Skip to content

Skip to table of contents

South Africa

South Africa

South Africa

IF YOU walk along a busy city street in South Africa, you can observe a kaleidoscope of skin color ranging from the darkest black to the palest white. Above the traffic noise, you hear snatches of conversation in a profusion of tongues. Towering office buildings shade you from the blazing sun as you make your way past sellers of fruit, curios, and clothing. If you like, you can stop for a sidewalk haircut.

Amid such variety in a population of over 44 million, it is difficult to pick out a typical South African. The indigenous black people, about 75 percent of the total population, comprise Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Pedi, and Tswana, as well as several other smaller groups. The white population consists mainly of English- and Afrikaans-speaking people. These include descendants of Dutch settlers of the mid-17th century followed by French Huguenots. English settlers arrived in the early 19th century.

There is also a large Indian community, descendants of laborers who worked in the sugarcane fields of Natal (now in KwaZulu-Natal). Because of this blend of races and cultures, South Africa is aptly called the Rainbow Nation.

In the past, race relations were troubled. The apartheid policy brought international condemnation. In recent years, favorable publicity was given to the dismantling of apartheid and the inauguration of a democratically elected government.

Now all races can mingle freely​—they can go to any public place, such as a cinema or a restaurant. A person of any race can live where he chooses, provided he has the financial means.

Nevertheless, after the initial excitement abated, inevitable questions were raised. To what extent would the new government redress the injustices of apartheid? How long would it take? With the passing of more than a decade, serious problems remain. Among the great problems the government faces are increasing crime, an unemployment rate of 41 percent, and an estimated total of five million HIV-positive individuals. Many people have come to realize that no human government can eradicate these ills and have turned elsewhere for solutions.


Despite the country’s problems, tourists are still captivated by the land’s natural beauty. The numerous tourist attractions include beautiful sun-drenched beaches, imposing mountain ranges, and a wide variety of hiking trails. In the cities, you will find world-class shops and restaurants. The temperate climate adds to South Africa’s appeal.

Diverse wildlife is a major attraction. The country boasts some 200 species of mammals, 800 species of birds, and 20,000 kinds of flowering plants. People throng to game reserves, such as the famous Kruger National Park. There in the wild, you can see Africa’s “big five”: elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, and buffalo.

An unforgettable experience is a visit to one of South Africa’s several indigenous forests. In sheltered tranquillity you can admire unusual ferns, lichens, and flowers, as well as exotic birds and insects. As you look up at a magnificent yellowwood tree, you marvel that this giant has grown from a tiny seed. Some of these trees may reach a height of 180 feet [50 m] and be a thousand years old.

For a century, though, a different kind of seed has been planted and cultivated in this country. It is the good news of God’s Kingdom, which has been sown in people’s hearts. The psalmist compared responsive ones to large trees when he wrote: “The righteous himself will blossom forth as a palm tree does; as a cedar in Lebanon does, he will grow big.” (Ps. 92:12) Such righteous ones will live longer than the most ancient yellowwoods, for Jehovah has promised them everlasting life.​—John 3:16.


During the 19th century, the country was unsettled by war and political conflict. The discovery of diamonds and gold in the latter part of that century had a far-reaching effect. In the book The Mind of South Africa, Allister Sparks explains: “Overnight it turned a pastoral country into an industrial one, sucking country folk into the city and changing their lives.”

In 1902 the first seeds of Bible truth arrived in South Africa in the luggage of a clergyman from Holland. One of his boxes contained some of the publications of the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known. These publications came into the hands of Frans Ebersohn and Stoffel Fourie, in Klerksdorp. They recognized what they read as the truth and began witnessing to others. More than 80 relatives of the Fourie family spanning five generations and several descendants of the Ebersohn family became dedicated servants of Jehovah. One of Fourie’s descendants is currently serving at the South Africa Bethel.

In 1910, William W. Johnston from Glasgow, Scotland, came to South Africa with instructions to open a branch office of the Bible Students. Probably in his early 30’s at the time, Brother Johnston was sober-minded and reliable. The branch office he set up consisted of a small room in a building in Durban. This office was entrusted with a vast territory, virtually the whole of Africa south of the equator.

In those early years, the good news took root primarily in the white communities. At the time, the Bible Students’ literature was available only in Dutch and English, and not until years later were some publications translated into the vernacular languages. In time, the work progressed in the four fields​—white, black, colored, * and Indian.

From 1911 onward, there is a record of progress among black communities in the country. Johannes Tshange returned to his hometown of Ndwedwe, near Durban. He had a knowledge of Bible truth, which he shared with others. He conducted regular Bible studies with a small group, using Studies in the Scriptures in English. This group evidently became the first black congregation in South Africa.

The group attracted the attention of the local clergy. Members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church checked with them to find out if they were adhering to the teachings of the church. The group replied that they were teaching what was in the Bible. After many discussions, the members of this group were excommunicated from the church. Brother Johnston contacted the group and visited them regularly to conduct meetings and give assistance. Although the Bible Students were few, much preaching work was being done. A report in 1912 showed that a total of 61,808 tracts had been distributed. Also, by the end of 1913, 11 newspapers in South Africa were publishing in four languages the sermons of C. T. Russell, a leading Bible Student.


The year 1914 was significant for the small group of Jehovah’s servants in South Africa, as it was for God’s people worldwide. Many expected to receive their heavenly reward at that time. In the annual report that Brother Johnston sent to world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, he wrote: “In the last annual report, I expressed the hope that the next occasion would find us reporting to headquarters beyond the veil. That hope has not been realized.” However, he added: “The year that has gone has been the busiest in the history of the harvest work in Africa.” Most came to appreciate that there was more work to be done, and they rejoiced to have a share in it. The increased momentum was reflected in the report for the year 1915, which showed that 3,141 copies of Studies in the Scriptures had been distributed, about double that of the previous year.

One who found the truth at this time was Japie Theron, a capable lawyer. He read a Durban newspaper article referring to literature published by the Bible Students decades earlier. The newspaper article showed that events unfolding since 1914 had been foretold in the series of books Studies in the Scriptures, which explained Bible prophecy. Japie wrote: “I had to have these books, and after hunting through all the bookshops in vain, I finally got a set by writing to the branch address in Durban. What a revelation! What a delight to understand ‘hidden things’ recorded in the Bible!” In time, Japie was baptized, and he zealously shared Bible truth with others until his premature death from illness in 1921.

In April 1914 the first South Africa Convention of the International Bible Students was held in Johannesburg. Of the 34 who attended, 16 were baptized.

In 1916 the “Photo-Drama of Creation” arrived and was well received throughout the country. The Cape Argus newspaper reported: “The success that has attended the production of this wonderful series of Bible Films fully justifies the enterprise and foresight of the International Bible Students Association in bringing it to this country.” The impact that the “Photo-Drama” had on the field was not immediately discernible, but the presentation attracted large crowds and gave a good witness over a wide area in a short time. Brother Johnston traveled some 5,000 miles [8,000 km] throughout the country to present it.

The death of Brother Russell that same year caused a temporary setback to the preaching work in South Africa, as it did elsewhere. Some resented the changes that had to be made after his death, and they caused dissension in the congregations they attended. For example, in Durban the majority of the congregation broke away and held separate meetings. They labeled themselves “Associated Bible Students.” Only 12 remained of the original congregation, mostly sisters. This placed one recently baptized teenager, Henry Myrdal, in a difficult position. His father had joined the opposition, while his mother remained with the diminished congregation. After careful thought and prayer, Henry decided to stay with the congregation. As is usually the case, the breakaway group did not last very long.

In 1917 the branch office was transferred from Durban to Cape Town. There was a steady increase in the number of publishers. By that time, there were estimated to be 200 to 300 Bible Students of European descent as well as a number of flourishing congregations among the black population.

In 1917 the South Africa branch office reported: “Despite the fact that we have no literature in the native languages, the grasp of present truth which these native brethren have is phenomenal. We can only say, ‘It is the Lord’s doing and marvelous in our eyes.’” Brothers from Nyasaland (now Malawi) came to work in South Africa and assisted many in the black field to become disciples. Among the former were James Napier and McCoffie Nguluh.


In those early years, the small band of evangelizers fearlessly defended the truth. In Nylstroom, Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo Province), two schoolboys read the booklet What Say the Scriptures About Hell? They were thrilled to learn the truth about the dead. One of them, Paul Smit, * said: “Nylstroom became a center of commotion, as if struck by a cyclone, as we two schoolboys made it known in no uncertain way that the doctrines of the church were false. Within a short while, all sorts of people were talking about this new religion. The clergy, of course, played their well-known role of those who misrepresent and persecute God’s people. Their weekly sermons for months, even years, centered on this ‘false religion.’” Nevertheless, by 1924 there was a small group of 13 active publishers in Nylstroom.

In 1917, Piet de Jager was studying theology at the university in Stellenbosch. A fellow student was reading and talking about literature published by the Bible Students. This worried the church authorities, who asked Piet to talk to this student and invite him to attend a weekly Bible study organized by the Christian Students Association. The outcome was not what the authorities had in mind. Piet himself accepted the truth. After fruitlessly debating with his professors about the soul, hell, and other matters, he left the university.

Later, a public debate was arranged between Piet and a Dutch Reformed doctor of theology, Dwight Snyman, with an audience of 1,500 students. Brother Attie Smit described the proceedings: “Piet pinned down this learned doctor on every point and proved from the Bible that the church had unbiblical doctrines. One of the students summed up his own view, ‘If I did not believe that Piet de Jager was wrong, I would swear that he was right because he proved everything from the Bible with scriptures!’”


On a visit to the little town of Franschhoek, near Stellenbosch, Brother Johnston contacted some members of the colored population living there. Years before, a local schoolteacher, Adam van Diemen, had left the Dutch Reformed Church and formed a small religious group. Brother Johnston called on him, and Mr. van Diemen took literature for himself as well as for his friends.

Van Diemen and some of his friends accepted the truth and actively shared their knowledge with others. This laid a good basis for the spread of the Kingdom good news in the colored field. G. A. Daniels, then 17 years old, learned the truth at this time and devoted the rest of his life to Jehovah’s service.

In later years, David Taylor, a colored brother, also had a zealous share in spreading Bible truth in this field. He started to study the Bible with the Bible Students at the age of 17. In 1950 he was appointed a circuit overseer and assigned to visit all the colored congregations and isolated groups in the country, which by then had grown to 24. This entailed much traveling by train and bus.


In 1918, Brother Johnston was assigned to oversee the Kingdom-preaching work in Australia, and Henry Ancketill was asked to serve as branch overseer in South Africa. He had previously been a member of the legislative assembly in Natal. He was retired, and although no longer young, he fulfilled his assignment well for the next six years.

Despite the turbulent war years and organizational adjustments, growth continued as many avidly responded to Bible truth. In 1921, Christiaan Venter, the crew supervisor of a team of railroad maintenance men, noticed a piece of paper wedged under a rail. It was a tract published by the Bible Students. He read it and ran to his son-in-law, Abraham Celliers. Christiaan said, “Abraham, today I have found the truth!” The two men obtained more Bible-based literature and studied it diligently. Both became dedicated Witnesses and helped many to learn the truth. Over a hundred of their descendants are Witnesses of Jehovah.


By 1924 a printing press had been shipped to Cape Town. Also, two brothers arrived from Britain to give assistance​—Thomas Walder, who became branch overseer, and George Phillips, * who succeeded him as branch overseer a few years later. Brother Phillips served in this capacity for nearly 40 years and made a major contribution toward advancing and establishing the Kingdom work in South Africa.

The evangelizing work was given further impetus in 1931 with the resolution to adopt the name Jehovah’s Witnesses. The booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World was released at that time, giving the full text of this resolution. It was distributed throughout the country, and an effort was made to place a copy with every clergyman, politician, and prominent businessman in the territory.


In 1933 the branch office moved to larger rented premises in Cape Town and remained there until 1952. By then the Bethel family had grown to 21 members. Those early Bethelites had accommodations in brothers’ homes and traveled to the office and printery every day. Before work each morning, they met in the changing room of the printery to discuss the daily text. After that, they recited the Lord’s Prayer in unison.

Some lived too far away to go home for lunch. They were given one shilling and sixpence (15 South African cents) to buy a meal. With that they could buy a plate of mashed potatoes and a small sausage at the railway station café or they could buy a loaf of bread and some fruit.

