized too.” He was satisfied that Jehovah’s witnesses stand for clean worship and that they are not mixed up with politics or worldly affairs. He expressed thanks for having had the opportunity to see the film and told the district overseer: “You may show it in the compound hall tonight and I will tell the police boys to assist you.” There was an attendance of 902 that night in the compound hall.
During this period, Swaziland experienced a rapid growth in the number of proclaimers of the good news. The average grew from 126 in 1953 to 289 in 1959—an increase of 129 percent.
PERSEVERANCE REWARDED IN BECHUANALAND
In 1956 Joshua Thongoana was assigned as a circuit overseer to Bechuanaland. Some of the local brothers had already been flogged by chiefs for preaching. The chief would charge the brothers with bringing another religion into the country, whereas Chief Khama had brought in only one religion, the London Missionary Society. One pioneer twice received lashes and his cattle were confiscated because of his preaching activities. But his cattle were returned when the chief saw his firm stand.
Two weeks after his arrival, Brother Thongoana was arrested along with two other brothers. At the kgotla (court) they were accused of bringing in another religion. The brothers were denied the opportunity to defend themselves, and those present at the kgotla demanded that they plead guilty. After many accusations were made against them by the chief and his kgotla Brother Thongoana was told to leave Bechuanaland the very next day, while each resident brother was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment. Brother Thongoana did leave that area, but instead of leaving the country, he went deeper into it. Later, he was happy to hear that the chief had changed his mind and given the local brothers suspended sentences.
During Brother Thongoana’s next visit, he again was arrested. Great interest was manifested in this kgotla. The local minister of the London Missionary Society was present and was asked by the chief to open the kgotla with prayer. Again Brother Thongoana was charged with bringing in another church, whereas they already had one. This kgotla allowed Brother Thongoana to defend himself, and he quoted many scriptures to show what he preached and why. The minister of the London Missionary Society did not use any scriptures; he did not even have a Bible. Some counselors persuaded the chief to discharge the brothers, and this time the kgotla ended in a theocratic victory.
Until the ban on the Society’s literature was lifted in 1959, many were arrested. However, the brothers stood firm for the truth. The 100 publishers in 1953 grew to 166 by 1959, which was indeed a splendid increase.
SPIRITUAL BENEFITS ENJOYED ON ST. HELENA
After Brother van Staden’s visit, the only regular contact the brothers on St. Helena had with Jehovah’s visible organization was through mail and the Society’s publications. It was therefore something outstanding for these brothers to have the circuit overseer and his wife visit them for a whole month during the 1955 service year. Twelve days were spent with each of the two congregations on the island and the month’s activity was rounded off with a circuit assembly. The attendance at the public meeting was 105 and three were immersed.
Spiritual benefits continued to flow to the brothers of St. Helena. During 1956 the film “The New World Society in Action” was shown eight times to audiences totaling over 1,000. This gave these isolated brothers wonderful insight into Jehovah’s worldwide organization. One man remarked: “I’m not ashamed to tell you, tears were running down my face and other boys were affected the same way,” Why? “To see how the brothers work together in love; if only we could work like that.”
In 1958 the film “Happiness of the New World Society” was shown eight times and attended by a total of 1,095. All who saw it were astonished to see the multitudes of people at the assemblies in all parts of the world.
However, since the first Kingdom seeds were sown in 1933, no publisher on St. Helena had ever been able personally to attend an overseas assembly. Now for the first time two brothers traveled all the way to New York for the Divine Will International Assembly in 1958. Due to poor transportation facilities, they were obliged to leave in May and were not able to return until November. But what a grand time they had in New York and what joy they brought to their brothers at home with all the good things they learned and experienced at that assembly!
MAKING PROGRESS ON MAURITIUS
By 1953 the congregation at Vacoas was making good progress and another congregation was already in formation at Port Louis. In accordance with the law, the missionaries had notified the police of their meetings and the commissioner of police had replied that they had no objection provided there was no religious controversy that might lead to a breach of the peace. However, the police were taking no chances, and so the first to arrive at the meeting were four detectives. It so happened that among the friends attending were a retired detective and several relatives of yet another detective. So the first meeting was almost like a policemen’s reunion! The officers seemed quite satisfied that Jehovah’s witnesses are a quiet, law-abiding people.
The progress in Mauritius continued in 1955, with the publishers reaching a peak of 30. Later that year Brother Milton Henschel paid a visit to Mauritius and a branch office of the Society was established there to look after the Kingdom interests on the three South Indian Ocean islands of Madagascar, La Réunion and Mauritius.
FRUITFUL EFFORTS ON MADAGASCAR
After the two pioneers from South Africa, Robert Nisbet and Bert McLuckie, visited Madagascar in 1933, there seems to have been a gap of twenty-two years during which nothing was done concerning the field there. In 1955 Milton Henschel and Robert Nisbet visited the island to establish the work under the guidance of the Society’s branch office in Mauritius. Soon special pioneers were sent out from France. They worked hard and were very successful, conducting many Bible studies. Before long, local publishers began to spread the good news of the Kingdom. In 1958 the first booklet was translated into the Malagasy language. The following year, arrangements were made to transfer supervision of the work to the branch office in France.
KINGDOM ACTIVITY BEGINS IN ANGOLA
It was in the year 1938 that the first Kingdom seed was sown in Angola. This area of about 481,000 square miles lies on the west coast of Africa between South-West Africa to the south, Zaïre in the north and Zambia to the east.
Two pioneers from Cape Town paid a visit there in 1938 and worked among the white population. In three months they placed 8,158 Bibles, books and booklets and aroused some interest. However, World War II broke out the following year and it was very difficult to maintain contact with the interested people.
Twelve years later, in 1950, an African pioneer was deported from Mozambique. He had had no trial, but was sent to the little Portuguese island of São Tomé on the equator off the west coast of Africa. This was included in the Angola field. Within six months there were thirteen others sharing with him in the witness work on this island.
Two years later this little group on São Tomé had grown to 21 publishers. São Tomé and the neighboring island of Principe are only 377 square miles in area and have a total population of 64,000. It is really a penal colony for Portuguese Africans who have to work as slaves on the rubber, banana and coffee plantations. So the little group of Kingdom publishers there had to carry on under difficulties, with no one to visit or encourage them. As yet, no publishers or organization for the Kingdom work existed in Angola.
However, during 1954, letters were received at the branch in South Africa from a small group of Africans at Baía dos Tigres, a penal settlement attached to a fishing station in the extreme south of Angola. The writer, João Mancoca, said in one of his letters: “The group of Jehovah’s witnesses in Angola is composed of 1,000 members. These have as their leader Simão Gonçalves Toco.” Behind this sensational statement there is a very interesting story.
In 1943 this Simão Toco was a leader of a choir attached to a Baptist mission in Léopoldville, Belgian Congo (Kinshasa, now called Zaïre). He was a capable and successful choirmaster and his group grew to many hundreds. Two booklets of the Watch Tower Society came into his possession and he read these with interest. Toco wrote to Brooklyn for more publications of the Society. Gradually, he introduced some Kingdom teachings into his songs or hymns (which he himself composed), and into discussions with his more intimate associates in his choir. However, followers of Simon Kimbangu, who practiced spiritism, infiltrated Toco’s study groups. In 1949 they felt the urge to go out and tell others and many of them went preaching in the city of Léopoldville. Before long, however, Toco and a large group of his followers were arrested and put in prison. While in prison, Toco stopped using the Society’s publications and even the Bible, and as they depended more on messages from spirit mediums, the truth was eclipsed by the spiritism of Kimbangu. Most of the group originated from Angola. So, after a few months in jail, those who steadfastly refused to give up following Toco were sent back to Luanda. There were about 1,000 of them.
Among those deported to Angola was João Mancoca, an intelligent and spiritually minded African. On the day of his trial he was charged with belonging to the “Watchtower movement” linked with Kimbanguism, a prohibited African sect. The judge tried to set him free, provided he would renounce his faith. Although Mancoca did not accept some of Toco’s interpretations, especially his practice of spiritism, he realized that there was some truth in what he got through Toco and he knew that he would lose this if he abandoned what he had accepted. He thus preferred imprisonment to giving up the little bit of truth he had. Portuguese authorities were undecided about the real origin of the group and what to do with them. They suspected them to be latent subversive elements; and yet the members seemed to be very harmless and sincere. Finally, they were dispersed in groups to many parts of Angola. Toco and many of his group were sent to the north of Angola to work on a coffee plantation. Mancoca, with another group, was in Luanda.
In Luanda, Mancoca tried to persuade them to use the Bible and to stop practicing spiritism. Together with Sala Ramos Filemon and Carlos Agostinho Cadi, Mancoca worked to make Bible truth prevail. An African, who had obtained our books “The Kingdom Is at Hand” and “The Truth Shall Make You Free” in French as schoolbooks for his son, found them to be unsuitable for this purpose and gave them to Mancoca. This thrilled him and his few companions who really appreciated the truth. Then Toco was sent south and on his way passed through Luanda. He was a confirmed spiritist by this time and prohibited the use of the Bible for his followers. Obviously, his “Kimbangu” followers had been a strong influence on him and turned him from God’s Word. Mancoca and his group, however, were dismayed at this and for three months they prayed intensely to Jehovah to open up the way for them to contact the Watch Tower Society.
Some of Toco’s followers did not like the truths Mancoca was teaching. So, they denounced this little group to the Portuguese authorities and falsely accused them of being authors of one of Toco’s false doctrines. As a result, Mancoca and his friends were imprisoned in a dark cell for twenty-one days. One of the guards “smuggled” in a typewriter and some candles. So, by candlelight they secretly made copies of the Society’s booklets in manuscript form. They were deported to the penal colony at Baía dos Tigres, with a four-year sentence that was extended to six years—all on a false charge!
At Baía dos Tigres, Mancoca and his associates found some Tocoists, whom they encouraged to study the Bible, but without success. So, they dissociated themselves from this group. Mancoca then decided to translate some chapters of “The Truth Shall Make You Free” (which he had in French) into Kikongo, their own language. At this stage one of the Tocoists wrote a letter to the Salisbury branch of the Society and got a reply in Spanish, which he could not read. He then brought the letter to Mancoca. This gave Mancoca the Society’s address, and so Mancoca and his companions wrote in French to the Rhodesia branch, which letter was passed on to the South Africa branch. In this way this group at Baía dos Tigres corresponded with the branch for three months and also received some literature.
When news of this strange group reached Brooklyn, the brothers there soon arranged that an English missionary, John R. Cooke, who had already spent several years in Portugal and was fairly fluent in Portuguese, should go to Angola. Brother Cooke arrived in Angola on January 21, 1955. His first conversation was with a lawyer in Luanda, who advised John to be very careful, as the Toco group were considered to be “Mau-Mau” (terrorist) elements or Communist supported.
