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Festivities marred by racist insults

News - Date: 15 March 2002

Written by: Frans van der Merwe / Viewed: 960


KRANSPOORT – A scathing attack on the 'Nederduitse-Gereformeerde Kerk' and a blatantly racist insult to the memory of white pioneer missionaries marred the festivities last weekend when the historic Kranspoort Mission Station was officially handed over to the Kranspoort Communal Committee.

The Land Claims Commission organised the festivities to mark the signing of a document that puts this committee in charge of the resettlement and overall development of the farm. This was done in accordance with a plan officially condoned by the Land Claims Court.

The Kranspoort land claim was hailed as a historic case, because it was the first land claim to be brought before the court with a successful outcome for the claimants.

The Provincial MEC for Agriculture, Dr A Motsoaledi, launched an attack on the "Nederduits-Gereformeerde Kerk van Transvaal", registered owner of the farm Kranspoort. He accused the church of intransigence. The church opposed the claim regarding the farm. The matter was referred to the Land Claims Court in 1999.

The MEC said that the church had banished God from Kranspoort. "The last time God was here was in 1964 when the people left" (He referred to people who were accused of being troublemakers, who were evicted in terms of the Development Trust and Land Act of 1938.)

Dr Motsoaledi contrasted the teachings of Christian charity with the treatment this church had meted out to the community of Kranspoort and said that God is not a God of deportation and deprivation.

He referred to the spontaneous singing of hymns by a group of people attending the handing-over ceremony. He said that they were singing because God was now back at Kranspoort.

When asked if there would be a thanksgiving service in the historic mission church to mark the occasion, the chairman of the so-called Kranspoort Community Committee, Mr E Serumula, curtly replied: "That is not part of the programme."

The mayor of the Makhado Municipal Council, Cllr Brighton Tlakula, joined in the vilification of the church and its missionaries when delivering his welcoming address. He quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu as saying that the white clergy told the black congregation to get onto their knees to pray, and when they opened their eyes all the fertile land was gone.

A poet, Mr Ngoako Sevumula, recited a lengthy poem in which he blatantly accused the church of using white missionaries to steal the black peoples' land.

He mentioned by name the white pioneers of Kranspoort Mission Station. Amongst these are the devout Scottish missionary McKidd, the dedicated pioneer Hofmeyr, who, in his time was shunned by some of his own people because of his dedication to the welfare of the people at Kranspoort, and Daneel, who spent his entire life teaching the Gospel at Kranspoort.

People who attended the festivities at Kranspoort were shocked by the total lack of care for the graves of these pioneers. They died in the malaria-infested Soutpansberg bush, far removed from their next of kin, to serve the local inhabitants. This they did not only by preaching the gospel but also by teaching the people reading and writing skills and needlework. The youthful Frans Preiss, who died of malaria in his early twenties, was known to have imparted construction and building skills to the local inhabitants, whilst erecting most of the structures on the mission station. Hofmeyr, who, against the advice of the church, bought the land on which the mission station was developed, assisted the local population in acquiring irrigation skills and the planting of the first fruit orchards. He had a vision of developing Kranspoort as a model educational and agricultural centre for the community.

Before his death he bequeathed the land to the church, on the specific condition that Kranspoort be utilised for missionary work for all time to come.

The Land Claims Court mentioned nothing in its findings about this last wish of the man who was the first registered owner of the farm. He was also instrumental in the first real development that led up to the erection of almost all the major structures, which comprise the present site of the historic mission station.

Mr R S Ramevha, of the Makhado Land Claims Forum, hailed the handing over of the farm and said: "The gods of Makhado and Seakamela will now rest in peace."

The MEC promised assistance in the agricultural development planned at Kranspoort. He said the real task of the development of the land is now at hand and should be tackled in a vigorous way. He paid homage to the Belgian government who afforded considerable financial assistance to the Land Claims Commission and the Legal Recourse Centre.


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Frans van der Merwe

Frans van der Merwe is a freelance journalist with more than 40 years experience in the newspaper industry. Apart from newspaper reporting, he was also involved with radio news, news reading, training and marketing. He has been living and working in Louis Trichardt since 1991.


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