In 1935, Andrew Jack, a qualified printer, was sent to help with the printing work at the Cape Town branch. He was Scottish, of slim build, with a ready smile. Previously he had enjoyed full-time service in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. After arriving in South Africa, Andrew obtained more printing equipment, and before long the one-man printery was operating at full speed. The first automatic printing press, a Frontex, was installed in 1937. For over 40 years, it turned out millions of handbills and forms as well as magazines in Afrikaans.

Andrew served at the South Africa Bethel for the rest of his life. Even when well on in years, he set a fine example for the Bethel family, regularly having a full share in the field ministry. A faithful anointed brother, Andrew finished his earthly course in 1984 at the age of 89, after 58 years of dedicated service.


The second world war did not have as dramatic an impact on South Africa as it did on Europe, though many South Africans did fight in Africa and Italy. The war was given much publicity to stir up popular support and to attract recruits. Despite the strong patriotic spirit among the people at that time, the 1940 service year saw a new peak of 881 publishers​—a 58.7 percent increase over the preceding year’s peak of 555!

In January 1939, Consolation (now Awake!) was published in Afrikaans for the first time. This was also the first magazine to be printed by Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Africa. Type for this magazine was set by hand, a slow process. Soon it was decided to publish The Watchtower in Afrikaans. Although the brothers did not realize it then, that was a timely decision in view of future events in Europe. A Linotype and a folder were installed. The first issue appeared on June 1, 1940.

Up to this point, the brothers had received the Dutch Watchtower from the Netherlands for Afrikaans readers, since the two languages are similar. But in May 1940, because of Hitler’s invasion of Netherlands, the branch suddenly closed. However, the printing of The Watchtower in Afrikaans had begun in South Africa, so the brothers did not miss any issues of the magazine. Monthly distribution of magazines went up to 17,000.


As a result of pressure from religious leaders of Christendom and the government’s alarm over our neutral stand, subscribers’ copies of The Watchtower and Consolation were seized by the censorship authorities in 1940. An official announcement was made banning these publications. Shipments of magazines and literature from overseas were seized on arrival.

Nevertheless, the brothers still received their spiritual food on time. A copy of The Watchtower in English always found its way to the branch office, where it was set and printed. George Phillips wrote: “While the ban was on, we had . . . the most marvelous evidence of Jehovah’s loving care and protection over his people. We never missed a single issue of The Watchtower. Many a time only one copy of an issue would get through. Sometimes it was a subscriber in one of the Rhodesias [now Zambia and Zimbabwe] or in Portuguese East Africa [now Mozambique] or on a lonely farm in South Africa or a visitor from a boat touching at Cape Town that would supply what was needed.”

In August 1941 all the outgoing mail from the branch office was seized without explanation by the censorship authorities. Later that year, the minister of the interior issued an order to seize all the organization’s publications in the country. At ten o’clock one morning, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrived at the branch office with trucks for the purpose of removing all the literature. Brother Phillips checked the order and saw that it was not strictly in accord with the regulations. The books were not listed by name, which was required according to the Government Gazette.

Brother Phillips then asked the CID officers to wait while he contacted a lawyer and made an urgent application to the supreme court for an interdict to restrain the minister of the interior from seizing the literature. His application was successful. By noon the interdict was obtained, and the police left empty-handed. Five days later, the minister withdrew the order and paid our legal fees.

The legal battle regarding the banning of our literature continued for some years. The brothers hid literature in their homes. While they had less literature to use in the field, they made wise use of it. They would lend books to those who wanted to study the Bible. Many accepted the truth at this time.

Toward the end of 1943, a new minister of the interior was appointed. An application for the removal of the ban was submitted and was successful. Early in 1944, the ban was lifted and the large stock of literature that had been seized by the authorities was delivered to the branch office.

How successful were the opposers of true worship in their efforts to stop the Kingdom-preaching activity? The figures for the 1945 service year indicate that Jehovah blessed the dedicated service of his faithful people, and the work forged ahead as never before. An average of 2,991 publishers placed 370,264 pieces of literature and conducted 4,777 Bible studies. This compares well with the peak of 881 publishers in 1940.


The introduction of the Course in Theocratic Ministry (now called the Theocratic Ministry School) in 1943 provided training that enabled many brothers to qualify as public speakers. It also helped more to be effective in the field ministry. By 1945 there were a good number of trained speakers, and a campaign of Public Meetings was started. The brothers advertised the talks, using handbills and placards.

Piet Wentzel * was a young pioneer at the time. Reminiscing about those early years, he recalls: “I was transferred to Vereeniging, with Frans Muller as my pioneer partner. Before we started with our Public Meeting campaign in July 1945, I prepared two of the four talks that were to be given. I went down to the river every lunchtime, and for one hour I spoke to the river and the trees, practicing my talks for a whole month before I felt confident enough to address an audience.” When the first talk was given in Vereeniging, 37 interested people attended. From this, the foundation was laid for a congregation that was formed later.

After many years as a traveling overseer, Piet, with his wife, Lina, was invited to Bethel. Now a member of the Branch Committee, he has maintained his zeal for the ministry and is still an ardent student of the Bible. Lina died on February 12, 2004, after 59 years as a full-time servant of Jehovah.


Another development under the direction of headquarters in Brooklyn was the appointment of men referred to as servants to the brethren. These were forerunners of the circuit overseers of today. Those appointed were single men in good health and with plenty of vigor to keep up the busy schedule.

At first, larger congregations had visits of two or three days; small groups received only one-day visits. Thus, the assigned brothers did a lot of traveling. They used mostly public transport, often catching trains and buses at awkward hours. During their visits they carefully checked the records of the congregations. Their main objective, though, was to spend time in the field with the brothers and to train them in the ministry.

One servant to the brethren appointed in 1943 was Gert Nel, who had come to a knowledge of the truth in 1934 while teaching school in Northern Transvaal. He helped numerous publishers, and many still remember his faithful service. Tall and lean and rather stern in appearance, he was a zealous fighter for the truth. He was well-known for his remarkable memory, but he also had a great love for people. He would work in service from seven in the morning until seven or eight at night, without stopping for a break. In his journeys as a traveling overseer, he would board trains at all hours of the day or night; spend a few days with a congregation, depending on its size; and then move on to the next one. That is the way he would go on, week after week. He was called into Bethel in 1946 as an Afrikaans translator, and he continued to serve there faithfully until his death in 1991. He was the last of the anointed brothers to serve at the South Africa Bethel. Between 1982 and 1985, other faithful anointed ones​—George Phillips, Andrew Jack, and Gerald Garrard—​ended their earthly course.


Jehovah’s servants appreciate the services of traveling overseers and their wives, who give unstintingly of themselves as they strengthen the congregations spiritually. For example, Luke Dladla was appointed a circuit overseer in 1965 and is now a regular pioneer. He said: “Today, in 2006, I am 81 years of age and my wife is 68, but we are still able to ascend and descend mountains and cross rivers to spread the good news in our territory. We have spent over 50 years in the field.”

Andrew Masondo was appointed a circuit overseer in 1954. He said: “In 1965, I was assigned to Botswana, and that was just like a missionary assignment. There was famine in the land, as it had not rained for three years. My wife Georgina and I found out what it is like to go to bed without supper and to go in the field ministry in the morning without breakfast. We would usually have only one meal, at noon.

“When I returned to South Africa, I was appointed a district overseer and trained by Ernest Pandachuk. His parting words to me were, ‘Never raise your head above the brothers, but be like a stalk of grain that bows its head when it is ripe, showing it has rich fruitage.’”


In April 1947 the first circuit assembly in South Africa was held in Durban. Milton Bartlett, a graduate of the fifth class of Gilead and the first missionary to come to South Africa, describes his impression of the brothers who attended this assembly: “It was a thrilling experience to see the attitude of the black 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.”

As interest among the black population continued to grow, more assistance was given. The first issue of The Watchtower in Zulu was dated January 1, 1949. It was printed on a small hand-operated duplicating machine at the branch office in Cape Town. It was not the bright and attractive magazine that it is today, but it provided valuable spiritual food. In 1950, literacy classes were set up in six languages. These classes equipped hundreds of eager brothers and sisters to read God’s Word for themselves.

As the evangelizing work progressed, the need arose for suitable meeting places. In 1948 a pioneer was assigned to Strand, near Cape Town, where he was privileged to organize the building of the first Kingdom Hall in South Africa. A local sister financed the project. George Phillips said, “I wish that I could put the new hall on wheels and take it around the country to encourage the brothers to build more Kingdom Halls.” It would take some years before organized Kingdom Hall construction was established throughout the country.


Between the years 1860 and 1911, contract laborers were brought from India to work in the sugarcane fields in Natal. Many remained after they had completed their work contracts, and a sizable Indian population​—now numbering over one million—​settled in the country. By the early 1950’s, interest in Bible truth was developing in the Indian communities.

Velloo Naicker was born in 1915, the fourth son in a family of nine children. His parents worked on a sugarcane plantation and were devout Hindus. Bible classes in school stimulated his interest, and when Velloo was a young man, someone gave him a Bible. He read it every day, completing it in four years. He wrote: “Matthew 5:6 appealed to me. When I read this, I realized that it makes God happy if one is hungry for truth and what is right.”

Velloo was finally contacted by a Witness and started to study the Bible. He was one of the first Indians in South Africa to be baptized, in 1954. The Hindu community where he then lived in Actonville, Gauteng, was strongly opposed to Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a prominent individual even threatened to take Velloo’s life. Velloo lost his job as the manager of a dry-cleaning business as a result of his firm stand for Bible truth. Nevertheless, he continued to serve Jehovah faithfully until his death in 1981. His fine example bore fruit, as over 190 family members (including family by marriage) through four generations are currently serving Jehovah.

Gopal Coopsammy was 14 years old when he first heard the truth from his uncle Velloo. “Velloo talked about the Bible with a few of us young ones, though I did not have a Bible study,” he recalls. “The Bible was a strange book to me, a Hindu. But some of what I read made sense. One day I saw that Velloo was going out to a Congregation Book Study. I asked him if I could go along. He agreed, and ever since then, I have attended the meetings. I wanted to further my Bible knowledge, so I went to the public library and found some publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There was much opposition from my family, but I always remembered the words of Psalm 27:10: ‘In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, even Jehovah himself would take me up.’ I was baptized in 1955, at the age of 15.”

Gopal is the presiding overseer of the congregation where he now serves, along with his wife, Susila. They have helped some 150 people to become dedicated servants of Jehovah. When asked how they accomplished this, he explained: “There were many family members living in our area, and I was able to witness to them. A number of them responded favorably. I also ran my own business, and this gave me some free time to spend in the ministry. I pioneered for four years. I worked hard in the ministry and diligently followed up any interest found.”


Doreen Kilgour and Isabella Elleray graduated from Gilead in 1956 and 1957 respectively. They served for 24 years in the Indian community in Chatsworth, a suburb of Durban.

Doreen described what working in the territory was like: “We had to have patience. Some had never heard of Adam and Eve. People were hospitable. Hindus think it is wrong to let you stand at the door. They used to say, ‘Have tea and go,’ meaning that we should have tea before we went to the next home. After a while, we felt as if our eyeballs were floating in tea. To us, it was a miracle every time an Indian left his deeply entrenched religious beliefs and became a worshipper of Jehovah.”

Isabella related this experience: “While sharing in the field ministry, I spoke to a man who accepted the magazines. His wife, Darishnie, who had just been to church, joined him. She was holding their baby. We had a lovely discussion, and I arranged to call on them. However, Darishnie was never at home. Later, she told me that her pastor had said that she must go out when I called. This, he reasoned, would make me think that she was not interested. I went to England to visit my family. While I was there, I kept thinking about Darishnie. When I returned to South Africa, I went to see her. She wanted to know where I had been. She said: ‘I was sure that you thought that I was not interested. I am so pleased to see you again.’ We started to study, though her husband did not join us. She was a keen student and in time was baptized.

“Her religion taught that a married woman wears a gold ornament attached to a yellow string around her neck. It is called a tali. She is supposed to take it off only if her husband dies. When Darishnie wanted to start sharing in the preaching work, she understood that she had to take off the tali. She asked me what she should do. I advised her to ask her husband first and see what his reaction was. She asked, but he did not want her to take it off. I told her to be patient, to wait a while and, when he was in a good mood, to ask him again. He eventually agreed that she could take it off. We encouraged our Bible students to be tactful and to show respect for Hindu teachings while at the same time taking a stand for Bible truth. They thus avoided unnecessarily hurting the feelings of friends and relatives, who in turn found it easier to accept the Bible students’ change of religion.”