It was a strange feeling for Brother Cooke to walk the streets in towns like Luanda and Benguela, see members of this group with their distinctive star badges and wonder if these were prospective brothers or just camouflaged Communists! He spoke privately with a few of them in Lobito and Benguela, but apart from finding out that they had the Bible, knew the name Jehovah and held meetings frequently, he could not make any progress. There was a large group in Luanda. He spoke to them and had discussions with their committee. But these men were followers of Toco and not really interested in the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. An exception was a young man named Antonio Bizi, who greatly appreciated Brother Cooke’s visits and helped others to subscribe for the Society’s magazines.
After Brother Cooke reported his first impressions to the Elandsfontein branch in South Africa, he received instructions to try contacting Mancoca and his friends in Baía dos Tigres. But Baía dos Tigres is a small fishing station on a sandy desert coast in the extreme south of Angola. It has very little contact with the outside world and is under strict government supervision, being, in fact, a penal colony. John Cooke remembers puzzling over the problem a long time. He took the matter to Jehovah in prayer. Finally, he wrote a letter to the Governor-General in Luanda explaining his mission and asking for an interview. After three anxious weeks, he was called to see Senhor Santana Godinho, the chief assistant of the governor in administration. During the long conversation this gentleman plied Brother Cooke with many questions about the work and beliefs of Jehovah’s witnesses. Finally, he agreed that Brother Cooke could make the trip to Baía dos Tigres. He then staggered him by saying: “In fact, we will give you a free return ticket by plane!” This was a trip of 1,200 miles!
A few days later, a little six-seater plane circled over the small sun-drenched settlement of Baía dos Tigres and then landed on the concrete strip built on the sand. John Cooke climbed out with a few other passengers. After some difficulties, Brother Cooke had his first meeting with the little group. This was Mancoca’s big day. For this he had prayed and waited for years—personal contact at last with the Society that taught the truth! He dressed up in his best and read a long paper of welcome to the Society’s representative. How pleased Brother Cooke was to find sheeplike ones so anxious to know about the Kingdom’. He spent every evening with these humble, sincere Africans, discussing God’s Word and telling them about the work. They showed him a thick exercise book. It consisted of the booklets The Kingdom, the Hope of the World and The Last Days, translated into their language, Kikongo. Made years before and written out by hand, this volume had been used for a long time as one of their main textbooks. Brother Cooke was surprised to find that they already had quite a good grasp of the truth by having read the publications received from Elandsfontein.
Meanwhile Brother Cooke was lodging at the local lighthouse with the keeper. He showed interest and subscribed for both magazines and ordered a Bible. He then said: “Senhor Cooke, you spend all your time with the Africans. What about us whites? Why not arrange a meeting for us?” This was done, and on the Sunday when a public talk was held in one of the smelly fish-meal factories there was an audience of 80—10 whites and 70 blacks. This was the first public meeting in Angola! The next day Brother Cooke left on the weekly flight with very warm impressions of the little group, and a letter addressed to Toco groups explaining who he was and encouraging them to accept him as the representative of the Society. With this he hoped to gain a better hearing from the various groups.
Brother Mancoca recalls this visit of Brother Cooke, saying: “I had no more doubt that this was the true organization which has God’s support. I had never thought or believed that any other religious organization would do such a thing: without payment, send a missionary from far to visit an insignificant person just because he wrote a letter.”
But back in Luanda, the local Toco committee were not impressed with Mancoca’s letter. “Who is he to tell us what to do? Now, if Toco were to give you a letter like that, then it would be different.” So the decision was made to try to visit Toco himself.
A report was sent in to Senhor Santana Godinho briefly explaining what had happened on the trip and John Cooke’s impressions of the ones he met. He was soon called up for another interview. Santana Godinho expressed appreciation for the report. He explained that, although the official opinion about Toco’s sect was that it was really subversive, he and others had doubts about that view. So, they were glad to have someone who could get among them and find out. He then made another surprising offer. “Now, where else would you like to go, Senhor Cooke? Just say what you want and we’ll give you your return ticket free of charge!” John made a request to see Toco, located in the “bush” near Sá de Bandeira, a medium-sized town in the south-central part of Angola. This was granted.
Shortly thereafter, Brother Cooke had two long interviews with Toco in the presence of a government official. Toco, a tall, intelligent man, still quite young, said he was glad to meet someone from the Watch Tower Society. He and Brother Cooke discussed Scriptural matters and the formation of the group, and then he also wrote a letter addressed to all his followers in Angola, telling them that Mr. Cooke represented the Watch Tower Society from which he received literature. After a few interesting local excursions as a guest of the Governor, Brother Cooke returned to Luanda thinking that perhaps now this group of 1,000 would more readily accept the truth.
But back in Luanda the local Toco committee would have nothing of it. They were running the “show” and no one else was going to take over. At least that was the attitude of the local leader, David Dongala, although many individuals showed good interest. However, the time spent in Luanda was not wasted. Brother Cooke did much witnessing and had a wonderful time, obtaining as many as twenty-two subscriptions in one day. Also, he was just beginning to have Bible studies with one or two white families and members of the Toco group.
After an uneventful plane trip to Cela, a new agricultural colony, the situation changed drastically. Santana Godinho lost his position as a government administrator. He had proved a real help to Brother Cooke in his difficult assignment and was very friendly. Now there were no more free trips, and a request to extend the five-month visa was refused. Brother Cooke left in June 1955, feeling very grateful to Jehovah for the help given and for the privilege of making important contacts and sowing much good seed in a “virgin” territory.
Kingdom activity had made a start and although opposition and persecution nearly stifled the newborn field, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness and the steadfast loyalty of the new brothers, it kept growing.
COURAGEOUS EFFORTS CONTINUE
In June 1956, Mancoca and seven other new brothers in Baía dos Tigres had the courage and initiative to write a letter to the governor of the District of Moçâmedes, where Baía dos Tigres was located. This, in part, is what they said: ‘We most respectfully request your Excellency the favor of recognizing us as effective members of the Society of Jehovah’s witnesses.’ The brothers appealed for more freedom of worship, but the only answer they got was more oppression. In spite of this, ten of them were baptized in 1956.
Meanwhile, on the island of São Tomé, several brothers had completed their detention terms of seven years. Those released and sent back to Mozambique included the former presiding overseer.
THE LIGHT IS NOT DIMMED
The light of truth was shining in Angola, and despite hardships it would not be dimmed. Moreover, the European field was to benefit from that light.
On October 26, 1956, Mervyn Passlow, and his wife, Aurora, landed in Luanda to follow up the work started by John Cooke. Brother Cooke had sent the Passlows his list of subscribers and interested ones in Luanda. But all the subscribers’ addresses were box numbers, for no mail is delivered to private homes; so for a while they failed to find these people. Then came a letter from Brother Britten, branch overseer in Lisbon, telling them that a very interested woman named Berta Teixeira was returning to Luanda. She was very surprised when the Passlows called to see her immediately after her arrival. No time was lost in starting a Bible study with her and her family. She was also able to help with the addresses of subscribers, since she had a relative working in the Post Office. A good number of the subscribers became very willing students. Within weeks all of these were talking to their friends and neighbors. The Passlows were invited out every evening and many afternoons to visit these people; within six months studies were being conducted with over fifty people.
Not long after their arrival, the Passlows also began to receive letters from African brothers and interested ones in different parts of Angola. Brother Mancoca, though still under detention in Baía dos Tigres, wrote letters of encouragement to the Passlows. Local African brothers needing spiritual assistance also visited them. Owing to the situation and his being a foreigner, Brother Passlow never went to their meetings. But Antonio Bizi, who showed such interest when Brother Cooke was there, used to visit them regularly for Bible study and training so that he, in turn, could assist the other African brothers. The Africans also obtained much literature, and much of it was taken into the interior.
A couple of months after the Passlows arrived, they began holding regular Watchtower magazine studies in their room. But by the end of the first month the room was too small. Then Sister Teixeira, who ran a language school, offered one of the inner schoolrooms in her college. Since her classes went on until 9 p.m., all the weekly meetings had to begin after 9 p.m. In this way they would attract less attention.
Correspondence continued to come from all over Angola. The writers were Africans, all claiming to be brothers. But by that time the war was on in Angola and it was not possible to contact these people.
Soon after this, a study was started with Senhor Vieira Gonçalves and his wife. He had studied for the priesthood for six years, but became so shocked with the young student priests and their conduct that he quit before actually becoming a priest. He made rapid progress and lost no time in coming to meetings and starting to speak to his friends. By the end of two months he was already conducting a study with another family.
After eight months in Luanda, Brother Passlow decided it was time to have a baptism, as several had expressed a desire to symbolize their dedication. How surprised and delighted they were when a brother from Portugal arrived that day—Brother Henrique Vieira, en route for South Africa! So, before the baptism, Brother Vieira gave a talk, told some experiences and then performed the baptism in the bay at Luanda.
Soon after this, Brother Passlow failed to get an extension of his visa. He promptly invited Brother Gonçalves to start taking over the care of the little group. This faithful brother, although just a babe in the truth when he took over, carried on for about nine years until he too was arrested, put in prison and finally deported to Portugal.
Brother Passlow had acted just in time. A few days later a van of the secret police suddenly pulled up beside the Passlows when they were on business in the city, and six policemen poured out and surrounded them as if they were desperate criminals. They were taken to their room and many of their belongings were confiscated including Aurora’s cooking recipes, seemingly on the grounds that they contained secret messages! As the police carried out their stock of Bibles, Brother Passlow commented: “I hope you read them.” The man replied: “Do they have anything to say about football?”—at which they all laughed. The police knew quite well that they were acting merely as pawns for the bishop of Luanda. The Passlows found out later that an interested person had told the bishop about all the good things she had been learning.
An appeal to the British Consul, a devout Catholic, was turned down. Then the police commissioner called the Passlows to his office. He told them that they must leave within the week. From his remarks, it became obvious that he was linking the Passlows with the infamous “Watchtower movement” of central Africa. To reason with him was hopeless.
On June 27, 1957, the Passlows embarked for South Africa. Owing to the attitude of the police, they warned the brothers, especially the African brothers, not to come to see them off. But the bond of love was too great. Police or no police, the brothers, including many Africans, were there to say ‘Adeus’ (Good-bye)! Just before their going up the gangway one of these African brothers who had just before been released from Baía dos Tigres came up close, pressed an envelope into Brother Passlow’s hand and then disappeared into the crowd. The envelope contained a parting gift of money, with the message: “To buy some bread.” As the ship slowly slipped away, the Passlows felt deep gratitude for the indescribable joy of helping some to come to know our God Jehovah.
Some time later, the Passlows heard that on the following day the radio announced that the country had just gotten rid of a great danger in the form of a foreign couple who had been trying to establish Communist and “Mau-Mau” activities, “but, thanks be to our God, that danger has now been eliminated!” Months later, when the terrorist fighting really became fierce, the Angolan press falsely publicized that Watchtower missionaries had influenced the Africans to engage in terrorist activities. There were even photographs supposedly showing missionaries giving away American dollars to Africans to turn them against the white authorities!