When asked what helped them to endure for many years as missionaries, Doreen said: “We grew to love the people. We immersed ourselves in our assignment and thoroughly enjoyed it.” Isabella added: “We made many dear friends. We were sorry to leave our assignment, but our health is no longer good. We gratefully accepted the kind invitation to serve at Bethel.” Isabella passed away on December 22, 2003.

The other missionaries who served in Chatsworth likewise found that because of advancing age, they could not continue in their assignments as well as run the missionary home, so they were also assigned to Bethel. They were Eric and Myrtle Cooke, Maureen Steynberg, and Ron Stephens, who is now deceased.


When Nathan Knorr and Milton Henschel, who were serving at headquarters in Brooklyn, visited South Africa in 1948, it was decided to purchase property for a Bethel home and printery at Elandsfontein, near Johannesburg. The project was completed in 1952. For the first time, members of the Bethel family could live together under one roof. Much additional printing equipment was installed, including a flatbed press. The Watchtower was published in eight languages, and Awake! in three.

In 1959 the Bethel home and printery were expanded. The addition was larger than the original building. A new Timson press was installed, the first rotary press in the branch.

To assist with the printery operations, Brother Knorr invited four young brothers from Canada to move to South Africa: Bill McLellan, Dennis Leech, Ken Nordin, and John Kikot. They arrived in November 1959. Bill McLellan and his wife, Marilyn, still serve at the South Africa Bethel, while John Kikot and his wife, Laura, now serve at Brooklyn Bethel, New York. Ken Nordin and Dennis Leech remained in South Africa, married, and raised families. They continue to make a fine contribution to Kingdom interests. Both of Ken’s children are serving at the South Africa Bethel.

The expanded Bethel and the new equipment were used to the full in caring for the growing interest in the country. In 1952 the number of publishers in South Africa exceeded 10,000. By 1959, that figure had grown to 16,776.


To understand the problems the brothers faced under the apartheid system, it is helpful to know how apartheid was enforced. The law allowed blacks, whites (of European descent), colored (of mixed descent), and Indians to work in the cities in the same buildings, such as factories, offices, and restaurants. But at night, each racial group had to return to its own suburb. The races were thus kept apart as far as living quarters were concerned. All buildings had to have separate eating and washroom facilities for whites and for people of other races.

When the first branch was built at Elandsfontein, the authorities did not allow the black, colored, and Indian brothers to live in the same buildings as the white brothers. At the time, most of those in Bethel were white because of the difficulties in getting permits for those of other races to work in the city. There were, however, 12 black and colored brothers and sisters at Bethel, mainly translators of the vernacular languages. The government gave permission to build five rooms at the back of and separate from the main residence to accommodate these brothers. The permission was later withdrawn when apartheid rules were more strictly applied, and our brothers had to travel to the nearest African township, some 15 miles [20 km] away, and stay at a men’s hostel. The two black sisters were accommodated in private homes of Witnesses in the township.

The law did not even allow these Bethelites to eat with their white brothers in the main dining room, and inspectors from the local municipality were watching for any infringement of the law. However, the white brothers could not bear the thought of eating separately. So they replaced the clear glass windows in the dining room with opaque panes so that the whole family could be together for meals without disturbance.

In 1966, George Phillips found it necessary to leave Bethel because of the poor health of his wife, Stella. Harry Arnott, a capable brother, was assigned as branch overseer, and he served in this capacity for two years. From 1968 onward, Frans Muller * has served as branch overseer and later as Branch Committee coordinator.


The book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life was released at the district convention in 1968. Affectionately known as the blue bombshell, it had a stimulating effect on the field. The Shipping Department had been sending about 90,000 books to the field annually but, during the 1970 service year, sent out 447,000 books.

In 1971, Brother Knorr paid another visit to South Africa. By this time, Bethel had again become too small. There were now 68 members in the family. Extensions were planned, and brothers willingly offered their services or donated funds for the project. Construction was completed by January 30, 1972. Another extension was finished in 1978. All this expansion provided encouraging reassurance of Jehovah’s backing, for at the time God’s people faced increasing pressure from governmental authorities.


South Africa left the British Commonwealth and became a republic in May 1961. This was a time of political turmoil and increasing violence in the country. In efforts to contain the situation, the ruling government stoked the spirit of nationalism, and this caused difficulties for Jehovah’s Witnesses in the years that followed.

For many years Jehovah’s Witnesses had not been required to perform military service. This changed in the late 1960’s when the country became increasingly involved in military operations in Namibia and Angola. New legislation required that every young, white, medically fit male perform military service. Brothers who refused were sentenced to a military detention barracks for 90 days.

Mike Marx was with a group of detained brothers who were ordered to put on army overalls and helmets. He recalls: “Because we did not want to be identified as part of the military, we refused. The commanding officer, a captain, then imposed on us the loss of privileges, solitary confinement, and a spare diet.” This meant that the brothers could not write or receive letters, have visitors, or possess any reading matter except the Bible. Spare diet​—ostensibly for incorrigible prisoners—​consisted of water and half a loaf of bread per day for two days followed by normal army rations for seven days before the next two days of bread and water. Even the so-called normal diet frequently left much to be desired in quality and quantity.

Every effort was made to break the integrity of the brothers. Each one was locked up in a small cell. At one stage, showers were not permitted. Instead, each brother was given one bucket for a toilet and another one to wash in. In time, shower privileges were restored.

“One day,” recalls Keith Wiggill, “after we had a cold shower in the middle of winter, the guards took away our mattresses and blankets. They did not allow us to wear our civilian clothes, so we wore only a pair of shorts and an undershirt. We slept on a damp towel on the ice-cold concrete floor. In the morning the sergeant major was amazed at how happy and well we were. He acknowledged that our God had looked after us during that icy winter night.”

Shortly before they completed the 90-day sentence, the brothers would be taken to court again because they would not put on the uniform or train with the other military prisoners. Then it was back to detention. The authorities made it clear that they intended to resentence the brothers until they reached the age of 65, when they would no longer be eligible for military service.

In 1972, after strong public and political pressure, the law was changed. Brothers received a single prison sentence commensurate with the length of military training. The sentence was initially 12 to 18 months. Later it was increased to three years and eventually to six years. In time, the authorities did make some concessions, and the brothers were allowed to hold one weekly meeting.

While in the detention barracks, the brothers did not forget Christ’s command to make disciples. (Matt. 28:19, 20) They spoke to fellow inmates, those in authority, and others with whom they came in contact. For a while they were permitted to use Saturday afternoons to share the good news by writing letters.

At one time, the military authorities ordered the 350 Witnesses to have their meals along with the 170 military inmates. The detention barracks became the only territory with a ratio of 2 Witnesses to 1 non-Witness, and the authorities soon decided that the brothers should have their meals on their own.


How did the churches of Christendom respond to the issue of compulsory military service? The South African Council of Churches (SACC) passed a resolution on conscientious objection in July 1974. Rather than sticking to the religious issue, however, the statement had distinct political overtones. It supported conscientious objection on the grounds that the military was defending an “unjust and discriminatory society” and was thus waging an unjust war. The Afrikaans churches, as well as other church groups, were not in favor of the SACC resolution.

The Dutch Reformed Church supported the government in its military pursuits. It rejected the SACC resolution as a violation of Romans chapter 13. Another group that opposed the SACC stand was that of the religious chaplains serving in the South African Defense Force, which included clergymen from churches that were SACC members. In a joint statement, the chaplains of the English-language churches condemned the resolution and declared: “We . . . urge every member of our churches and especially the young men to make their personal contribution in the defence of the country.”

Furthermore, the individual member churches of the SACC did not take a clear position on neutrality. The book War and Conscience in South Africa admits: “Most . . . failed to clarify their positions to their membership, let alone challenge their members to be conscientious objectors.” The book shows that the government’s strong reaction to the SACC resolution, backed by strict legislation, made the churches hesitant to stress their convictions: “Attempts to commit the church to a constructive programme of action met with failure.”

In contrast, this book acknowledges: “By far the majority of conscientious objectors who were imprisoned were Jehovah’s Witnesses.” It adds: “Jehovah’s Witnesses focused on the rights of individuals to oppose all wars on grounds of conscience.”

The Witnesses’ stand was strictly religious. While they concede that “the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God,” the Witnesses remain politically neutral. (Rom. 13:1) Their primary allegiance goes to Jehovah, who reveals in his Word, the Bible, that his true worshippers will have no share in carnal warfare.​—Isa. 2:2-4; Acts 5:29.

After this system of detention had been operating for a number of years, it was clear that Jehovah’s Witnesses would not abandon their neutral stand to avoid harsh treatment. Furthermore, the detention barracks were overcrowded and attracting negative publicity. There was pressure from some quarters to send the brothers to civil prisons.

Some favorably disposed military authorities disagreed. They respected our young brothers for their high moral standards. If the brothers went to a civil prison, they would have a criminal record. They would also be exposed to the worst elements of society and the threat of rape. Thus, arrangements were made for them to do community service in governmental departments not connected with the military. When the political climate in the country changed in the 1990’s, compulsory military service was abolished.

How were our young brothers affected by being detained for a lengthy period at such a crucial time in their lives? Many built up a fine record of loyal service to Jehovah and used this opportunity wisely to study God’s Word and to grow spiritually. “My stay in the detention barracks marked a turning point in my life,” says Cliff Williams. “The clear evidence of Jehovah’s protection and blessing during my detention motivated me to do more to further Kingdom interests. Shortly after my release in 1973, I started regular pioneering, and the following year I entered Bethel, where I still serve today.”

Stephen Venter, who was 17 years old when he went to the detention barracks, said: “I was an unbaptized publisher with a limited knowledge of the truth. The spiritual support I received from the daily Bible text discussion​—which we had in the mornings while we polished the floors—​the regular meetings, and the Bible study conducted with me by a more experienced brother made it bearable. Although there were some bad times, it’s amazing how little I remember of those! In fact, the three years in detention were perhaps the best years of my life. That experience helped me to make the transition from boyhood to manhood. I got to know Jehovah, and that motivated me to take up the full-time service.”

The unjust detention of our brothers served a good purpose. Gideon Benade, who visited the brothers in the detention barracks wrote, “Looking back, one realizes what a powerful witness was given.” The endurance of our brothers and the many news reports about their trials and sentences left an indelible record of the neutral stand of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which made an impression both on the military and on the country as a whole.


During the early years of apartheid rule, the black brothers did not face the same tests of neutrality that the white brothers did. For example, blacks were not called up for military service. However, when political black groups began to challenge apartheid rule, severe trials befell the black Witnesses. Some were killed, others were beaten, others fled as their homes and possessions went up in flames​—all because they refused to violate their neutrality. Yes, they were determined to obey Jesus’ command to be “no part of the world.”​—John 15:19.

Some political groups required everyone in their area to buy a political party card. Representatives from these groups called at people’s homes to demand money for weapons or for the funeral expenses of their comrades who had died in battles with the white security forces. Because the black brothers respectfully refused to pay such money, they were accused of being spies for the apartheid government. While engaging in field service, some brothers and sisters were attacked and accused of spreading white Afrikaans propaganda.

Take for example, Elijah Dlodlo, who gave up a promising career in sports to become one of Jehovah’s dedicated servants. Two weeks before South Africa’s first democratic election, tension ran high between rival black communities. Elijah’s congregation decided to cover their seldom-worked territory, located a few miles away. Elijah, baptized for only two months, was assigned to work with two boys who were unbaptized publishers. While speaking to a lady at her door, they were confronted by a group of youths, members of a political movement. The leader wielded a sjambok, a heavy leather whip. “What’s going on here?” he demanded.

“We are talking about the Bible,” replied the householder.

Ignoring her, the angry man said to Elijah and his two companions: “You three boys, join us. Now is not the time for the Bible; now is the time to fight for our rights.”

Elijah boldly replied, “We cannot do that because we are working for Jehovah.”

The man then pushed Elijah and began to beat him with the sjambok. With each blow, the man shouted, “Join us!” After the first blow, Elijah no longer felt pain. He found strength in the words of the apostle Paul, who said that all true Christians ‘will be persecuted.’​—2 Tim. 3:12.

The man eventually became tired and stopped. Then one of the attackers criticized the man who had the whip, saying that Elijah was not from their community. The group became divided and began fighting among themselves, the leader receiving a severe beating with his own sjambok. Meanwhile, Elijah and his two companions escaped. This test strengthened Elijah’s faith, and he continued to make progress as a fearless preacher of the good news. Today, he is married, has children, and serves as an elder in his congregation.