It is true that missionaries of Christendom and religious leaders had a lot to do with the terrorist activity in Angola. But not Jehovah’s witnesses! Thanks to Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, Watchtower missionaries had been able to get into the country. In spite of many problems and opposition, it had been possible to establish a small organization of 54 brothers who were determined to stand firm and let the light of truth shine in Angola.
Following all the excitement caused by the departure of Brother and Sister Passlow, the brothers carried on quietly and faithfully. They lacked someone mature to instruct them, but meetings were held and preaching was carried on as well as the brothers could under the difficult circumstances.
During 1958, Harry Arnott, the zone overseer, made a brief visit, which was a source of great encouragement to both Africans and Europeans. In 1959 he was again in Luanda as zone overseer. On arrival at the airport, just as he was meeting a little group of brothers, the police suddenly appeared and arrested them all. Brother Arnott was separated from the others for questioning. His briefcase was searched minutely. He prayed to Jehovah that the list of Watchtower magazine subscribers in the city of Luanda would not fall into the hands of the police. That precious list was in Brother Arnott’s ticket holder. Although the Interpol chief looked at the ticket, he did not see the list. After a lot of questions, the chief said: “Mr. Arnott, just remember: As far as Angola is concerned you are finished, finished, finished, and the Watchtower organization is finished, finished, finished!”
A little later he was taken to another building where the other brothers were, among them Brother Mancoca. The Interpol officer turned to Brother Mancoca, abused him and said: “You know what is going to happen to you?” Brother Mancoca just looked his persecutor right in the eyes and said: “I have endured much already, so all that you can do more than that is to kill me, but I will not turn away from my faith.” He then looked across to Brother Arnott and smiled encouragingly. Brother Arnott says: “He seemed quite oblivious of his own predicament and was only concerned with ensuring that I myself was not discouraged by the situation. It was a most uplifting moment to see this African brother, after years of imprisonment, take such a firm and courageous stand.”
Brother Arnott was put back on the plane and had to leave the country immediately. Meanwhile, the police had found out that the congregation met in the home of Sister Teixeira. So, some of them went there immediately to make an inspection. They searched, but failed to open a door on the ground floor, behind which some fifty brothers and interested people were waiting patiently for Brother Arnott to come and give them his talk.
On that occasion no real harm befell those brothers who had met Brother Arnott, not even Mancoca. He was kept for seven hours of questioning, during which time the inspector actually made out an official order sending him to prison. But at the end the inspector tore it up and said to Brother Mancoca: “Go away, Mancoca, and be careful. Tomorrow bring me all the literature of the Watch Tower which you have in your house. . . . Just give up this Watch Tower business and look after yourself and your children.”
This episode meant making changes in the meeting place for the little congregation and after that the Africans began to organize on their own. However, the local organization was still very small. For 1960 the peak number of publishers reporting was only 17. It was at that time that Angola came under the jurisdiction of the Watch Tower Society’s office in Lisbon, Portugal.
The following year, 1961, terrorist activity broke out in Angola and also intense persecution was unleashed against the brothers. For the next nine years Brother Mancoca was in various prisons and work camps. His experiences were very many and varied but everywhere he went he faced up to persecution with calm determination and absolute reliance on Jehovah. He also witnessed wherever he went and was successful in helping many Africans into the truth while he was in prison.
Again, in 1971, a large number of brothers were arrested and put in prison in Luanda, including, once again, our selfless and devoted brother Mancoca. But the efforts of the enemy are puny in comparison with the invincible purposes and unlimited power of Jehovah. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can stop his message of the Kingdom from being preached in all the inhabited earth, including Angola.
READY FOR EXPANSION
The beginning of 1960 found the Elandsfontein Bethel all geared for real expansion. Jehovah foresaw and provided for the needs of the field in the decade to follow. The enlarged factory now had five linotype machines in use instead of three, and a year later another one was installed. A new Heidelberg platen press and a new Timson rotary press, the latter costing over R37,000, were installed in addition to the G.M.A. flatbed press already in use.
In 1960, the Elandsfontein factory started printing a number of the vernacular magazines semimonthly and in color, instead of just monthly and in black and white. A new monthly magazine was added, namely, The Watchtower in Tswana. Printing of a special Cibemba edition for Congo (Kinshasa) was started in May 1965. The full title of the regular Cibemba edition is Ulupungu lwa kwa Kalinda. But because of the prejudice in the Congo against the name “Watchtower,” the title of this special edition was just Kalinda (meaning “watching” or “to watch”). In 1966 another South African vernacular issue of The Watchtower, in Sepedi, was added to the printing list. So by 1970 the factory was printing 24 issues of The Watchtower and Awake! in 10 languages, and 15 different issues of Kingdom Ministry. Apart from this, the factory was also kept busy with the printing of a number of booklets in the vernacular languages and a “mountain” of forms, programs, leaflets and posters.
In 1960 the ban on the Society’s literature was lifted in the three protectorates, Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland. Thus this spiritual food could flow freely to them. But how were the brothers doing in these countries?
BLESSINGS AMID HARDSHIPS IN BASUTOLAND
The brothers in Basutoland (now Lesotho) really appreciated the semimonthly Molula-Qhooa (the Sesotho Watchtower magazine). This was reflected by their attendance at their Watchtower magazine studies. In 1960 there was a band of 135 publishers and 15 pioneers taking care of the spiritual needs of a population of 634,000 in this country, and pushing ahead in the face of many difficulties.
By this time the “winds of change” had reached this small British protectorate, stirring up the spirit of nationalism and the desire for independence, which was further fanned by the measure of self-government they obtained in 1960. Civil service was being “Africanized,” with Africans taking over from Europeans. Many felt that “self-rule” and “independence” were the magic passwords to freedom and prosperity. But Jehovah’s witnesses continued to point to God’s kingdom as man’s only real hope.
Most of the people in, Basutoland live in scattered villages, called “kraals,” in the mountains, some so high up that they can only be reached on foot or by pony. In some cases, it took the circuit overseer five to six days to reach isolated groups.
The pioneers did a wonderful work in spreading the good news of the Kingdom in the isolated nooks and corners of Basutoland. One special pioneer couple was assigned to the area of Mokhotlong, right on the “roof of southern Africa,” at an altitude of 10,500 feet in the Drakensberg range. The husband, Philemon Mafereka, had to cross several mountains just to go to conduct one study. Starting at 4 a.m. and walking fast, he would get there by 8:30 a.m. He usually came home that same evening and went in another direction the next day. Their efforts were richly blessed, for within two years he and his wife had ten others sharing with them in the Kingdom work.
Yes, in Basutoland the publishers of the good news often walk two or three hours to their territory and then spend up to six hours at a time witnessing. It is not practical to return for a meal halfway through the day, and so they have learned to work through the day and return in the early evening to cook and eat. Because of the distances between the villages, one may reach only six houses during six hours of work. But these people, too, need to hear God’s Word.
The brothers living in such isolation certainly appreciate the importance of assemblies. But attending assemblies requires great effort and these brothers are real examples to us. One special pioneer walked for four days, crossing mountains and swimming flooded rivers, to get to an assembly of Jehovah’s people. A sister rode alone on horseback for three days, then traveled a full day by bus to get to an assembly. And another sister, six months pregnant, walked twenty-five miles through mountains and snow to get to a circuit assembly. Even a newly dedicated brother walked more than eighty miles through the mountains, with the special pioneer who had helped him, to get to an assembly where he could symbolize his dedication.
Some new ones have had to get their marital affairs in order before they could share in the preaching work and qualify for baptism. In one case, the European district overseer drove into the mountains the week before an assembly and brought a man and his “wife,” who already had three children, to the nearest district commissioner so that their marriage could be registered, qualifying them for baptism at the circuit assembly.
In 1966 Basutoland became the independent state now known as Lesotho. At that time there were 266 Kingdom publishers, and these, because of their absolutely neutral stand, had won the respect of many in authority. But during a district assembly at Maseru, the capital, a police officer and three jeeploads of policemen charged into the hall, ordering that the meeting be stopped. The brothers in charge could not see the chief of police until the next morning. However, he was acquainted with the Witnesses and soon dismissed the false charge that someone was supposed to have said from the platform that the Lesotho government should be destroyed. The same officer who stopped the meeting was then instructed to provide guards for the assembly to protect the Witnesses! Of course, they had nothing to do, and the brothers took the opportunity to give each one a thorough witness.
The brothers’ strict Christian neutrality in Lesotho proved to be a real protection for them during a period of political unrest and a state of emergency. During this time a great purge was on against those who were not supporters of the government of Headman Jonathan. It was reported that at night the grass-roofed huts of members of the opposition were barricaded and set on fire, burning whole families to death. Not one of Jehovah’s witnesses suffered this fate.
As a result of the neutral stand maintained by true Christians, however, some hardship did come upon them. In 1970 Lesotho experienced a severe food shortage due to years of drought. However, during 1970 they had good rains, but it was decided that only supporters of the government would be given seed maize. Because Jehovah’s witnesses are neutral, they could not obtain any. The brothers in the Republic of South Africa heard about this and arranged for a relief fund to help their brothers in Lesotho. This was announced at the “kickoff” meetings for the national assemblies in Johannesburg and it was suggested that all the donations in the boxes at these meetings go for the relief fund. The response of the brothers was overwhelming—Rl,714 was contributed and the contributions kept streaming in. In fact, the office had to send out a circular telling the brothers that they had given “enough.” Within a week a European brother in the Orange Free State obtained the needed seed maize and took it through to our brothers in Lesotho. All the needy ones also were provided with cash to buy food until they could supply their own needs. This made the brothers in Lesotho realize more than ever how much their European and other brothers in South Africa care for them and it made them feel even closer to them.
One of the sisters from Lesotho who benefited from this loving arrangement later said: “We reached the point where we had nothing in our house, not even ten cents to buy some mealie meal [cornmeal]. Then the money for food arrived from our white brothers in South Africa. I could only cry and not say anything. The other Witnesses and I were able to overcome our immediate problems, and so, through Jehovah’s provision, we are able to be at this assembly to enjoy also a spiritual feast.”
At the time when Jehovah’s organization was providing relief from material famine in Lesotho, Jehovah also provided a wonderful spiritual dish for those hungering for the truth. This was in the form of the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life in Sesotho, which arrived about the middle of 1970. With this wonderful aid and the six-month study program, growth was seen. A milestone had been reached in Christian activity.
The year 1972 saw another noteworthy milestone in the development of the work in Lesotho—the erection of the first real Kingdom Hall in this country. The need for a Kingdom Hall in Maseru, the capital, had become evident when the average attendance at the Watchtower study rose to 170, with attendances often over 200. Sandstone, freely available from the nearby mountains at the cost of fetching it, was used for the walls, the stone being hewn into the desired shapes by experienced brothers.
Everybody helped with the building. Apart from providing meals for the builders, the sisters, in traditional style, carried jars of water on their heads for as much as two miles to the building site. Children helped by rolling drums of water to the site and some elderly brothers walked up to twenty miles to have a share in the building work. To stamp down the ground in preparation for the pouring of the concrete floor slab, the sisters sang Kingdom songs and danced to the rhythm of these on the floor area. Today the brothers are happy for the use of a Kingdom Hall that can seat about 250 persons—a sturdy structure that cost only about $845 to erect!
As in other developing African countries, nationalism sometimes presents difficulties at school for the children and elsewhere for the brothers in general. Recently, for instance, violence erupted on the day that our district assembly ended. On returning home, a new brother, who had formerly belonged to the political party that started the uprising, found soldiers and the local court waiting for him. The question was, What had he been doing during the rebellion? He told them that he had attended the assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses. But that was not enough. They wanted proof. With soldiers accompanying him, the brother was permitted to get his assembly program. After the entire program was read, the chief declared the brother innocent and even encouraged him to continue his preaching activity. The villagers marveled at this, saying: “The God to whom you are praying is the living God!” How grateful this brother was for having attended the assembly!
The latest peak of publishers in Lesotho is 688 and the work continues to move ahead under the blessing of Jehovah. Yet, with one publisher for every 1,477 of the population, it is evident that much remains to be done and our constant prayer is that Jehovah will speed up the work in his own time and way.
BAN LIFTED IN BECHUANALAND
In Bechuanaland (now Botswana) news of the lifting of the ban in 1960 was slow in reaching some parts of this vast country. Some of the chiefs were still making it difficult for the brothers in their areas.
One of the European district overseers from South Africa, Dennis McDonald, had an interview with the brother of the paramount chief, Seretsi Khama, to explain our work. He gave Brother McDonald four signed copies of a letter stating that our work should not be hampered. This helped considerably to change the attitude of the chiefs and made things easier for the brothers.
In the early 1960’s the majority of the congregations and isolated groups were along the railway line. Hardly anything had been done in the interior, except at Shakawe and Maun in the northwest. Brother B. Mchiswe, a special pioneer, worked for some time in Maun. He stuck to his assignment even though food was scarce and for a whole year he ate nothing but mealie-meal porridge (maize porridge) without sugar or milk. This brother made good use of the Watchtower magazine in Tswana, built up a route and delivered each new issue as it arrived. A preacher in the London Mission who enjoyed the magazine even held it up in the church and exhorted his audience: “If you see the man of the Watch Tower with this magazine, you must take it and read it.” So some came to the pioneer’s house for their copies, and he started studying with them.
In a little isolated group at Shakawe, northwest of Maun, and way out in the Kalahari Desert, none had been baptized because they could not attend an assembly and the local queen or chieftainess had prevented the circuit overseer from visiting the group. So they all cooperated and paid for one of their number to attend the assembly at Mahalapye, almost 700 miles away, where he was baptized.
Can you imagine what is involved for a circuit overseer to visit these isolated brothers? It means traveling no less than 600 miles on the back of a huge four-wheel-drive truck that can plow its way through the sand, riding day and night, in the heat of the day and the cold of the night. Sometimes Adam Mahlangu, the circuit overseer in 1964, spent up to ten days of his working month on the back of a truck so that he could visit these isolated ones.
Brother Mahlangu, who relates how wild and primitive it is in the northern parts, writes: “When I give a talk up at Shakawe, they always think I am some kind of chief just because I wear clothes.” People there wear hardly any clothes at all. He had much difficulty in trying to get a well-organized public meeting going; first to get the people together and then to keep them quiet during the talk. They were not used to sitting down and listening to someone else. So, when the talk started they considered it a good opportunity to discuss with their neighbors the points that were being brought out. But the visits to these isolated ones resulted in two persons dedicating their lives to God and a total of six sharing in the work.
On one occasion during a severe drought in 1965 to 1966 water was so scarce that it was impossible to find water to baptize some candidates at an assembly. Another time, in Francistown, the brothers also had great difficulty. Brother Piet Wentzel, the district overseer at the time, reports that the first pool they went to was dry. So he took the two candidates twenty miles in his car to a water hole in the dry riverbed, but that also was dry. Another five miles brought them to a muddy pool, quite black in appearance from the cattle standing in it. But it did not deter these young men. It was water and there they were baptized in symbol of their dedication to do Jehovah’s will.
WITNESS WORK ADVANCES IN BOTSWANA
When Bechuanaland gained its independence it changed its name to Botswana. This political change did not alter the living conditions of the people much, although it did have an effect on the preaching work. The new independent government became very strict with Africans who were not Botswana citizens, and a number of pioneers from South Africa were deported.
What is it like to witness in Botswana? The usual custom requires introductory greetings during which each one inquires about the health of the other. This having been concluded, benches are brought forth for all to sit on. The rest of the family plus any visiting friends are called, quite often as many as twenty persons. Most families have their own copies of the Bible and are willing to get their own Bibles and follow along.
In Botswana it is the custom for parents of a boy to pay a deposit of £4 plus a blanket and a dress for the girl whom they wish their son to marry. This is done when she is only ten years old. Thereafter, the boy’s parents continue to support the girl until she is ready for marriage. This is done without consulting the girl. When a fifteen-year-old girl came to a knowledge of the truth, she informed her parents that she did not wish to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. The parents tried to force her, in view of the money already paid for her, but when she successfully convinced them from the Scriptures that such an arrangement was wrong, they permitted her to have her way.
Because of the difficulty in finding a suitable place for assemblies, and always having to spend a lot of time erecting temporary structures, the brothers were encouraged to build their own Kingdom Hall in Mahalapye. This they did. The brothers made and baked their own bricks. It took a number of years to complete, and then in 1967 their Kingdom Hall was used for an assembly.
Have you ever wondered about the Bushmen of Botswana and whether any of those hunters with bow and arrow, whose click language is only now in the process of being put in writing, would become part of the New Order society? Well, the truth found a local man living consensually with a Bushman woman. A Bible study was started and soon they learned that it was necessary to get legally married. Would this man marry the Bushman woman? Yes, he did and both of them were immersed at a circuit assembly. Within a year they learned to read and write and began giving a fine witness to all in their community, making disciples of still others.
In 1972 some capable European brothers and their families from South Africa responded to a call to move to Botswana to assist the brothers there. Of course, it meant some sacrifices, some even giving up pioneer service because they could enter the country for an extended period only if they had secular work there. But what fine work they and some brothers from Britain have done to build up the brothers there! Some of them have moved even to very remote parts of the country. Their presence was and is much appreciated by the brothers, and the work moved ahead.
QUESTION OF LEGALITY RAISED, THEN SETTLED
Then came a shock. A refusal on the part of the government to register Jehovah’s witnesses as an acceptable organization in terms of a newly published law led to the organization’s being declared illegal on July. 20, 1973. Mere membership in such an “illegal” organization carried with it a penalty of up to seven years imprisonment.
But the brothers were determined to carry on under the altered conditions. When first the possibility of a ban became evident, brothers from the branch office had a meeting with those having oversight of the work to give counsel and encouragement. Just before the ban became operative, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, two circuit assemblies were held in Botswana, giving excellent encouragement and direction to all the brothers.
Legal proceedings were immediately initiated to appeal the government’s decision on the basis of Botswana’s constitution. What a joy it was when, on February 20, 1974, the government reversed its decision and registered Jehovah’s witnesses as a legal organization! This did not just bring the brothers back to their situation before the ban. Now they were in position to make use of the privileges extended to registered organizations, including the bringing in of full-time preachers from neighboring countries.
In March 1975 they rejoiced in a new peak of 284 publishers. This means that there was a ratio of 2,220 people to one publisher. Truly, a vast work remains to be done in Botswana, but by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness we are confident that it will be done.
CHRISTIAN ACTIVITY MOVES AHEAD IN SWAZILAND
In 1960 the Kingdom work in Swaziland was prospering, with an average of 380 publishers. Already the publisher-to-population ratio was the best of all the countries under the Elandsfontein branch. The ban on the Society’s literature had been lifted and the stage was set for further growth.
One field in which little growth had taken place up until the 1960’s was the European population. About that time a few European publishers moved to Bremersdorp (now called Manzini). Amongst them was Ian Cameron, a Scotsman, who had served in the Elandsfontein Bethel until his marriage to a South African girl. As he was unable to obtain permanent residence in the Union of South Africa, he decided to settle in Swaziland, so as to bring the message of God’s established kingdom to the European population there. The small group of publishers at Manzini determined to work the entire territory of Swaziland, an area of 6,700 square miles. This entailed many a trip of well over 100 miles to make a return visit or conduct a Bible study.
The message soon began to strike a responsive chord. Vic Dunkin and his wife, Aileen, were assigned by the Society as special pioneers in Swaziland. The corrugated gravel roads across the lowveld, the slippery muddy roads through the Usuthu forest, the tortuous road to Goedgegun and the steep mountainous road to Havelock all battered their motorcar and took their toll upon it. But Brother and Sister Dunkin persisted and soon they were rewarded by fruits for their labor. An English-speaking congregation was formed. Most of its members were persons who had learned the truth, or at least made a dedication to Jehovah, while in Swaziland. Although English speaking, the congregation was really a cosmopolitan one and its publishers represented a cross section of the British Empire.
This same cosmopolitan atmosphere is evident on the streets of Mbabane, where Swazis in their national costume brush past hippies and members of the American Peace Corps in outlandish dress as the latter gaze into shop windows. Inside the shop, a Portuguese businessman may be serving a smartly dressed African civil servant. This situation often calls for the publishers to carry literature in a number of languages.
On one occasion a circuit overseer and his wife came to a Portuguese railway community and, although they could not make themselves understood, they endeavored to share the Kingdom message. They were able to offer magazines in the language of the people. At the second door a young girl acted as interpreter so that her mother could understand what the visitors were doing. After listening carefully, the mother took a book. Before they left, the young girl said: “I am coming with you and I am going to speak for you.” She did just that. At the next five houses she explained the message, interpreting for the circuit overseer and his wife. At the end of each presentation she turned to the publishers, saying: “She wants one,” meaning that the householder wanted a book. Six bound books were placed that morning with the help of this little girl!
CHRISTIAN NEUTRALITY DISPLAYED
In keeping with the worldwide decolonialization movement, Swaziland also was preparing for independence, and the people became more nationalistic. When election time came around, at one polling station the chief announced: “Before we all vote, there are certain people, Shadrachs, Meshachs and Abednegos, refusing to vote in the community. Let them come out one by one if they are still refusing to vote.” The isolated publishers in the community stood out courageously. This prompted an interested person also to take a stand along with the Witnesses. Since voting is not compulsory, no action could be taken against these neutral Christians.