Our black sisters also showed great courage in the face of pressure to stop preaching. Consider the example of Florah Malinda. Her baptized daughter, Maki, was burned to death by a mob of youths because she tried to defend her brother who had refused to join their political movement. Despite this tragic loss, Florah did not become embittered but continued spreading God’s Word in her community. One day, representatives of the political movement who had murdered her daughter demanded that she either join their movement or suffer the consequences. Neighbors came to her rescue, explaining that she did not take sides in politics but was busy helping people to study the Bible. This resulted in a debate among the activists, and they eventually decided to let Florah go. During all that trialsome time and until now, Florah has faithfully continued to serve as a regular pioneer.

A regular pioneer brother describes what happened to him while traveling on a bus to his territory. A young political activist pushed him and asked why he was carrying literature produced by Afrikaners and selling it to black people. The brother explains what happened next: “He demanded that I throw the literature out of the bus window. Because I refused, he slapped me on the face and put the burning end of his cigarette against my cheek. I did not respond. Then he grabbed my bag of literature and threw it out the window. He also pulled off my tie, saying that it is the white man’s way of dressing. He kept on insulting me and making fun of me, saying that people like me should be burned alive. Jehovah saved me because I was able to get off the bus without further harm. The experience did not deter me from continuing to preach.”

The South Africa branch received many letters from individuals and congregations telling of the integrity of the black brothers. One such letter came from an elder in a congregation in KwaZulu-Natal. It said: “We write you this letter to let you know about the loss of our lovely brother Moses Nyamussua. His job was to weld and repair cars. On one occasion he was asked by one political group to weld their homemade guns, which he refused to do. Then, on the 16th of February, 1992, they had their political rally, where they had a fight with those of the opposing group. On the evening of the same day on their way back from their battle, they found the brother making his way to the shopping center. There they killed him with their spears. What was their reason? ‘You refused to weld our guns, and now our comrades have died in the fight.’ This has been a very great shock to the brothers, but we will still carry on with our ministry.”


Problems arose in township schools because Witness children would not participate in prayers and the singing of religious hymns at morning assemblies. This did not pose a problem in schools for white pupils. Parents simply had to write a letter explaining their stand, and their children were exempted. In the black schools, however, refusal to participate in religious ceremonies was viewed as an act of defiance against school authority. Teachers were not accustomed to this kind of resistance. When the parents came to explain the Witnesses’ position, the teachers claimed that there were to be no exceptions.

The school authorities insisted that children of Jehovah’s Witnesses should be present for morning assembly because announcements were made about school matters. The children would attend but stand quietly during song and prayers, without participating. Some teachers would walk along the rows to check if the children were closing their eyes during prayers and if they were singing the religious hymns. It was heartwarming to know that these children, some of them very young, courageously maintained their integrity.

After a large number of children were expelled from schools, the brothers decided to take the matter to court. On August 10, 1976, the Johannesburg Supreme Court handed down a decision on an important case involving 15 pupils at one school. The transcript stated: “The respondents . . . conceded the right of the applicants’ children to abstain from participation in prayers and singing of hymns, and . . . also conceded that the suspensions and expulsions . . . were not lawful.” This was an important legal victory, and this matter was eventually resolved in all the schools concerned.


Many Witness children attending schools for whites faced a different test of integrity that resulted in their being expelled from schools. The apartheid government wanted to mobilize the white youth to support its ideology. In 1973 the government introduced a program called Youth Preparedness. It included marching, self-defense, and other patriotic activities.

Some Witness parents sought legal counsel, and the matter was presented to the minister of education but without success. The minister maintained that the Youth Preparedness program was purely educational in nature. The government created much negative publicity against Jehovah’s Witnesses over this issue. At some schools the principals were tolerant and exempted the children from unscriptural aspects of the program, but at other schools the children were expelled.

Few Christian parents could afford to send their children to private schools. Some parents arranged for their children to have correspondence courses. Witnesses who were teachers provided home schooling. Nevertheless, many of the expelled children did not complete their basic high-school education. They did, however, benefit from Scriptural training at home and in their congregations. (Isa. 54:13) A number of them entered full-time service. These courageous young ones were glad that they endured under trial, placing their complete trust in Jehovah. (2 Pet. 2:9) In due course, the political climate in the country changed, and our children were no longer expelled for refusing to share in patriotic activities.


To comply with South African law, the brothers had to arrange for separate conventions for each racial group. The first time that all races met at one venue was at the national assembly held at Wembley Stadium, Johannesburg, in 1952. At that time, Brothers Knorr and Henschel visited South Africa and gave talks at this convention. In compliance with apartheid regulations, the different racial groups had to sit separately. Whites sat in the western stand, blacks in the eastern stand, the Coloreds and Indians in the northern stand. Cafeteria arrangements also had to keep the races separate. In spite of these restrictions, Brother Knorr wrote of that convention: “The joyful part was that we were all together in the same stadium worshiping Jehovah in holy array.”

In January 1974 there were three conventions in the Johannesburg area, one for blacks, one for Coloreds and Indians, and one for whites. However, a special arrangement was made for the last day of the convention: All the races would be together at Rand Stadium in Johannesburg for the afternoon session. A total of 33,408 poured into the stadium. What a joyful occasion it was! This time all the races mingled freely and sat together. Many visitors from Europe were there as well, which made it more memorable. How was this possible? Without realizing it at the time, the convention organizers had booked a stadium that was set aside for international, interracial events, and no permit was needed for this one session.


Some years before, arrangements were made for a national convention in Johannesburg. However, a government representative from Pretoria visited the government offices in Johannesburg dealing with Bantu (black people’s) affairs and noticed from the minutes of their meeting that Mofolo Park had been booked by Jehovah’s Witnesses for a convention that would accommodate the black brothers.

He reported it to his headquarters in Pretoria, and the Bantu Affairs Department promptly canceled the booking, stating that the Witnesses are not a “recognized religion.” The white brothers had booked their convention at the same time in the Milner Park Show Grounds in the center of Johannesburg, and the colored brothers were to meet in the Union Stadium, in the city’s western suburbs.

Two brothers from Bethel went to see the minister concerned, who happened to be a former clergyman of the Dutch Reformed Church. They pointed out that the Witnesses had been having conventions at Mofolo Park for many years and that the white brothers and the colored brothers were having their conventions, so why deny the black brothers the right to meet together? The minister would not change his mind.

Since Mofolo Park is on the western side of Johannesburg, these two brothers decided to try to arrange to hold the convention on the eastern side of Johannesburg, where there were also large black townships. They saw the director in charge, but they did not tell him about the meeting with the minister in Pretoria. He was very sympathetic when they requested a venue for the convention. He arranged for them to have the use of Wattville Stadium. This facility had stands, which Mofolo Park lacked.

All the brothers were quickly informed of the change of venue. They had a successful convention with some 15,000 in attendance and no interference from Pretoria. For some years thereafter, the brothers continued to hold conventions at Wattville Stadium without any problem.


On January 24, 1981, at the direction of the Governing Body, a legal association consisting of 50 members was formed: Jehovah’s Witnesses of South Africa. This legal entity helped promote spiritual interests in several ways.

For years, brothers from the branch tried without success to get permission for Jehovah’s Witnesses to have their own marriage officers. Frans Muller recalls: “Every time, government officials turned us down, indicating their feelings that our religion had neither the status nor the stability to have our own marriage officers.”

What is more, the lack of a legal association made it impossible to get permission to build Kingdom Halls in black townships. The brothers were always turned down because the authorities said: “You are not a recognized religion.”

Shortly after the association was formed, however, the brothers were given permission to have marriage officers. They were also allowed to build Kingdom Halls in the black townships. South Africa now has more than 100 elders serving as marriage officers. They can perform the marriage ceremony at the Kingdom Hall, so it is not necessary for couples to go to court first for a civil ceremony.


Printing methods were rapidly changing, and the letterpress equipment was becoming outdated. Furthermore, spare parts were scarce and costly. So it was decided that the time had come to change to computerized phototypesetting and offset printing. Stand-alone units for data-capturing and phototypesetting were purchased, and in 1979 a TKS rotary offset press was installed​—a generous gift from the Japan branch.

Because Jehovah’s Witnesses produce literature in so many languages, they saw advantages in developing their own phototypesetting system. In 1979, brothers in Brooklyn, New York, began working on what came to be called MEPS (an acronym for multilanguage electronic phototypesetting system). MEPS was installed in South Africa in 1984. The use of computers in translation and phototypesetting made it possible to publish literature simultaneously in a variety of languages.


By the early 1980’s, the Bethel complex at Elandsfontein was too small to meet the growing needs in the field. Consequently, land was purchased in the town of Krugersdorp, about a 30-minute drive from Johannesburg. The 215-acre [87 ha] property is an attractive, hilly area, edged by a pleasant stream. Many brothers gave up their jobs to work on the building project, and others used their vacation time to assist. A few volunteers came from other countries, such as New Zealand and the United States, and construction was completed in six years.

It was still difficult to get permission for black Witnesses, mainly translators, to live on the property. Permission was granted, but for 20 people only, and separate accommodations had to be constructed for them. In time, though, the government eased up on its apartheid policy, and brothers of all races could live in rooms anywhere in Bethel.

The family was delighted with the well-constructed Bethel and the spacious, well-planned rooms. The red brick-faced, three-story building is surrounded by beautiful gardens. When construction began in Krugersdorp, there were 28,000 active Witnesses in South Africa. By the time of the dedication, March 21, 1987, the number had increased to 40,000. Nevertheless, some wondered if it was really necessary to build such a large facility. One floor of the office section was unused, and one wing of the residence was unoccupied. The brothers had tried to plan ahead and were confident that they had made provision for future growth.


There was an urgent need for additional Kingdom Halls for the growing number of congregations. Brothers in the predominantly black areas held meetings under difficult conditions. They used garages, outbuildings, and school classrooms, where they sat at small desks designed for young children. They also had to contend with other religious groups’ using classrooms in the same school, singing loudly and beating their drums, making a deafening noise.

In the late 1980’s, Regional Building Committees started experimenting with new building methods to speed up the construction of Kingdom Halls. In 1992, 11 Canadian Witnesses with experience on quickly built projects volunteered to assist with the construction of a double Kingdom Hall​—a two-story structure—​in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. These men shared their expertise with the local brothers and helped them to improve their construction methods.

The first quickly built Kingdom Hall was erected in Diepkloof, Soweto, in 1992. The brothers had been trying to obtain a site for a Kingdom Hall in this area since 1962. Zechariah Sedibe, who was involved in trying to obtain that site, was at the dedication of the Kingdom Hall on July 11, 1992. He said, with a broad smile: “We thought that we would never have a Kingdom Hall. We were young then. Now I am retired, but we have our hall, the first one in Soweto to be built in a few days.”

There are currently 600 Kingdom Halls in countries under the oversight of the South Africa branch. These halls stand as centers of pure worship of Jehovah. However, there remain about 300 congregations of 30 or more publishers each that need their own Kingdom Hall.

Working under the direction of the branch office, 25 Regional Building Committees give practical assistance to congregations wanting to build a hall. Congregations can obtain interest-free loans to help finance their projects. Peter Butt, who has assisted with Kingdom Hall construction for over 18 years, is chairman of the Gauteng Regional Building Committee. He pointed out that brothers on these committees are usually working men with families, yet they gladly sacrifice much time in behalf of their brothers.

Another member of a regional committee, Jakob Rautenbach, explained that committee members usually work on-site during the whole construction period. In addition, they are involved in all the planning before construction starts. He enthusiastically described the happy, cooperative spirit among the volunteer workers. They travel to the site, which is sometimes a long distance away, at their own expense.

Jakob said that many other brothers gladly donate their time and resources to the Kingdom Hall building work and gave this example: “Two fleshly sisters with their own transport company arrange to move our 13-meter [40-foot] container of equipment to building sites throughout the country​—and even to neighboring countries—​and they have been doing this since 1993. That works out to a sizable donation! Many companies we deal with are moved to make donations or to give us discounts when they see what we are doing.”

After planning carefully and organizing the work teams, the brothers often put up a hall in three days. This has gained the respect of many observers. Near the end of the first day of construction at one site, two men who had been drinking heavily at a beer hall nearby approached the brothers. They explained that they usually walked through a vacant plot to their homes but now there was a hall standing on it. They asked for directions, as they were sure they must have lost their way.


Political changes in the early 1990’s did not bring peace and stability. On the contrary, violence erupted as never before. The situation was complex, and people have offered many reasons for the increased violence, most of them related to political rivalry and economic dissatisfaction.

Still, Kingdom Hall construction continued. Volunteers of various races would enter the townships, escorted by the local brothers. Some volunteers were attacked by angry mobs. During the construction of one hall in Soweto in 1993, a violent mob threw stones at three white brothers as they traveled to the Kingdom Hall site with building materials. All the windows in the vehicle were smashed, and the brothers were injured. They managed to keep driving and got to the site. The local brothers then rushed them to a hospital via a safer route.

Work on the project was not delayed. Precautions were taken, and hundreds from all races worked on the site the following weekend. Local pioneers shared in street witnessing in the territory around the hall. If they detected any trouble, they warned the brothers on the site. A few days later, the injured brothers were well enough to return to work on the hall.

The congregations appreciate the dedication shown and the sacrifices made by the brothers who volunteer to work on Kingdom Hall construction. Over a period of 15 years, Fanie and Elaine Smit, often traveling long distances at their own expense, have helped 46 congregations to build their Kingdom Halls.

One congregation in KwaZulu-Natal wrote to the Regional Building Committee: “You missed your sleep, the pleasure of being with your families, your recreation​—and much more—​to come here and build a hall for us. Besides that, we know that you also sacrificed a lot of your own money to make the project a success. May Jehovah remember you ‘for good.’​—Nehemiah 13:31.”

When a congregation has its own Kingdom Hall, there is a positive effect on the neighborhood. The following comment from one congregation is typical: “The increase in attendance after the Kingdom Hall was built has been such that the congregation has to divide into two groups for the public talk and Watchtower Study. We will have to form another congregation soon.”

Small congregations in rural areas sometimes have difficulty in financing a hall. Yet, many have found ways to raise the funds. In one congregation, the brothers sold pigs. When they needed more money, they sold an ox and a horse. Then they sold 15 sheep, another ox, and another horse. One sister offered to buy all the paint, another bought the carpet, and another paid for the curtains. Finally, another ox and five more sheep were sold to pay for the chairs.

After their Kingdom Hall was completed, a congregation in Gauteng wrote: “For at least two weeks after the hall was built, we would go there after field service to marvel at it. We couldn’t go home after field service without seeing our Kingdom Hall first.”


The community often takes note of the efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses to have suitable places of worship. The congregation in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, received a letter that stated in part: “The Keep Durban Beautiful Association appreciates your efforts in keeping your area clean and also encourages you to keep on doing so. Your diligence has made this place look beautiful. Our association has dedicated itself to fighting against litter and keeping our environment clean. We believe that a clean place contributes to good health in the area. It is for this reason that we commend our citizens for keeping our area clean. Thank you for being such a good example. We encourage you in whatever you do to keep the Umlazi area clean.”

One congregation wrote: “When a known burglar broke into our new Kingdom Hall, people living around the hall attacked him. They said that he was vandalizing ‘their church’ since it is the only religious building in the vicinity. They beat him before handing him over to the police.”


In 1999, Jehovah’s organization set up an arrangement for building Kingdom Halls in lands with limited resources. A Regional Kingdom Hall Office was set up at the South Africa branch to organize this work in several countries in Africa. A representative from the office was sent to each branch to help the brothers set up a Kingdom Hall Construction Desk. This desk is responsible for the purchasing of land and the organizing of Kingdom Hall Construction Groups. International servants were also sent to give help and training to the local brothers.

The South Africa Regional Office has established 25 Kingdom Hall Construction Desks in Africa, which care for Kingdom Hall construction in 37 countries. Since November 1999, there have been 7,207 Kingdom Halls built in countries served by this arrangement. By mid-2006, it was determined that there is a need for another 3,305 Kingdom Halls in these countries.


Growing dissatisfaction with the previous government’s racial policies gave rise to unrest and violence, and some of Jehovah’s Witnesses were directly affected. Fierce battles raged in the black townships, and many people died. For the most part, however, the brothers exercised caution and continued to serve Jehovah faithfully during this difficult time. Late one night a gasoline bomb was thrown into the home of a brother and his family while they were sleeping. They managed to escape, and the brother later wrote to the branch: “My family and I have even stronger faith now. We lost all our material possessions, but we have drawn closer to Jehovah and his people. The brothers have helped us materially. We look forward to the end of this system of things and thank Jehovah for our spiritual paradise.”

On May 10, 1994, the first black president, Nelson Mandela, was sworn in. He was also the country’s first democratically elected president, and it was the first time that blacks were given the opportunity to vote. A spirit of nationalism and euphoria prevailed. This posed challenges of a different kind for some of our brothers.

Sadly, some of Jehovah’s people violated their Christian neutrality, but most did not. Many of those who compromised saw their error, showed sincere repentance, and responded to Scriptural encouragement.


The provision of more Kingdom Halls is evidence of Jehovah’s blessing, but the truly miraculous growth takes place in people’s hearts. (2 Cor. 3:3) Individuals from varied backgrounds are attracted to the truth. Consider some examples.

Ralson Mulaudzi was imprisoned in 1986 and sentenced to death for murder. He found the branch address in one of our brochures and wrote for help to learn about the Bible. Les Lee, a special pioneer, was allowed to visit him and started a Bible study. Ralson soon began to speak to other prisoners and the wardens about what he was learning. He was baptized in prison in April 1990. Ralson receives regular visits from members of the local congregation and is allowed out of his cell for an hour each day. He spends this time preaching to other prisoners. Ralson has helped three people to the point of baptism and currently conducts two Bible studies. His death sentence has been commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Others who are drawn to Jehovah have a very different background. Queenie Rossouw, an interested person, attended the Congregation Book Study and asked the book study overseer to call on her 18-year-old son, who was preparing for catechism. The brother had a good discussion with the young man, who began attending meetings with his mother. Then the mother asked the brother to call on her husband, Jannie, who was an elder in the Dutch Reformed Church and chairman of the church board; he wanted to ask some questions. The brother talked to the husband, who agreed to a Bible study.

This was the week of the district convention, and the brother invited Queenie to attend. To the brother’s surprise, Jannie also came and attended all four days. The convention program and the love among the Witnesses made a great impression on him. Their 18-year-old son and their eldest son, a deacon in the church, now began to sit in on the Bible study.

All of them resigned from the church and began attending the meetings right away. They also attended a meeting for field service. The brother explained to Jannie that he could not share in field service with the Witnesses because he did not yet qualify as an unbaptized publisher. With tears streaming down his face, he said that the truth is what he had been searching for his whole life, and he could no longer keep it quiet.

The Rossouws had another son, 22 years of age, who was a third-year theology student. Jannie wrote to this son and asked him to come home, since he would no longer pay for the son’s studies. The third day after the son’s return, Jannie and three of his sons worked with the congregation for a day at the Bethel complex in Krugersdorp. The theology student was impressed with what he saw at Bethel, so he agreed to study the Bible along with his brothers. After studying for a time, he said that he had learned more about the Bible in one month than in two and a half years at the university.

The whole family were eventually baptized. The father is now an elder, and some of the sons are elders or ministerial servants. One daughter is a regular pioneer.


Despite earlier efforts to make ample provision for future expansion at Bethel, large extensions were needed just 12 years after the complex in Krugersdorp had been dedicated. (Isa. 54:2) During that time, there was a 62 percent increase in publishers in South Africa and in countries under the branch’s supervision. A warehouse and three new residence buildings were built. Additions were also made to the laundry and office block, and a second dining room was provided. On October 23, 1999, all these extensions were dedicated to Jehovah. Daniel Sydlik of the Governing Body gave the dedication discourse.

More recently, an 86,000-square-foot [8,000-sq m] extension was added to the printery. This accommodates a new MAN Roland Lithoman rotary press. The branch also received machinery to trim, count, and stack the magazines automatically. The Germany branch provided a bindery line enabling South Africa to produce softcover books and Bibles for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.


Much construction work has been planned to meet the need for Assembly Halls. The first one was built at Eikenhof, south of Johannesburg, and was dedicated in 1982. Another Assembly Hall was built in Bellville, Cape Town, and the dedication discourse was given by Milton Henschel in 1996. In 2001 still another hall was completed at Midrand, between Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Neighbors who at first opposed the Midrand construction project changed their attitude as they got to know the brothers and see what they were doing. One neighbor delivered boxes of fruit and vegetables every two weeks for over a year. Some companies were moved to make donations. One delivered compost for the gardens, free of charge. Another presented the brothers with a check for 10,000 rand (about $1,575, U.S.) for the project. Of course, the brothers also donated generously toward the Assembly Hall.

The hall is a beautiful, well-designed building. Guy Pierce, a member of the Governing Body who gave the dedication talk, pointed out the real beauty of the hall​—its use to honor our Grand God, Jehovah.​—1 Ki. 8:27.


For many years it was difficult to obtain suitable venues for assemblies in black-populated areas. In Limpopo Province, the brothers were living on what was known as a reserve, which was, at the time, off-limits to whites. The district overseer, Corrie Seegers, could not obtain a permit to enter the area, and he could not locate a venue for the assembly.

Brother Seegers approached a man whose farm was adjacent to the reserve, but this man did not want the assembly on his land. However, he did allow Brother Seegers to park his caravan (trailer) there. Eventually, the brothers held the assembly in a clearing in the bush on the reserve. This bordered the farmer’s land, which was separated from the clearing by a barbed-wire fence. Brother Seegers parked his caravan on the farmer’s land next to the clearing and gave his talks from there. The brothers were separated from the “platform” by the fence, but they had the assembly program, and Brother Seegers could address the brothers without breaking the law.


The Governing Body directed that from the year 2000, all congregations in South Africa would come under the arrangement of distributing literature without charge to all who show genuine interest. Publishers would invite individuals to make a small donation toward our worldwide evangelizing work.

This voluntary donation arrangement has proved beneficial not only to those in the field but also to the brothers. Formerly, many could not afford to pay for publications used for the Watchtower Study and the Congregation Book Study. In some congregations of 100 publishers, only about 10 had their own copies of The Watchtower. Now everyone can have a personal copy.

The work done by the Export Department at Bethel has greatly increased in recent years. In May 2002 a total of 432 tons of material was sent to other African countries, most of it Bible literature.

The South Africa branch is now warehousing literature for the Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe branches. This includes all the literature in the various languages used by these countries. The orders for each congregation are packed on the trucks in such a way that when delivered to the branches, the orders can be transferred directly onto the branch vehicles for delivery to the depots.

Since the donation arrangement was implemented, the demand for literature has greatly increased. Magazine production in South Africa has jumped from one million to 4.4 million per month. Literature orders have climbed to 3,800 tons per year, compared to 200 tons in 1999.

Construction materials too are sent out to other African countries. In addition, South Africa has organized relief materials to assist brothers in need. Help was repeatedly given to the Malawian brothers who as a result of severe persecution had fled from their homes and settled in camps. Relief supplies were sent to Angola, which was ravaged by severe drought in 1990. The civil war in that country also left many brothers impoverished, and truckloads of food and clothing have been provided for them. In the year 2000, assistance was given to the brothers in Mozambique after they experienced heavy flooding. More than 800 tons of maize were sent to the brothers in Zimbabwe who were affected by severe drought during 2002 and early 2003.


The South Africa branch has a large Translation Department. Some years ago it was enlarged to cope with the growing need for Bible translation. There are currently 102 translators working to produce literature in 13 languages.

The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is now available in seven local languages. Concerning the Tswana Bible, one brother said: “It is readable and pleasant to the eye and the ear. I would like to thank Jehovah and his spirit-directed organization for the way that we are being spiritually nourished.”

Modern technology has been put to good use in assisting translators. While brothers in South Africa were working on software to help translators, a department with a similar goal was set up at Brooklyn. The programs developed were eventually compiled and called the Watchtower Translation System. The programmers in South Africa were able to contribute much to the software used in this system.

The brothers did not try to create computer programs to do actual translation, which some secular companies have tried with limited success. Rather, they concentrated on providing tools for translators. For example, Bibles were provided electronically. Translators can also compile their own electronic translation dictionaries. These are valuable because some local languages do not have adequate dictionaries.


Publishers of the Kingdom message try to reach everyone. Communicating with deaf people has been a challenge, but the results are gratifying. In the 1960’s, June Carikas started a Bible study with a deaf lady. The lady and her husband, also deaf, progressed and were baptized.