Just prior to the independence celebrations in September of 1967, Jehovah’s people provided a fine demonstration of unity among different ethnic groups. The Swaziland English-speaking (European) congregation belongs to the eastern Transvaal circuit and so it was arranged for the whole circuit to have an assembly in Swaziland and to invite the African brothers to be present. The hall was too small, but this provided an opportunity to show real brotherly love. When it was noticed that many Europeans but not many African brothers were in the hall, the word was passed around to make room for the African brothers. What happened? Later, the African circuit overseer expressed his concern that too many African brothers were inside, while the Europeans were standing outside. The public talk in English and Zulu drew an audience of 652.
After the country gained independence, many of Jehovah’s people were compelled to show where they stood on the neutrality issue. One of the district chiefs called upon a pioneer to attend a political meeting. When the brother did not attend, he was called before the chief to account for his absence. He explained his position as a Christian neutral. The chief threatened to deport him but said that he would first refer the matter to King Sobhuza II, whom he planned to visit. King Sobhuza II advised the chief that Jehovah’s witnesses should be left alone because they did not belong to any political party and were peaceful, neutral people.
The nationalistic spirit has prompted the revival of many tribal customs, such as the umcwasho law. This tribal law required that girls wear umcwasho during a two-year period ending in August 1971. Umcwasho is a form of ornamentation worn around the neck and has a symbolic significance. An engaged girl wore a combination of red and black, and all other unmarried girls wore blue and yellow. During this period all girls were to refrain from sex relations, except those already engaged, who were permitted to have intercourse with their lovers upon payment of R1.00 to the local chief. The institution of this arrangement had the purpose of honoring the local Princess Sidanda. Since it was a form of creature worship and condoned fornication at a price, Jehovah’s witnesses refused to observe the umcwasho period and to wear the umcwasho around their necks. Although this was just a tribal law and could not be enforced by the law of the land, the firm stand of our young sisters brought hardship upon some of them. In one instance, a young girl, whose parents were not in the truth, spent ten days in prison for not wearing umcwasho. But the headmaster of the school that she attended successfully demanded her release.
The children of Jehovah’s witnesses have been helped by proper parental training to realize the importance of worship that is pure and undefiled before Jehovah. (Jas. 1:27) Many had been participating in school hymns and prayers until they realized that this was a form of false worship. An increasing number then refrained from sharing in any religious exercises. This has resulted in many being severely beaten, and large numbers have been expelled from the schools they attended. When that happened, the brothers began teaching their own children privately or sending them to other schools.
BLESSINGS ABOUND AMID DIFFICULTIES
The Truth book in Zulu is another instrument that is proving to be a blessing to the brothers in Swaziland. Many say that it has helped them to understand the truth more clearly than ever before. Certainly, this book is helping sincere people to learn the truth of the Bible and come onto the way that leads to eternal life.
During 1972, the brothers here held their last district assembly to date. After that the constitution was abolished and police permission became necessary for any large gatherings. Thus far, the police have adamantly refused to give the brothers such permission, even though they were registered as a religious organization in Swaziland in October of 1974. Difficulties have also been experienced in the holding of circuit assemblies. The only way these can be held is by breaking them up into smaller gatherings at the regular meeting places used by the different congregations.
The tract work met with enthusiastic response and a new peak of 750 publishers was reached in February 1974, when the first tract was distributed. Our brothers and sisters are very zealous, averaging close to 14 hours per publisher a month during the 1974 service year. In fact, there are now very few places in Swaziland where a thorough witness has not been given.
As in other lands the Kingdom proclamation has irritated the clergy of Christendom to the extent that they have made attempts to have our work banned. On April 2, 1975, the clergy made accusations against Jehovah’s witnesses before King Sobhuza II, saying that they do not mourn when someone dies, but treat the dead disrespectfully. On this occasion only a few of our brothers were present. Hence, the king arranged for another meeting to be held on May 3, 1975, so that more people could be present and the matter could be discussed in greater detail. The meeting was held at Lozitha, out in the open, and all those who attended sat on the ground under a few trees. The king himself was not present at the meeting, but the Minister of Agriculture served as chairman. Anyone wishing to speak raised his hand and, if called on by the chairman, he could go up to the microphone to speak.
At first, when one of our brothers tried to present the truth about how Jehovah’s witnesses feel when someone dies, he was continually interrupted. Nevertheless, during the course of the day some of our other brothers were able to speak. The brothers and sisters turned out in large numbers. In fact, the Witnesses far outnumbered the rest of the crowd. False accusations were made, saying that we kick the corpse when someone dies and throw the coffin into the grave, saying that the person has been defeated by the Devil. It was difficult to get the opportunity to refute these false accusations since the chairman would just call upon anyone whom he desired to speak. This meeting lasted from around ten o’clock in the morning until six o’clock in the evening. Toward the end of the day, since the opposers realized that they could not condemn the Witnesses on the matter of mourning, they brought up other matters, such as their refusing to salute the flag, or sing the national anthem and do military service. By this time the sun was setting, so the chairman said that these other matters would be discussed on another occasion.
Some of the members of parliament, and especially the clergy, are determined in their efforts to curb the work that Jehovah’s witnesses are doing throughout Swaziland. We leave the matter in Jehovah’s hands, knowing that Jehovah will see to it that his will is fully accomplished.
ORGANIZATIONAL IMPROVEMENTS IN SOUTH AFRICA
The Kingdom Ministry School for congregation overseers got under way in South Africa during the second half of 1961 and had a pronounced effect on the brothers and the Kingdom work. The four instructors traveled around the country, and Kingdom Halls were turned into classrooms. This was necessary not only due to great distances involved, but also because of the population-movement control policy of the government, which restricts Africans in one area from going to another area for any length of time. All those who attended these classes expressed great appreciation for this loving provision of Jehovah through his organization.
In May 1961, the Union of South Africa became a republic. From then on more than ever before the spirit of nationalism manifested itself here too. At first it did not interfere with those who practice true worship, but later it did bring a real test upon those who have given their allegiance to Jehovah’s kingdom, as we shall see later in this record.
Jehovah’s witnesses had a marvelous opportunity to show their unity and Christian neutrality during their United Worshipers National Assembly held for the three main racial groups during October/November of 1961. The opening day of the European assembly here coincided with the general election day. A pamphlet on the assembly (Which Government Will Bring Unity?) was printed at the Elandsfontein factory and this was distributed by the tens of thousands. The result? Our largest attendance ever at the public talk! At the three assemblies the total attendance was 22,551! How different the peaceful association in unity among the various racial groups within the assembly grounds, in contrast to the noisy political division that existed outside!
In time, a number of adjustments were made at Elandsfontein. For instance, African brothers were called into Bethel to serve as translators and stenographers. The African stenographers would translate letters as they typed them, into either Zulu, Xhosa or Sesotho. So the brothers received specific counsel regarding their needs and problems. Most of the other vernacular translators were brought into Bethel too. When visitors now came through Bethel they saw European sisters serving as housekeepers and European brothers as janitors and laundry workers—activities viewed in South Africa as “native” work—and African brothers sitting behind typewriters!
MISSIONARY ENDEAVORS IN SOUTH-WEST AFRICA
Meanwhile, what was happening in South-West Africa? Three missionaries began working there in 1950. Starting from Windhoek, they gradually moved into other parts of the territory. In 1951 two of them moved north and were overjoyed at finding two “lost sheep” at Tsumeb, a copper-mining town. These once had contact with the organization and soon were helped to have an active share in the field service. Forty miles south, in Grootfontein, they found Brother and Sister Bogusch, who had been in contact with the truth in Germany. Having now made contact with the organization again, they started sharing in the service again. Two more publishers were located at Otjiwarongo. These had moved in from the Union of South Africa. Then a father and son were found who had been subscribers for The Watchtower for many years. Both progressed very quickly to the point of dedication.
What joy the three missionaries must have felt when, by the end of 1952, the number of publishers in the country had jumped to 29! It is true that many of these moved out, but the work during those years was not in vain. As one of the later missionaries put it: “Many seeds of truth have been sown here. As we attend national assemblies in the Republic [of South Africa], we are greeted by Witnesses who began their studies in Windhoek.”
In 1953 five more missionaries were happily received by the three already there. These missionaries settled in Windhoek, giving the other three brothers the opportunity to take up assignments farther north and south. In a matter of weeks, each of the new missionaries had eight to ten Bible studies, and from then on the work just blossomed forth.
But a problem continued to loom in the foreground—how to reach the African population effectively with the good news. George Koett, one of the early missionaries, had done some work among the Africans in the Windhoek African Location (township), but the authorities yielded to clerical pressure and canceled his permit to enter the Location. Efforts to get African pioneers from South Africa met with a refusal from the authorities. In 1959 the district overseer applied to the Native Administrator for permission to enter the Location, but he refused coldly. Later in the week, however, he went on holiday, and the town clerk was approached for permission to enter the Location. This was granted and the film “Happiness of the New World Society” was shown to 216 appreciative Africans.
Since 1953 Dick Waldron had repeatedly tried to get a permit to enter the African Location, but in vain. Then Dick and Coralie Waldron realized that they were going to become parents. Would they have to quit their assignment? No, they decided to stay. Later, news came that Coralie’s mother, in Australia, had become very ill. Now the Waldrons decided to leave Windhoek, South-West Africa, and return to Australia. But on the week of their departure news came that a permit had been granted for them to work amongst the Africans and Colored! What were they going to do? Give the permit back, after having waited seven years to obtain it? Brother Waldron canceled his boat booking, and his wife and daughter went on to Australia alone. They spent four months there and then returned. In the meantime, Dick Waldron was able to spend much time witnessing to the Africans and Colored, with gratifying results. At their first circuit assembly for the Africans and Colored they had an attendance of 100 at the public talk.
REACHING THE AFRICAN POPULACE
In order to reach all the Africans, it was essential to get some literature translated and printed in their languages. But as yet there were no educated African brothers to undertake this task. Sometime before, under the direction of earlier missionaries, booklets were translated by worldly translators into Nama, Kwanyama and Herero. Although these were printed and distributed, they did not prove successful, since the translations were far too vague and inaccurate. Although worldly people had to be used again, there would have to be much closer supervision.
Dick Waldron says of efforts to get accurate translations: “Using mainly schoolteachers who were studying and had a little knowledge of the truth, I had to sit with them and work with them to make sure that each sentence was the truth. The Nama language has a limited vocabulary. For instance, I was trying to get the point across, ‘In the beginning Adam was a perfect man. The translator was scratching his head and said there is no word in the Nama language for ‘perfect.’ ‘I’ve got it,’ he said, ‘In the beginning Adam was like a ripe peach.’” Despite the problems, though, eventually the tract Life in the New World was translated into Herero, Nama, Ndonga and Kwanyama.