Since then an increasing number of deaf people have accepted the truth, and groups for the deaf have been formed in cities throughout the country. The brothers have grown accustomed to having a sign-language section at conventions. It is a moving experience to see those in attendance singing the songs using sign language and “clapping” with the rest of the audience by waving their hands in the air.

The first group for the deaf was established at Brixton Congregation in Johannesburg under the oversight of June’s husband, George, who is an elder. Training in sign language was given to willing brothers in the congregation, including some Bethelites. There is now one sign-language congregation and five groups in the territory cared for by the South Africa branch.


The South Africa branch oversees the evangelizing work in five other countries. The following is a brief overview of the progress of the Kingdom work in these fields.


This country extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the western border of Botswana. After World War I, Namibia was placed under South African rule by a League of Nations mandate. Finally, after much unrest and bloodshed, Namibia attained independence in 1990. While the country for the most part is arid and sparsely populated, it also has places of stunning scenic beauty with abundant wildlife and unusual vegetation. The Namib Desert attracts numerous visitors, who may be surprised to see the remarkable variety of wildlife that manages to survive the harsh conditions. The spectacular landscapes of Namibia are matched by her colorful peoples, who speak nine national languages.

The first efforts to spread the Kingdom message in Namibia were made in 1928. That year the South Africa branch mailed a large quantity of Bible literature to people who could not be reached personally. About this time, the first man to become a dedicated Christian in Namibia learned the truth in an unusual way. Bernhard Baade bought eggs wrapped in pages torn from one of our publications. He read the pages avidly, without knowing their origin. Finally, one of the eggs was wrapped in the last page of the publication, which gave the address of the Germany branch. He wrote requesting more literature. A circuit overseer who later visited Bernhard’s congregation remarked that in all the years until Bernhard died, he did not miss a single month in the ministry.

In 1929, Lenie Theron was sent to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. This pioneer sister witnessed in all the major towns of Namibia, traveling by train and post cart. In four months she placed 6,388 books and booklets in Afrikaans, English, and German. Although pioneers periodically preached in Namibia, no one remained to cultivate the interest. This changed in 1950 when some missionaries arrived. Among them were Gus Eriksson, Fred Hayhurst, and George Koett, who all built up a fine record of faithful service until their death.

By 1953, there were eight missionaries in the country, including Dick Waldron and his wife, Coralie. * They had to contend with strong opposition from the clergy of Christendom as well as from the local authorities. Though the Waldrons wanted to share the Bible message among the indigenous population, they had to have a government permit to enter the black areas. Dick applied but without success.

After the birth of their daughter in 1955, the Waldrons had to give up missionary service, but Dick continued pioneering for a while. In 1960, Dick finally received a permit to enter one of the black townships, Katutura. He recalls, “The interest shown was tremendous.” Within a short time, a number from this township were attending the meetings. Now over 50 years later, Dick and Coralie continue to serve faithfully in Namibia. They have made a valuable contribution to the advancement of Kingdom interests in this field.

Bringing Bible truths to the various racial groups in Namibia was a challenge. There was no Bible literature available in the local languages, such as Herero, Kwangali, and Ndonga. Initially, educated local people who were studying the Bible translated some tracts and brochures under the supervision of local Witnesses. Esther Bornman, then a special pioneer, studied Kwanyama, and in time she was able to speak it in addition to another local language. She and Aina Nekwaya, an Ndonga-speaking sister, translated The Watchtower, which is published partly in Kwanyama and partly in Ndonga. Both of these languages are used in Ovamboland and are understood by most of the people there.

In 1990 a well-equipped translation office was set up in Windhoek. More translators were added, and now in addition to the aforementioned languages, literature is translated into Herero, Kwangali, Khoekhoegowab, and Mbukushu. André Bornman and Stephen Jansen provide oversight at this office.

Namibia is a major producer of diamonds. The Watchtower of July 15, 1999, referred to this in the article “There Are Living Gems in Namibia!” It compared honesthearted ones to “living gemstones” and stated that while much evangelizing work had been done, some areas of the country had hardly been touched. The article extended this invitation: “Are you in a position to serve where the need for zealous Kingdom proclaimers is great? Then, please, step over into Namibia and help us find and polish more spiritual gemstones.”

The response was heartwarming. There were 130 inquiries from brothers in various countries, including Australia, Germany, and Japan, and some in South America. As a result, 83 Witnesses paid a visit to Namibia and, of these, 18 stayed. Sixteen of them were regular pioneers when they arrived, and in time, some were appointed as special pioneers. The spirit shown by these volunteer workers was contagious. Even now, the branch office receives letters inquiring about the invitation that appeared in The Watchtower. William and Ellen Heindel have been serving as missionaries in northern Namibia since 1989. They had to learn the Ndonga language used by the Ovambo, who live in that area. Their endurance and hard work in this unusual territory has brought them rich rewards. William notes: “We have seen boys, some of whom were our Bible students, grow into spiritual men. Some serve as elders and ministerial servants in the congregation. Our hearts swell with pride when we see them give talks at assemblies and conventions.”

In recent years a number of graduates of the Ministerial Training School have been sent to Namibia, and they have done good work in cultivating interest and in serving the congregations. In 2006, there were 1,264 publishers in Namibia, a 3 percent increase over the preceding year.


The small country of Lesotho, with a population of 2.4 million, is completely surrounded by South Africa. It is situated in the Drakensberg Mountains, which provide magnificent vistas for the rugged climber.

Despite its usually tranquil atmosphere, the country has had its share of political turmoil. In 1998, disputes over an election led to fighting between army and police in the capital, Maseru. Veijo Kuismin and his wife, Sirpa, were missionaries there at the time. He recalls: “Happily, few brothers were hurt during the fighting, and we organized relief aid for those who did not have basic food and fuel supplies. This strengthened the bonds of unity in the congregation, and meeting attendances increased throughout the country.”

Lesotho is economically dependent mainly on agriculture. Because of the poor economy, many of the men are migrant workers in South African mines. Though the country is materially poor, there are valuable spiritual riches to be found in this mountain kingdom, and many people have responded to Bible truth. In 2006, there were 3,101 Kingdom proclaimers, a 2 percent increase over the preceding year. Three missionary couples​—the Hüttingers, the Nygrens, and the Parises—​are currently serving in Maseru.

Abel Modiba served as a circuit overseer in Lesotho between 1974 and 1978. He is now at South Africa Bethel with his wife, Rebecca. In his calm and unhurried way, he relates some impressions of Lesotho: “In most of the rural areas, there were no roads. I would walk, sometimes for seven hours, to reach a group of isolated publishers. Often brothers brought horses, one for me to ride and one to carry my luggage. At times, we even carried a slide projector and a 12-volt battery. If a river was in flood, we waited for a few days until it subsided. In some villages the headman invited all the villagers to come to the public talk.

“Some had to walk many hours to get to meetings, and for this reason it was common for those coming from far away to stay with brothers living near the Kingdom Hall during the week of the circuit overseer’s visit. That made it a special occasion. In the evenings, they came together to share experiences and sing Kingdom songs. The next day, they went out in the field ministry.”

Per-Ola and Birgitta Nygren have been serving as missionaries in Maseru since 1993. Birgitta relates this experience that shows the value of the magazines in assisting others: “In 1997, I started a study with a woman named Mapalesa. She started to attend meetings. But she was not always at home for the study, and she often hid from us. I stopped studying with her but kept her on my magazine route. Years later, she appeared at one of our meetings. She explained that one day she read an article in The Watchtower about controlling anger. She felt that it was Jehovah’s answer to her problem, since she and her relatives were constantly fighting. The study was resumed, and she hasn’t missed a meeting since. She also began to have an active share in the field ministry.”

For many years the brothers in Lesotho used makeshift facilities for their Kingdom Halls. In recent years, however, the South Africa branch assisted the Lesotho congregations in financing Kingdom Hall construction.

At an altitude of approximately 10,000 feet [3,000 m], the Kingdom Hall in the town of Mokhotlong is the highest in Africa. To build this hall, volunteer workers came from as far away as Australia and California, U.S.A. Brothers from the KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa gave financial support and also provided vehicles to transport equipment and materials to the site. Living conditions for the volunteer workers were primitive. They had to provide their own bedding and cooking equipment. The hall was completed in ten days. An elderly local brother, born in 1910, was at the site every day to watch the proceedings. He had been waiting for a hall ever since he became a servant of Jehovah in the 1920’s, and he was delighted with the progress of “his” Kingdom Hall.

The year 2002 brought famine to Lesotho. Maize meal and other commodities were trucked in and distributed to Witnesses in the affected areas. A letter of appreciation stated: “When the brothers came to my house to deliver the maize meal, I was amazed. How did they know what I needed? I thanked Jehovah for help that I had never dreamed of receiving. This strengthened my faith in Jehovah God and in his organization, and I am determined to serve him whole-souled.”


This country includes much of the Kalahari Desert and has a population of over 1.7 million. The climate is generally hot and dry. Numerous parks and wildlife reserves attract visitors. The scenic Okavango Delta is popular for its unspoiled tranquillity and abundant wildlife. Traditional transport along the waterways in the delta is the mokoro, a dugout hewed from local trees. Botswana has a sound economy, mainly because of diamond mining. Since the discovery of diamonds in the Kalahari Desert in 1967, Botswana has become one of the world’s leading diamond exporters.

It appears that the message of God’s Kingdom first reached Botswana in 1929 when one brother shared in the preaching work there for a few months. Joshua Thongoana was appointed a circuit overseer in Botswana in 1956. * He recalled that at the time, literature printed by Jehovah’s Witnesses was banned there.

Enthusiastic missionaries have reaped good results in this productive territory. Blake and Gwen Frisbee together with Tim and Virginia Crouch have worked hard to learn the Tswana language. Toward the north, Veijo and Sirpa Kuismin eagerly provide spiritual assistance to the populace.

In the southern part of the country, Hugh and Carol Cormican display an ardent missionary spirit. Hugh relates: “There is a 12-year-old brother named Eddie in our congregation. From a very early age, he wanted to learn to read so that he could enroll in the Theocratic Ministry School and share in the field ministry. As soon as he qualified as an unbaptized publisher, he spent much time in the field and started a Bible study with one of his classmates. Since his baptism, Eddie has often served as an auxiliary pioneer.”

Many of the congregations in Botswana are located in or near the flourishing capital, Gaborone, situated close to the eastern border. That region of the country is densely populated. The rest of the population lives in villages to the west and in the Kalahari Desert, where a few San families still roam, living off the land and hunting with bow and arrow. Publishers have exerted great effort during special preaching campaigns in isolated territory, traveling thousands of miles to take Bible truths to nomadic cattle farmers in the rurals. These people are busy growing food, building shelters from local materials, and foraging for firewood. There is little time for other activities. However, when a stranger arrives with the refreshing Bible message, they readily agree to an open-air meeting on the soft desert sand.

Stephen Robbins, one of a group of six temporary special pioneers, remarked: “People here are forever on the move. They seem to cross borders like we cross the street. We met one of our Bible students, Marks, on a ferry as we crossed the Okavango River. We were delighted to hear that he had taken time off from work so that he could travel and share Bible truths with his friends and relatives. Marks spends all his free time in the evangelizing work.”

There is an encouraging response to the good news in Botswana. In 2006, there were 1,497 who shared in the preaching work, a 6 percent increase over the previous year.


This small monarchy has a population of about 1.1 million. It is mainly an agricultural society, though many men seek employment in South Africa. Swaziland is a scenic country with several game reserves. The Swazi people are friendly and still follow many of their traditions.

The former king, Sobhuza II, was favorably disposed toward Jehovah’s Witnesses and had much of our literature. Each year he would invite to his royal residence not only the clergy but also one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to speak on the Bible. In 1956 the invited Witness talked about the doctrine of the immortality of the soul as well as the use of honorary titles among religious leaders. Afterward, the king asked the religious leaders if the things said were true. They could not refute what the brother had said.

Our brothers had to take a firm stand against the custom of mourning based on ancestor worship. In parts of Swaziland, tribal chiefs drove Jehovah’s Witnesses from their own homes because they refused to follow traditional mourning customs. Their spiritual brothers in other areas always took care of them. The Swaziland High Court ruled in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses in this matter and stated that they should be allowed to return to their homes and lands.