Brother Erwin Schneid and his wife Gertrud and their daughter Karin had moved from Germany into the coastal town of Swakopmund in 1956. Their relatives were apprehensive about this move, and they themselves were not too sure of what to expect. What strange people were they to meet? What weird-sounding language would they have to learn? What dangers lay ahead in that “dark” continent? They landed at Walvis Bay and were met by white people speaking, of all languages, German! In fact, their new hometown, Swakopmund, proved to be a little town out of Germany, in building style, habits and the predominant tongue. Later, other members of their family also arrived, other interested ones were assisted to accept the truth and now it was possible to form a congregation.
Colored brothers from the Cape Province started moving into the territory in connection with the fishing industry, and they did much to spread the good news among the Africans, especially in Walvis Bay. A great number of these Africans come from their homelands, such as Ovamboland in the north, for one or two years only, on a work contract. Then they have to return. Thus many of them obtained some of the Society’s literature and then took it back with them into Ovamboland. One of the Ovambos, Philemon Kalongela, fully accepted the truth in Walvis Bay, and was able to return to Ovamboland to preach. He actually worked there as a special pioneer for a while.
THE FIRST HOTTENTOT TO ACCEPT THE TRUTH
Ella Crighton was the first Colored person in South-West Africa to accept the truth. She could also speak the Nama (Hottentot) language fluently. It was certainly appropriate, then, that she was the one to assist the very first Hottentot to accept the truth.
Few people can boast of as colorful a life history as that dear old Hottentot brother, “Oupa” (Grandfather) Jod. Captured by the Germans during the Hottentot wars when he was a young boy, he worked and lived most of his life in Windhoek. Incidentally, those wars ended around 1890. Although he had very little education, “Oupa” is able to read, write and speak, not only his own language, Nama, but also German and Afrikaans. When Sister Ella Crighton started a Bible study with him, “Oupa” Jod must have been deep into his seventies. He was a pillar of the church, and his withdrawal from Babylon the Great caused no little upheaval. Ministers from different parts of the country gathered at his house to persuade him to return to his former religion, but nothing would move him. Assisted by Ella Crighton, he was able to resist all their attempts. Relatives wept and pleaded, but to no avail. “Oupa” Jod had found the truth.
Jehovah is speeding up his work in this country of such colorful variety in racial and national groups. By the end of 1973, he opened the way for a witness to be given to the Basters in the Rehoboth area. Until that year no witness of Jehovah had been granted permission to enter the area for the purpose of preaching the Kingdom message. In the northern part of the territory, where there is a “preserve” of approximately half a million Africans, the work is beginning to gain a small foothold. Four groups of publishers are operating in Ovamboland now and a special pioneer living just across the border serves them regularly as a temporary circuit overseer. Although Jehovah’s witnesses are seizing every opportunity to get the good news to the people in this “preserve,” they hope and pray that the door will open wide for them to send full-time workers into that relatively vast area.
From one lonely voice declaring the truth in South-West Africa in 1947 a beautiful expansion has taken place. That one voice has now expanded to a peak number of 322 Kingdom proclaimers in March 1975. If it be Jehovah’s will also to open up more fully the territories in the north, then we can expect the full harvest from that part of the field too.
FAITHFUL ONES ENJOY PRIVILEGES
In South Africa, too, there are wonderful examples of elderly publishers like “Oupa” Jod of South-West Africa, and some of them are right in the pioneer ranks. They have enjoyed many privileges in Jehovah’s service. One of these old faithfuls, Annie Moseleba, an African sister, was the oldest special pioneer. In 1966 she passed away at the age of ninety-one after eighteen years of pioneer service. Because of her old age, she was very highly respected by the people of her community and had excellent success where other publishers failed. She helped scores of people into the truth during her pioneer career. In just one year she helped eight people to take a firm stand for the truth, and conducted thirteen home Bible studies.
Another faithful example in South Africa has been Brother George Phillips. From 1927 on he served as branch overseer and the brothers got to love and respect him deeply for his devotion to Jehovah and the example he set. He proved himself to be a real fighter for the truth, a brother with stick-to-itiveness, always loyally supporting Jehovah’s organization. He piloted the work through those early beginnings and the difficult nineteen-forties. He saw the organization in South Africa grow from a handful of publishers to over 20,000 in 1966. Even though he found it necessary to leave Bethel at the end of July 1966 Brother Phillips’ heart was still in the full-time service, and after a short period he was serving as a pioneer in the Strand, near Cape Town.
There was a very capable brother available to take over the branch from Brother Phillips, namely, Harry Arnott, former branch overseer of Zambia, who, with his wife, had been deported from that country the previous year. He was well known to the brothers in South Africa, having served this country for many years as zone overseer. Brother Arnott had the full confidence of the brothers and for two years served as branch overseer until he too had to relinquish this privilege of service due to the expected arrival of a firstborn.
From June 1968 onward Brother Frans Muller has been serving as branch overseer. Since 1960 he had been the assistant to the branch overseer, and serving on the service desk. Brother Muller had served the whole country as either circuit or district overseer before he and his wife were called into Bethel in 1959.
These quick changes from one branch overseer to another had no adverse effect on the work. Everything continued to run smoothly. It just proved to all the brothers once again that Jehovah’s work does not depend on any individual, and that Jehovah can use anyone who is willing to be used by him.
“TRUTH” BOOK AIDS SHEEPLIKE ONES
During the district assemblies in 1968 the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life was released and the six-month Bible study method was introduced. Things started happening!
Literature placements in the Republic of South Africa skyrocketed. Return visits and Bible studies increased. When the Truth book became available, the shipping department at the branch experienced something they had never seen before. During the period 1960-1967 an average of approximately 90,000 books had been shipped out per year. But in 1968 it jumped to over 125,000. Then the Truth book appeared in Afrikaans in 1969 and at the end of that year it was released in Zulu, Xhosa and Sepedi. During the 1970 service year the branch shipped out more than 447,000 books!
With the Truth book available in so many of the vernacular languages, a special effort was made to reach as many farmers as possible on large stretches of land in this country. Most of these farms are miles apart and can be reached only by car. At the Society’s branch office these farm territories were mapped out and congregations were encouraged to apply for farm territory. The response was good. Some congregations accepted territory more than 200 miles from their homes. Thousands of miles were covered in order to reach these farmers with the good news of the Kingdom. One car group covered about 200 square miles, visiting 100 farms and placing 90 Truth books. Many truth-hungry people have been found and assisted by means of correspondence or by return visits from these brothers.
THE PORTUGUESE FIELD IN SOUTH AFRICA
In the story of Angola, we mentioned that Henrique Vieira visited Luanda on his way to South Africa. He settled in Johannesburg, and served in one of the congregations there. But Brother Vieira was not the only immigrant from Portugal. Due to South Africa’s prosperity and fine opportunities for employment, thousands of Portuguese, Greeks and persons of other nationalities have moved in from Europe. It is estimated that there are about 80,000 Portuguese people living on the Reef.
By 1965 Brother Vieira and his wife already began to find good interest among these Portuguese immigrants. Very few of them learned English, and so it was felt that there was a need for some Portuguese-speaking Witnesses to help these people get the Kingdom message. In January 1966, a group of eleven Portuguese publishers was formed in Johannesburg. In Johannesburg the Portuguese are not all located together in one place, so publishers often spent a whole morning locating and witnessing to one or two families, and some Sundays they did not find any at all. In spite of this, the little group grew very rapidly and by the end of 1967 a new congregation was formed with some 50 publishers.
There was steady growth within the Portuguese field thereafter, not only in and near Johannesburg, but elsewhere. In other cities of South Africa there are also Portuguese immigrants. So, before long, there were groups of Portuguese brothers in Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Bloemfontein.
From time to time these Portuguese brothers go home for a visit and always do so with the main objective of witnessing to their families and friends in those Catholic towns and villages of Portugal. For instance, when one new brother and his wife went back to Portugal on a vacation, they were wondering how they might start witnessing to their family. To their great surprise and delight, one of the family members started witnessing to them! One can imagine what a happy family reunion that was!
GREEK FIELD IN SOUTH AFRICA
Early in 1969, a small Greek congregation was formed in Johannesburg to care for the interest among the Greek community of approximately 30,000 on the Reef. At that time there were only twenty-four Greek brothers reporting field service. But after only sixteen months this congregation had grown to sixty-two publishers, including five regular pioneers, and every month three or four temporary pioneers. Here was another fine start, in an important field of service.
The Greek population is scattered all over the Witwatersrand, over a stretch of more than sixty miles. So, by means of a telephone directory and the help of the English- and Afrikaans-speaking congregations, the Greek congregation began compiling an ‘address territory” of all the Greeks. Not long after the forming of the Greek congregation in Johannesburg, small groups of Greeks were built up in a few other places, even as far afield as Durban. These people, who have been under the heavy yoke of religious bondage to the Greek Orthodox Church, quickly recognize the truth and do not dally in making a decision. Almost from the time a Bible study is started with them they begin attending the meetings and witnessing to their friends and relatives.
ASSEMBLIES WITH INTERNATIONAL ASPECTS
With all these foreigners coming along, assemblies in South Africa are taking on a real international flavor. At district and national assemblies, there are special stands for these brothers where a program is presented for them in their own language.
Talking about an “international assembly”—the “Peace on Earth” International Assemblies in 1969 overshadowed everything previous in the theocratic history of South Africa. First there was the anticipation. Then there was the realization, when over 500 brothers from South Africa attended the London assembly and quite a number went to the assemblies in other parts of Europe, including the mammoth convention in Nuremberg.
For some, this was not their first international assembly. But for most of the delegates, the 1969 “Peace on Earth” Assembly in London was the thrill of a lifetime. Among these were the first African brothers from here ever to attend an international assembly. Ten of them were full-time workers who were sent by the Society by means of the convention travel fund. They were absolutely overwhelmed by this experience. For many it was the first time they had a close-up view of a plane, let alone travel in one. Yet, the novelty of air travel was not the thing that impressed them most. Of course, the spiritual food received at the assembly was most impressive and beneficial. But these African brothers also were moved deeply by the love and hospitality they received from their white brothers on the plane, and the experience of staying with white brothers in their homes in England, something that is deprived them by law in the country of South Africa. Nicolson Makhetha of Lesotho, when asked what impressed him most, apart from the assembly program, said: “To be with European brothers in their home and see how they apply the counsel of family life received from the organization.”
This experience proved to the African brothers that Jehovah’s witnesses are indeed the same all over the world, and they came back with much to tell the other African brothers. How grateful they were for the generosity of their fellow Christians that made it possible for them to have this experience!
The delegates to the “Peace on Earth” International Assemblies enjoyed the spiritual fare so much that the looked forward to enjoying the same program again at the South African “Peace on Earth” National Assemblies from December 31, 1969, to January 4, 1970. And what huge audiences! The combined attendance for the three public meetings was 45,821, with 1,294 baptized.
FINE ADVANCEMENT ON ST. HELENA
At the international assembly in London, July 1969, some of the brothers from South Africa met George Scipio and his daughter from St. Helena. Brother Scipio could tell them that witnessing to the same people year after year on a small island such as St. Helena is a real test of faith and endurance. Nevertheless, marvelous progress has been made there over the years.
The territory has been so well worked, and our literature so well distributed, that when a householder is asked to get his Bible, it is not uncommon for him to come out with a copy of the New World Translation. With the arrival of the Truth book, the Bible study average went up to 1.2 per publisher in 1969. Quite a number of persons who had known the truth for some time were helped to take a definite stand. This book also helped to revive inactive publishers.
As their ranks continue to swell, the chorus of Kingdom proclaimers becomes ever louder on St. Helena. A peak of 99 publishers was reached during the 1975 service year. The territory has now shrunk to the point where every publisher has, on the average, a territory comprising 51 persons. And still good interest is being found.
ASCENSION ISLANDERS HEAR THE GOOD NEWS
The first time a report was received from this island about 700 miles northwest of St. Helena was in 1965. It was from Sister B. Taylor whose husband was working for the Cable and Wireless Company and who had been sent there by that firm. At that time the population of this island of approximately 34 square miles was just over 300. It was a real challenge to this sister to work all alone. But she accepted it and averaged 23 hours and three Bible studies each month.
By 1968 the population on the island had grown to 2,000. That year Sister Taylor went to England for a visit. So, George Scipio from St. Helena went over to care for the interested ones. His comment: “The people on this island are like sheep without a shepherd. The interest he found caused Brother Scipio to move his whole family over to Ascension Island. This was a great boost for the work.
In one case a home Bible study had to be conducted at 10 p.m. because the man worked shifts until after nine o’clock some weeks. As it was very hot, they used to have the study on the veranda, in the open, where the neighbors could see them. This resulted in ridicule from the neighbors. As the man progressed and realized he was learning the truth, he commented: “Now I see why more people are not Jehovah’s witnesses, because they are afraid of what their neighbors would say and think.” The family began attending meetings and enjoyed them. After hearing at the Tuesday book study how urgent the time is and about the work still to be done, the man started witnessing to all his workmates the next day and was overjoyed to find one man who asked for a Bible and book so that he too could study.
Brother Scipio and his family had to return to St. Helena after nine months. However, they kept in touch with some of the Bible students by writing letters. One of these interested ones was a young man who had come to the pioneer’s home during a morning break at work and asked if he could have a glass of water. The next day he came again for a glass of water, stood there for a while and then nervously asked the pioneer’s wife if she had any Bibles to sell. Immediately he was supplied with one and was invited to the book study. He got himself a book and came. The pioneer’s thirteen-year-old son started a study with him and he made steady progress.
After Brother Scipio left, this young man took a firm stand for the truth. When he was asked by his employer to paint military or church buildings he refused. Even the head foreman with all his arguments could not make him change his mind.
We have not received any field service reports from Ascension Island for the last three years. The sole publisher on the island made regular trips to the United Kingdom and reporting was rather irregular. Though we are not sure what happened to her, perhaps Jehovah yet knows of sheeplike ones there to be brought ‘into the pen.’—Mic. 2:12.
UPHOLDING GOD’S LAW ON BLOOD
From time to time the blood issue comes to the fore in South Africa. To illustrate: An African sister, six months pregnant, suddenly started hemorrhaging. At the hospital the doctors ordered a blood transfusion. Brother and Sister Marsh explained their Scriptural position, only to be ridiculed by the doctors and nurses. She was examined every half hour. Later. one of the nurses informed her that she could not detect the fetal heartbeat and believed that the baby had died inside her. The doctor now wanted to remove the “dead” fetus, but not without a blood transfusion. Although the sister said she could still feel fetal movements, the medical staff insisted that the baby was dead.
Brother and Sister Marsh left that hospital and went to another. En route the brother encouraged his wife to remain faithful, come what may. On arrival at the other hospital, their stand on blood was explained and the nurse on night duty asked them to sign a statement to that effect. An examination revealed that the baby was still alive. Treatment was given and our sister made rapid recovery. but had to come in every two weeks for a checkup. The doctor agreed to perform a cesarean section without blood. When the time came for the delivery, the sister was admitted to the hospital. But while the staff was preparing for the operation, she gave normal birth to twin boys. How happy this brother and sister are that they remained faithful to Jehovah’s law!
INDIAN FIELD PROVES PRODUCTIVE
There is quite a large Indian population in South Africa, and in recent years many of these people have come into the truth. There are now a number of Indian congregations in the Transvaal and Natal. Formerly, some of these persons were Hindus, some nominal Christians and others Moslems. Now, however, they unite with the rest of Jehovah’s servants in South Africa in worshiping Jehovah with spirit and with truth.—John 4:23.
EXPANSION ONCE AGAIN
For many years the brothers in South Africa and neighboring territories had been looking forward to another visit from the Watch Tower Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, who had last been in South Africa in 1959 when he arranged for the extension of the branch quarters. It was time again to expand the Bethel facilities, which by 1970 were taxed to their capacity, with 68 members in the family. When the June 1970 Kingdom Ministry announced that the district assemblies had been canceled in in favor of a national assembly, hopes were running high that there would be a visitor from Brooklyn. But it was not until November that the Kingdom Ministry announced: “Brother Knorr Is Coming.”’ The brothers were overjoyed and nothing could stop them from coming to the “Men of Goodwill” Assemblies that were arranged for January 7-10, 1971.
Due to racial segregation in South Africa and the fact that the various racial groups live in separate townships, three different assemblies had to be arranged. The Europeans met at Milner Park Show Grounds, the Colored in the Union Stadium in the Colored area, and the African brothers met in Mofolo Park in the huge complex of Soweto where hundreds of thousands of African people live.
Mofolo Park is just an open park flanked by trees, with no facilities whatsoever. So, the African brothers, with the help of many European brothers, undertook the gigantic job of constructing seating for 30,000 people and setting up various departments. They even installed flush toilets for the anticipated crowd. Municipal officials who visited the site made the remark: “We are amazed at what you are doing. Why, you have built two cities!” They were referring to the Zulu and Sesotho sections of the park.
At these assemblies something was tried for the first time with great success. That was to use one set of players to pantomime the action of a drama, while the dialogue was heard simultaneously in two languages in different sections of the stadium. This was a tremendous task, involving many hours of work. But it was greatly appreciated by the brothers who could all benefit from the excellent lessons of the dramas in their own languages.
Brother Knorr was kept busy racing from one assembly to another, to be on time for his parts on the different programs. His extemporaneous talk, “This Is the Way,” was especially appreciated, and the brothers long afterward continued to talk about the wonderful counsel they received through it. The public talk was the grand climax. At the Colored assembly 2,770 attended, 12,252 at the European, and 33,757 at the African, making a grand total of 48,779! This was a wonderful attendance when it is considered that there were only about 22,000 Witnesses in South Africa at the time.
In his very encouraging closing remarks Brother Knorr told the assembled brothers of plans to expand the Society’s factory, office and Bethel home at Elandsfontein. He also explained how the publishers could help.
The Bethel family itself greatly appreciated Brother Knorr’s visit to the branch. He observed that the family consisted mostly of young people. Nearly all of them had been reared by dedicated parents and they were happy to be at Bethel.
The Bethel family at Elandsfontein has some older ones too. For example, there is Andrew Jack, now eighty years of age and still doing a full day’s work. Gert Nel, our former “servant to the brethren,” still translates The Watchtower into Afrikaans, although he is now seventy-one years old. The family at Elandsfontein is happy, dwelling and working together in unity. The family includes fourteen African brothers and sisters. There is a warm spirit of love and unity in the family, in spite of the fact that its members come from so many different backgrounds. While English is the official language of the Bethel home, this family serves people in many languages—Zulu, Sesotho, Xhosa, Tswana, Sepedi, German, Greek, Afrikaans and Portuguese. They are happy to serve their brothers, not only in South Africa, but also in the Congo (Kinshasa, now called Zaïre), Mozambique, Rhodesia and Zambia, for whom they do printing.
When Brother Knorr informed the brothers of the size of the extension to the buildings at Elandsfontein and that the brothers were going to build the extension themselves, the response was overwhelming! Contributions started pouring into the office. So many offers of loans were received that the Society’s branch office had to tell the brothers they had enough. But at that time there was a scarcity of cement in the country and the brothers were wondering whether they would get all the cement needed. Just then an Indian brother phoned and asked them please to pick up a donation of 500 bags (50 kg. each) of cement. Others offered their trucks to do transport for the Society, one brother transporting from forty miles away all the face bricks they needed. An African pioneer sister paid a firm to deliver 20 cubic yards of building sand. The brothers were indeed offering their material things willingly for the expansion of the Kingdom work.—Prov. 3:9, 10.
A number of well-qualified builders, carpenters, electricians, and other artisans made themselves available for the whole period of building operations. Others came for several months. Hundreds from nearby congregations helped over the weekends. The response was marvelous. Toward the latter part of the building work, when lots of help was needed in cleaning up, there were sometimes as many as 200 helpers on the job. The brothers thoroughly enjoyed working together, and a grand spirit of peace and unity prevailed among them all.
Very few things were done by outside firms, as there were brothers who could do almost anything—yes, the architect, engineer, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and so forth, were all dedicated brothers, happy to have a share in the building work. Also, this building project provided a fine opportunity for brothers of the various races to work together in Kingdom service. Because of segregation laws, they generally meet separately, each one in his own community and language group, but here African, Colored, Indian and white brothers were working together in a unity that this world can never achieve.
To illustrate the generosity of the brothers, note what took place on the day they poured the concrete slab on the first floor. There were many brothers on hand to help, in fact, so many that some were given other work to do. Work commenced at 6:00 a.m., while it was still dark, and by 4:30 that afternoon 184 cubic meters of concrete had been placed and the slab was finished. The brothers were happy and there was such a marvelous spirit prevailing among them that many wished to supplement their contributions of labor by financial donations. When they came to the end of the day, they found that, with the discount, the slab cost about R3,300 and when the contributions from these workers were added up, they exceeded that amount! What a marvelous spirit!
Support came from everywhere. A heartwarming letter was received from two young sisters on St. Helena island who wrote: “Dear Brothers, Please accept this as a donation toward the building fund. Sandra and I made a bag from nylon string and sold it for £1. I am nine years of age and Sandra is six years. Christian love.”
Building operations were started on May 6, 1971, when the approved building plans were received. By October the branch overseer was hurrying the brothers to get the building finished by the end of December. “Why the hurry?” some brothers would ask. But they kept at the job, and building work was just about completed by the end of December. Only the finishing touches, painting, and the like, had to be done. By Sunday, January 30, 1972, the job was completed and many of the older members of the Bethel family had moved into some of the seventeen beautiful new bedrooms in the new wing of the Bethel home. The factory was now enlarged by over 9,000 square feet.
On Monday morning, January 31, 1972, the branch overseer announced that a few hours later the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, and the Brooklyn factory overseer, M. H. Larson, would be arriving at the Jan Smuts Airport for a visit to South Africa. What a surprise! And what a wonderful visit that was! Brothers Knorr and Larson were delighted with the building and so were the 577 brothers who attended the dedication of the new structure on Wednesday evening, February 2.