James and Dawne Hockett are missionaries in the capital of Swaziland, Mbabane. They graduated from Gilead in 1971 and 1970 respectively. James used the following example to show how missionaries have to adapt to different customs: “We were working in unassigned territory, and a chief wanted me to give a public talk. He called the people together. We were sitting in an area where construction work was in progress, and there were cement blocks lying about. The ground was damp, so I found a cement block to sit on, and Dawne sat down next to me on the block. One of the Swazi sisters approached Dawne and asked her to come and sit next to her. Dawne said that she was fine where she was, but the sister insisted. Afterward, it was explained to us that because some of the men were sitting on the ground, the women could not sit higher than the men. That is the custom in the rural areas.”

James and Dawne visited a school to speak to a teacher who had previously shown interest. She sent a boy out to tell them that it was not a convenient time to speak to her. They decided to talk to the boy, Patrick, and asked him if he knew why they were calling. After a discussion, they gave him the book Questions Young People Ask​—Answers That Work and started a Bible study with him. Patrick was an orphan and lived in a room attached to his uncle’s house. He had to care for himself, prepare his own food, and do part-time work to pay his school fees. He made good progress, was baptized, and now serves as an elder in the congregation.

There has been an encouraging response to the evangelizing work in Swaziland ever since the work got started in the 1930’s. In 2006, there were 2,292 who had an active share in spreading the good news of God’s Kingdom in this territory, and 2,911 Bible studies were conducted.

St. Helena

This little island, ten and a half miles [17 km] long and six and a half miles [10 km] wide, is west of the southwestern coast of Africa. It generally has a mild and pleasant climate. The population of St. Helena is about 4,000, a mixture of people of European, Asian, and African origins. English is spoken with a distinctive accent. There is no airport; a commercial shipping line provides access to and from South Africa and England. Broadcast television became available only in the mid-1990’s, by satellite hookup.

The good news of God’s Kingdom first reached St. Helena in the early 1930’s, when two pioneers paid a short visit. Tom Scipio, a policeman and a deacon in the Baptist church, obtained some literature from them. He started to speak to others about what he was learning, and from the pulpit he made it clear that there was no Trinity, no hellfire, and no immortal soul. He and others who stood up for Bible truth were asked to leave the church. Soon Tom and a small group shared in the field ministry, with the aid of three phonographs. They covered the island on foot and by donkey. Tom also gave his large family of six children a good grounding in the truth.

In 1951, Jacobus van Staden was sent from South Africa to encourage and assist the group of loyal Witnesses on the island. He helped them to be more effective in the ministry and organized regular congregation meetings. George Scipio, * one of Tom’s sons, recalls one of the difficulties they had in getting everyone to the meetings: “There were only two cars among all the interested ones. The terrain is rough and hilly, and there were few good roads at that time. . . . Some started walking early in the morning. I took three in my small car and dropped them off some distance along the road. They kept on walking. I turned back, took three more some distance, dropped them off, and returned. Eventually, all got to the meeting this way.” Later, although George was married and had four children, he was able to serve as a pioneer for 14 years. Three of his sons serve as elders.

Jannie Muller visited St. Helena as a circuit overseer a few times in the 1990’s, along with his wife, Anelise. He says: “When you accompany a publisher in the field, he will invariably tell you who is living in the next house and what the reaction will be. When we visited the island and distributed the Kingdom News entitled “Will All People Ever Love One Another?” the entire island was covered in one day, between 8:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.”

Jannie particularly remembers their arrivals and departures. He says: “When the boat arrived, most of the brothers would gather on the quayside to welcome us. They described the day we left as one of tears, and it was so when we saw them all standing on the quayside waving good-bye.”

In 2006, there were 125 who shared in spreading Bible truth throughout the island. The Memorial attendance was 239. The island has a publisher-to-population ratio of 1 to 30, the most favorable in the world.


In the shadow of racial strife in South Africa, Jehovah’s Witnesses of all races enjoy a unique “bond of union.” (Col. 3:14) Others have commented on this. In 1993 many visitors came from overseas for the international conventions. Some 2,000 Witnesses went to the airport in Durban to welcome delegates from the United States and Japan. They sang Kingdom songs when the visitors appeared. The brothers warmly greeted one another and embraced. Among those watching was a prominent political leader. In conversation with some of the brothers, he said, “If we had the same spirit of unity as you, we would have solved our problems long ago.”

The 2003 “Give God Glory” International Conventions gave a spiritual boost to all who attended. South Africa had international conventions in the major centers, as well as numerous smaller district conventions. Two members of the Governing Body, Samuel Herd and David Splane, served at the international conventions. Delegates from 18 countries attended. Some wore their traditional dress, which added to the international flavor. The attendance for all the conventions was 166,873, and 2,472 were baptized.

Janine, who attended the international convention in Cape Town, expressed appreciation for the release of the publication Learn From the Great Teacher: “I am beyond words, unable to describe how much I appreciate this gift. This book is designed to reach the hearts of our children. Jehovah knows what his people need, and Jesus, the Head of the congregation, sees the struggle we have in this ungodly world. I thank Jehovah and his servants here on earth with all my heart.”

When looking back over the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Africa during the last century, we rejoice over the endurance and steadfast record of faithful ones. In 2006, there were 78,877 publishers who conducted 84,903 Bible studies. The Memorial attendance for 2006 was 189,108. Indications are that Jesus’ words still apply in this part of the worldwide field: “Look! I say to you: Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting.” (John 4:35) There is still much work to be done. The abundant evidence of Jehovah’s direction moves us to exclaim, along with our brothers in every corner of the earth: “Shout in triumph to Jehovah, all you people of the earth. Serve Jehovah with rejoicing”!​—Ps. 100:1, 2.


^ par. 17 In South Africa this word was used when referring to people of mixed race.

^ par. 29 Paul Smit’s life story appeared in The Watchtower, November 1, 1985, pages 10-13.

^ par. 40 George Phillips’ life story appeared in The Watchtower, December 1, 1956, pages 712-19.

^ par. 61 Piet Wentzel’s life story appeared in The Watchtower, July 1, 1986, pages 9-13.

^ par. 97 Frans Muller’s life story appeared in The Watchtower, April 1, 1993, pages 19-23.

^ par. 231 The Waldrons’ life story appeared in The Watchtower, December 1, 2002, pages 24-8.

^ par. 250 Joshua Thongoana’s life story appeared in The Watchtower, February 1, 1993, pages 25-9.

^ par. 266 George Scipio’s life story appeared in The Watchtower, February 1, 1999, pages 25-9.

[Blurb on page 174]

St. Helena has a publisher-to-population ratio of 1 to 30, the most favorable in the world

[Box on page 68, 69]

What Was Apartheid?

The word “apartheid” literally means “separateness” and was first used by the National Party during the political elections of 1948. That party won the election that year, and strict separation of the various racial groups in South Africa became official government policy with the firm backing of the Dutch Reformed Church. This policy, driven by the determination to ensure white supremacy, led to laws that regulated key facets of life​—residence, employment, education, public amenities, and politics.

The major racial groups were classified as follows: white, Bantu (black Africans), colored (those of mixed race), and Asian (Indians). Apartheid proponents declared that the races should have their own designated areas, called homelands, where they could live and develop in harmony with their culture and customs. What may have looked viable to some in theory did not work in practice. Intimidated by guns, tear gas, and snarling dogs, many blacks with their meager possessions were driven from their homes and relocated to other areas. Most public facilities, such as banks and post offices, had separate sections for whites and nonwhites. Restaurants and cinemas were reserved for whites.

Whites still depended on cheap black labor, both for business and domestic purposes. This led to the division of families. For example, black men were allowed to go to the cities to work in mines or factories and were accommodated in men’s hostels while their wives had to stay in the homelands. This disrupted family life and led to much immorality. Black servants working in white homes usually stayed in a room on the employer’s property. Their families could not live in white suburbs, so parents did not see their families for extended periods. Blacks had to carry identity passbooks at all times.

Apartheid cast its shadow over many areas of life, including education, marriage, employment, and property ownership. While Jehovah’s Witnesses were well-known for their racial harmony, they obeyed government laws as long as these did not prevent them from rendering sacred service to God. (Rom. 13:1, 2) They sought opportunities to enjoy association with fellow worshippers of the various racial groups when they could.

Beginning in the mid-1970’s, the government made a number of reforms, rendering their racial policies less restrictive. On February 2, 1990, then President F. W. de Klerk announced measures to dismantle apartheid, such as the official recognition of black political organizations and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. With the democratic election of a black majority government in 1994, apartheid officially ended.

[Box/​Maps on page 72, 73]

OVERVIEW​—South Africa


The coastland of South Africa is a narrow lowland bordered by mountains that rise to a vast inland plateau that makes up most of the country. The plateau is the highest on the eastern Indian Ocean side, where the Drakensberg Mountain range reaches more than 11,000 feet [3,400 m]. The land area of South Africa is about four times that of the British Isles.


The 44 million inhabitants of the country come from a variety of backgrounds. In 2003 the government published the results of a census in which the citizens were divided into the following four groups: black African, 79 percent; white, 9.6 percent; colored, 8.9 percent; and Indian or Asian, 2.5 percent.


There are 11 official languages, though many speak English. Listed in the order of the most commonly spoken are Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Sepedi, English, Tswana, Sesotho, Tsonga, Siswati, Venda, and Ndebele.


The country has vast natural resources and is the world’s largest producer of gold and platinum. Millions of South Africans work in mines, on farms, or in factories that produce food, cars, machinery, textiles, and other products.


The southern tip of the country, including Cape Town, enjoys a Mediterranean-type climate with wet winters and dry summers. The inland plateau has a different weather pattern; thunderstorms bring refreshing coolness in summer, while in winter, days are relatively warm and skies are cloudless.


(For fully formatted text, see publication)














Kruger National Park












Cape Town











Cape Town

Cape of Good Hope

[Box/​Pictures on page 80, 81]

My First Effort to Be a Witness


BORN 1911


PROFILE Served in the first black congregation in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, and died faithful in 1995.

I WAS born and raised near Pietermaritzburg. My father was a Methodist preacher. In the mid-1930’s, I obtained some literature published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Though I agreed with what I read, I had no opportunity to associate with the Witnesses.

Someone in the hostel where I lived gave me the booklet Heaven and Purgatory. I had never read anything like it before. It helped me to understand what the Bible says about the resurrection and the earthly hope. I wrote to the branch office in Cape Town and ordered some books.

I hesitated to approach the Witnesses I saw in town. Among my people the custom was, “Do not approach a white man first. Wait for him to approach you.”

One evening on returning home from work, I saw the Witnesses’ sound car parked outside the hostel where I lived. As I reached the gate, a well-built older man in a summer suit approached me. He introduced himself as Daniel Jansen. I decided that it was time to use this opportunity to get to know the Witnesses, so I asked to hear one of Brother Rutherford’s lectures. A large crowd gathered. When the lecture was finished, Jansen put a microphone in my hand and said, “Tell these people in Zulu what this recording has been saying so that they can benefit as well.”

I replied, “I cannot remember everything that the speaker said.”

Jansen said, “Just say what you remember.”

With my hand shaking, I stammered a few words into the microphone. That was my first effort to be a Witness of Jehovah. Jansen then invited me to accompany him in the preaching work. First, he checked my understanding of fundamental beliefs to see if I was in full harmony with Bible teachings. He was satisfied. I associated with a white company, or congregation, for four years, where I was the only black person. We were a small group, and we met in a brother’s home.

In those days, each publisher was given a testimony card to introduce the Bible’s message to the householder. We also carried a phonograph, some recordings of four-minute lectures, and a bag of literature.

To save time, the publisher had the phonograph wound up and ready with a fresh needle. When the householder opened the door, the publisher greeted him and offered a card, which introduced the recorded lecture. When the record was more than halfway through, the publisher opened his bag so that when the record ended, he could offer the relevant book to the householder.

[Box/​Pictures on page 88, 89]

A Faithful Example


BORN 1898


PROFILE Became a regular pioneer in 1914. Served as branch overseer in South Africa for nearly 40 years and died faithful in 1982.

GEORGE PHILLIPS was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland. He started pioneering in 1914, at the age of 16. In 1917 he was imprisoned for maintaining Christian neutrality. In 1924, Brother Rutherford personally invited him to serve in South Africa. He said, “George, it may be for a year, or it may be for a little longer.”