All of this was accomplished because Jehovah’s people offered themselves willingly. (Ps. 110:3) Now they have a beautiful building, built by dedicated hands, and that for about half of what it would have cost if a commercial firm had done the work. All praise to Jehovah for the willingness manifested among his dedicated servants!
NEUTRALITY AGAIN BECOMES AN ISSUE
During 1972 the neutral stand of the young brothers became quite a hot issue in South Africa. Formerly, Jehovah’s witnesses received exemption from military service; but now, due to much political activity in Africa, every young white male was to undergo military training. Because these young brothers refused to do this, they were invariably sentenced to ninety days’ detention in barracks where they would be locked up in their underwear because they refused to put on a uniform. However, before the ninety-day sentence was up, they would again be asked to don the uniform and, they refused, they would be given another sentence of ninety days. It appeared that those young brothers would be kept in prison indefinitely.
As time went on, more and more publicity was given to this issue and fair-minded persons spoke up on behalf of the Witnesses, even in Parliament. Eventually, the law was changed. Now any brother who refuses to undergo military training is sentenced to detention barracks for one year, after which he is exempt from military service. Whereas neutral Christians formerly were kept in solitary confinement, they now are assigned to look after themselves in one section of the detention barracks where they do some gardening for themselves, in addition to doing nonmilitary work on rugby grounds and other general sports grounds.
AIDING NEEDY BROTHERS
On October 13, 1972, newspapers in South Africa carried reports telling of the persecution of Jehovah’s witnesses in Malawi and that they were fleeing into Zambia. The South Africa branch contacted the Society’s Zambia branch to inquire in what way the brothers in South Africa could be of help.
After an on-the-spot check, the Zambia branch sent a cable to South Africa: “Malawi refugees urgently require waterproof shelters. Can you obtain army surplus tents, heavy-gauge P.V.C. or plastic sheeting, canvas ground sheets or similar? Telephone details for import licence. Approximately 7,000 persons involved.” On the 18th of October, an appeal went out to the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses in South Africa. The response was quick and generous. From all over the country, money and clothing poured into the Society’s office at Elandsfontein.
Over a thousand ex-military tarpaulins were bought at a sale. Many of these had small holes or tears and these had to be repaired. The weekend of October 21-22 produced a scene never to be forgotten. A steady stream of cars, vans and trucks loaded with clothing arrived at the Bethel home. Two sections were set up in the shipping department for sorting clothes into men’s, women’s and children’s groupings. Only good articles were packed. Outside there were about 150 brothers and sisters patching and sewing up tears in the tarpaulins. More than ten industrial sewing machines were going all the time. So many volunteered that a number had to be turned away. Everyone just wanted to have a share in doing something for their brothers who were in the camp at Sinda Misale, Zambia.
By Sunday morning the two trucks that were volunteered arrived. On Monday afternoon, October 23, these two huge trucks left for the camp at Sinda Misale with 948 large canvas tarpaulins, 157 large boxes and crates of clothing and 1,111 blankets, rolls of rope, hammers, saws, shovels, and so forth. These two trucks carried a load of approximately 34 tons. The brothers in South Africa were extremely happy that they had been able to share in this way, in addition to offering fervent prayers on behalf of their Malawian brothers.
By the end of that week, the trucks were in Zambia. One was unloaded in Lusaka and then returned to South Africa. The other, plus five smaller trucks of the Zambian brothers, took the donated items, plus food and contributions given by the Zambian brothers and set off for the camp. Three trips to the camp were required to transport everything that the brothers had donated.
When the trucks arrived at the camp and news spread among the Malawian brothers that their fellow believers in South Africa and Zambia had sent them covering, clothing and food, tears of joy flowed freely. Here was tangible evidence of the truthfulness of Jesus’ words at John 13:35: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”
Soon the brothers were sent back to Malawi. Then because of further persecution they fled to Mozambique. Every effort to get more truckloads of clothes and food to these brothers in the camps in Mozambique failed. So the brothers in South Africa started sending clothing by mail, making up parcels of ten kilograms each, for which the postage came to R4.44 for each parcel. Some sixteen tons of clothing were sent in this way. Additionally, the brothers showed their genuine love for their Malawian brothers in the refugee camps by making monetary contributions to buy food. In addition to individual contributions sent to the camps by many brothers in South Africa, an additional R100,000 ($142,000) was spent on Malawi relief. The brothers in South Africa were happy for what they could do for their Malawian brothers when they were in Mozambique, and their loving concern for them continues.
JOYOUS INTERNATIONAL EVENT
For Jehovah’s witnesses in South Africa, 1973 was international assembly year. First of all, nearly 1,000 from South Africa traveled abroad to attend international assemblies in Europe, England and the United States of America. Their enthusiasm helped to build up zeal for their own international assembly in Johannesburg. For the first time South Africa was on the list of international assemblies and was expecting many visitors from Europe and other parts of the world.
The brothers planned to have three different assemblies, one for the white brothers, one for the Colored and Indian brothers, and one for the African brothers. They were planning to combine all three assemblies on Sunday afternoon for one session, as they knew that they would not get permission to have a combined assembly for the whole period. But problems were encountered.
First, permission to have an African assembly in Johannesburg was refused. So African assemblies were arranged in five different centers. Instead of a defeat, this proved to be a blessing for Jehovah’s people, since many African brothers who would not have been able to attend could afford the expense of getting to a nearer assembly.
But there were further problems. Because of the military issue in this country, the Department for the Interior did not look with favor upon Jehovah’s witnesses. Consequently, many prospective visitors who stated that they were coming to attend the assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses were refused visas. Included in these were the American branch overseer, Milton Henschel, and the Society’s secretary-treasurer, Grant Suiter. The South African brothers were most disappointed.
However, the assemblies were still a divine victory! Many brothers from Europe came in as tourists and enjoyed fine fellowship with the South African brothers. The African assembly for the Johannesburg area was moved to Benoni, a city about twenty miles to the east of Johannesburg. On Sunday, January 6, 1974, the program started at 9:00 a.m. and ended at twelve o’clock. All arrangements had previously been made, and between twelve o’clock and three o’clock all the brothers at the two Johannesburg assemblies and the one at Benoni were moved to the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg for the combined final sessions. Everyone marveled at the smooth changeover from the three sites to the one, at Rand Stadium. By car, by bus and by train they arrived at Rand Stadium in one continuous stream and poured in until the stadium was full—a total of 33,408 in attendance. Many were standing.
It was indeed a beautiful sight for Jehovah’s witnesses there to see their African, Colored and white brothers all associated together in worship of Jehovah. There was no segregation. Those who knew English could sit anywhere and the brothers made use of the opportunity to be seated with their brothers of other races. Those who preferred Zulu could sit in the Zulu section; those speaking Sesotho, in the Sesotho section. There were also Afrikaans and Portuguese sections. It was truly a “mixed” company and everybody was very happy. In fact, they were so joyful that it was difficult to restrain them from applauding too much. Never have the brothers been so happy, and many described the occasion as an “unforgettable” afternoon.
How did this come about? Under divine guidance and without realizing it, they had booked the one stadium in Johannesburg set aside for international, interracial gatherings! No permit was needed for this one session. The total attendance at the public talk for all the “Divine Victory” Assemblies came to 56,286, and 1,867 were baptized.
UNPARALLELED ISOLATED-TERRITORY CAMPAIGN
The year 1974 proved to be the best yet in the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom. The Witnesses tried to reach people living on the vast farmlands of South Africa and in African “homelands.” Some of these places never had received a witness. So, during the isolated territory campaign, a special effort was made to reach all these people. City congregations willingly accepted territory assignments hundreds of miles away. Special maps were obtained showing each European farmhouse, as well as all the African villages on the farms. The European congregations undertook the covering of all the farms, including witnessing to the African residents. Where Africans could not understand the European languages, European publishers used small cassette tape recorders to play pre-recorded sermons in the people’s own languages. There was such a demand for literature that they ran out of almost all bound books during this campaign. The African congregations concentrated on the “homelands” that Europeans are not allowed to enter. During the three months of the campaign, 140,000 bound books and over 92,000 booklets, plus hundreds of thousands of magazines, were distributed. Some special pioneer groups traveled over 9,000 miles during the isolated territory campaign to reach all the farms in their assignment.
At the end of the 1974 service year, they were happy to report a grand new peak of 4,055 baptized and an increase of 14 percent in average publishers, with a peak of 28,397. The distribution of Kingdom News tracts gave an added impetus to the work.
CONTINUED EVIDENCE OF DIVINE BLESSING
The Kingdom-preaching work truly is moving ahead steadily. Why, already by early June 1975, 2,462 had been baptized during that service year. Another isolated-territory campaign even greater than in 1974 was planned, in order to reach all the people in the assignment of this branch.
In the meantime, magazine production has increased to the extent that the factory, home and offices at Elandsfontein are too small and they have to be expanded again. At the time of writing this report, their expansion plans are being drawn up. They plan to put on an extension that will include doubling the dining room, kitchen and laundry space, adding 20,000 square feet to the factory, building a new office block of 4,000 square feet and adding a large new Kingdom Hall.
The brothers rejoice in all the evidence of Jehovah’s blessing. But they also realize that they must expect opposition from the enemy. At present, they are busy with a legal case in the Supreme Court of Johannesburg to defend the rights of their African schoolchildren to attend school without singing religious songs and sharing in prayers of false religious organizations. Many of the European Witness children are also being expelled from school, but for a different reason. It is because of their refusal to participate in military-form marching, saluting the flag and singing the national anthem. What the outcome of these issues will be they do not know, but they are determined to push ahead with the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom, trusting in Jehovah’s direction.
When they recall that first one-man branch that started in 1910 in the tiny office used by Brother Johnston and compare it with their fine Bethel home today, as well as new branches formed in Rhodesia, Zambia, Zaïre, Kenya, Malagasy and Mauritius—what a difference! When they think of that little hand-fed platen press shipped from Brooklyn in 1924, and installed by Brother Phillips, and then take a stroll through their printing factory here full of machinery, turning out vast quantities of Kingdom magazines and other items—what expansion! When they remember the small Bethel family of 21 in 1951, living in separate homes and consider today’s united, happy family of 110 brothers and sisters—what growth! And when they note that in 1931, in all the territories under this branch office there were a mere 100 publishers, whereas today in the same area there are over 140,000 preachers of the good news, how they are filled with gratitude to God! His acts today are momentous, as were other divine dealings of the past. They can appropriately adopt the words of the psalmist: “This has come to be from Jehovah himself; it is wonderful in our eyes.”—Ps. 118:23.
[Picture on page 187]
Bethel Home at Elandsfontein, in 1952
[Picture on page 240, 241]
Watch Tower Society’s office and printery, Elandsfontein, S. Afr.