This was George’s impression on arriving in South Africa: “Compared to Britain, conditions were altogether different and everything connected with the work was so much smaller. At that time, there were only 6 in the full-time service and not more than about 40 doing a little service work. Our territory embraced everything from the Cape to Kenya. How was it going to be covered and an effective witness given in one year? Why worry about that? The thing to do was to get going, use the instruments at hand, and leave the results to Jehovah.

“South Africa is a complex country with many different races and languages. It was a real joy getting to know these different peoples. Organizing the work in such a vast field and laying the necessary foundations on which to build were no easy tasks.

“Down through the years, Jehovah’s loving provision for all my needs, his protection, guidance, and blessing have ever been abundantly manifest. I have learned that ‘godliness with contentment is great gain’ and that if one would remain in ‘the secret place of the Most High,’ one must stick close to his organization and work hard at doing his work in his way.”​—1 Tim. 6:6, King James Version; Ps. 91:1.

[Box/​Picture on page 92-94]

Helping My Family Spiritually


BORN 1908


PROFILE A family man who learned the truth while working in Johannesburg, far from his home in Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal.

I WAS born in Zululand, South Africa, in 1908. Though my family was content with a simple farm-life, at the age of 19, I started work as a shop assistant in the town of Dundee. In time, I heard that many young men were earning good money in Johannesburg, the center of South Africa’s gold-mining industry. So I moved there and worked for many years posting advertisement bills. I was overwhelmed by the attractions and opportunities, but I soon realized that city life undermined the traditional morals of my people. Although many young men forgot about their families who lived in the rurals, I never forgot mine and regularly sent money home to them. In 1939, I married a girl from Zululand, named Claudina. Though married, I still continued to work 250 miles [400 km] away in Johannesburg. Most of my peers were doing the same. Although it was painful to be separated from my family for long periods, I felt an obligation to help them enjoy a higher standard of living.

While in Johannesburg, a friend named Elias and I decided to search for the true religion. We visited churches in our neighborhood but were not satisfied with any of them. Then Elias met Jehovah’s Witnesses. I joined Elias in regular association with the first black congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Johannesburg. In 1942, after dedicating my life to Jehovah, I was baptized in Soweto. On trips home to Zululand, I would try to share my beliefs with Claudina, but she was deeply involved in church activities.

However, she began to compare our literature with her Bible, and the truth of God’s Word gradually reached her heart. In 1945 she was baptized. She became a zealous Christian minister, sharing Bible truth with her neighbors and inculcating it into the hearts of our children. Meanwhile, I had the privilege of helping some come to a knowledge of Bible truth in Johannesburg. By 1945 there were four black congregations in the vicinity of Johannesburg, and I served as the company servant of the Small Market Congregation. In time, Scriptural direction was given to married men who worked far from their homes to return to their families and give more attention to their responsibilities as family heads.​—Eph. 5:28-31; 6:4.

So in 1949, I left my job in Johannesburg to care for my family in Jehovah’s way. Back home I obtained work with a livestock inspector as a dipping-tank assistant. It was difficult to support a family of six children on the meager salary I received. So to help care for expenses, I also sold vegetables and corn that we grew at home. Although our family was not rich materially, we had spiritual treasures because of heeding Jesus’ direction recorded at Matthew 6:19, 20.

Attaining these spiritual treasures requires hard work, just as does digging for gold in the mines around Johannesburg. Every evening, I shared a Bible text with my children and asked each one to tell me what he had learned. On weekends, I took them, in turns, in the preaching work. As we walked from farmstead to farmstead, I discussed Scriptural matters with them and tried to impress the Bible’s high moral standards on their hearts.​—Deut. 6:6, 7.

For many years, ours was the only family in a position to provide hospitality for traveling overseers. These brothers and their wives had a fine influence on our children and built in them a desire to become full-time evangelizers. Altogether, we had five boys and a girl. All six children are now grown and are spiritually strong. How thankful I am for the direction from Jehovah’s organization that encouraged ones like me to give better attention to the spiritual needs of our families! The blessings that have resulted are far greater than anything money can buy.​—Prov. 10:22.

Brother Josephat Busane continued serving Jehovah faithfully until his death in 1998. His surviving grown children also continue to treasure their spiritual heritage. One of the sons, Theophilus, serves as a traveling overseer. Further details about Brother Busane can be read in the “Awake!” of October 8, 1993, pages 19 to 22.

[Box/​Picture on page 96, 97]

“Kingdom Service Has Helped Me Draw Close to Jehovah”


BORN 1894


PROFILE Learned five languages so that he could help people spiritually in his pioneer assignments.

IN 1938 a schoolteacher gave me some booklets published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the time, I was a preacher at the Wesleyan church in Delmas, some 40 miles [60 km] east of Johannesburg. I had long been deeply interested in the Bible. The church taught that the soul is immortal and that the wicked are tormented in hell. But those booklets showed from the Bible that this was not so. (Ps. 37:38; Ezek. 18:4) I could also see that instead of going to heaven, most of God’s people will get everlasting life on earth.​—Ps. 37:29; Matt. 6:9, 10.

I was very happy to learn these truths and wanted to preach them to the congregation at my church, but fellow preachers objected and planned to have me expelled. So I quit the church and began associating with the small group of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Delmas. I was baptized in 1941 and started pioneering in 1943.

I moved to Rustenburg, where there was a need for Kingdom proclaimers. Being a stranger, I had to apply to the local chief for accommodations and a permit to stay. He said that I would have to pay 12 pounds for the permit. I was unable to pay this, but a kind white brother there paid the money and helped me financially so that I could carry on in the pioneer service. One of the men with whom I studied made good progress, and after I left that assignment, he was appointed a servant in the congregation.

Then I moved farther west to Lichtenburg. This time I had to apply to a white superintendent to stay in the black area of the town. He refused to grant me permission. I appealed to a white pioneer brother in Mafikeng, not far away, to help me. We visited the superintendent together, but he said: “I don’t want you here. You people teach that there is no hell. So how can people do the right thing if they are not afraid of hellfire?”

Because of this refusal, I moved to Mafikeng, where I am still serving as a regular pioneer. My language is Zulu, but soon after I learned the truth, I decided that I must learn English so as to read all the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This helped me to grow spiritually.

To be effective in my ministry, I have also learned to speak Sesotho, Xhosa, Tswana, and a little Afrikaans. Through the years, I have had the privilege of helping many to dedicate their lives to Jehovah, including four who are now elders. Full-time service has also been beneficial for my health.

I give thanks to Jehovah for allowing me to reach a good old age in his service. It is not in my own strength that I have gained knowledge and had success in the field. Jehovah through his holy spirit has helped me. Above all, regular, full-time Kingdom service has helped me to draw close to Jehovah, and I have learned to depend on him.

The above interview took place in 1982. As one of God’s anointed, Brother Skosana continued in his faithful course. He died in 1992.

[Box/​Pictures on page 100, 101]

South Africa’s First District Overseer


BORN 1923


PROFILE First Gilead-trained missionary assigned to South Africa. He worked hard to advance Kingdom interests, particularly in black communities.

IN December 1946, Milton Bartlett arrived in Cape Town as the first Gilead-trained missionary to serve in South Africa. His assignment was to get the circuit and district work started, which he did. At that time, Brother Bartlett served as the only district overseer. In the years that followed, traveling overseers did much to promote Kingdom interests in South Africa, especially among the black population.

Milton was dearly loved by the brothers in South Africa. He was a patient man who listened carefully when brothers discussed their problems with him. Thus, he was in a position to send to the South Africa branch detailed and accurate reports concerning problems that had wider implications. This helped to bring the brothers’ conduct and way of worship into closer harmony with Bible principles.

Milton was able to offer such help to his brothers because of being well versed in the Scriptures and a skillful teacher. He was also blessed with the determination and persistence that were necessary in order for him, a white man, to get permits from apartheid officials to enter black townships. Prejudiced officials would often refuse him a permit, and Milton would have to approach higher authorities, such as town councils, for help. Then he would have to wait until the council held its next meeting and reversed unfavorable decisions. One way or another, he gained access to most black areas.

At times, undercover policemen would be sent to take note of the content of Milton’s talks. One reason for this was that Christendom’s ministers falsely accused Jehovah’s Witnesses of being Communist agitators. A black policeman was once sent to take notes at an assembly. “This was providential,” Milton wrote some 20 years later, “as that policeman accepted true worship on the basis of what he heard that weekend, and he is still going strong.”

When Milton arrived in the country as a 23-year-old single man, there were 3,867 publishers. After Milton had served in South Africa for 26 years, the publisher figure had reached 24,005. In 1973, Milton and his wife, Sheila, and their one-year-old son, Jason, had to return to the United States to care for Milton’s aged parents. The picture on this page shows Milton and Sheila back in South Africa in 1999, when they attended the dedication of the South Africa branch extension. How thrilled they were​—after an absence of 26 years—​to enjoy a reunion with many old-timers who remembered their labors of love!


Milton and Sheila Bartlett, 1999

[Box/​Picture on page 107]

A Unique Setting

Table Mountain, a striking landmark, provides a brilliant setting for the city of Cape Town. Some regard Cape Town as the most beautiful city in Africa.

In summer the level plateau may at times be neatly covered by a thick cloud that is aptly styled “the tablecloth.” This is caused by strong winds being forced up the mountain slopes, the moisture condensing into a thick cloud that settles over Table Mountain.

[Box/​Pictures on page 114-117]

Maintaining Integrity During Detention


BORN 1952


PROFILE Held in detention from December 1970 to March 1973 because of Christian neutrality. Started regular pioneering in 1973 and went to Bethel in 1974. Now a Branch Committee member.

What were conditions like in a detention barracks?

The barracks were long blocks, each with two rows of 34 cells facing a passage with a storm-water furrow down the middle. In solitary confinement, we had our own seven-by-six-foot [2 x 1.8 m] cell. We were let out of our cells only twice a day: in the mornings to wash, shave, and clean our toilet pans and in the afternoons to shower. We couldn’t write or receive letters. We were allowed no books other than the Bible and no pens or pencils. We could not have any visitors.

Prior to entering the detention barracks, most brothers had their Bibles bound together with other books, such as Aid to Bible Understanding. The guards were none the wiser because it resembled their large, old Afrikaans or Dutch family Bibles.

Were you able to obtain Bible literature?

Yes, we smuggled in literature when we could. All our possessions were kept in suitcases in one of the empty cells. This included toiletries. Once a month a guard would let us go to our suitcases to replenish our toiletry supplies. We also had literature in these suitcases.

While one of us distracted the guard by talking to him, another brother would hide a book under his shorts or undershirt. Back in the cell, we divided the book into signatures, which were easier to hide. We passed these around so that all could read them. We found many hiding places. Some of the cells were in a neglected state, and there were holes everywhere.

Our cells were frequently searched, sometimes in the middle of the night. The guards always found some of the literature but never everything. One of the more sympathetic soldiers often warned us when there was going to be a search. We then wrapped literature in plastic and pushed it up the drainpipes. One day there was a tremendous storm, and to our dismay, one of these packages came floating down the furrow inside the cellblock. Some of the military inmates started playing soccer with it. Suddenly a guard appeared and ordered them to get back into their cells. To our relief no one paid further attention to the package, and we were able to retrieve it when we were let out of our cells shortly afterward.

Was your integrity tested while you were in detention?

Constantly. The prison officials were always trying something. For example, they would be very nice to us​—give us extra food, take us out to exercise, and even let us lie out in the sun. Then after a few days, they would suddenly command us to put on the khaki military overalls. When we refused, they treated us as severely as before.

After that, we were told to wear the plastic army helmets, which we refused to do. The captain was so enraged that from then on, he didn’t even allow us to have showers. We were each given a bucket so that we could wash in our cells.

We had no shoes. Some brothers’ feet were bleeding, so we made shoes. We collected pieces of old blankets that were used to polish the floors. Then we found some copper wire, flattened one end, and sharpened the other. We made a hole in the flat end with a pin and used this wire as a sewing needle. We stripped threads out of our blankets and sewed moccasins from the pieces of blanket.

Without any warning, we were once ordered to go three to a cell. Although we were cramped, this proved advantageous. We arranged that spiritually weaker brothers went in with more experienced ones. We had Bible studies and field service practice sessions. To the captain’s dismay, our morale soared.

Realizing that this scheme had failed, the captain ordered each Witness to share a cell with two non-Witness inmates. Although they had strict orders not to speak to us, they started asking questions, and we had ample opportunity to witness. As a result, one or two of these inmates refused to engage in certain military activities. We were soon back to one to a cell.

Were you able to hold meetings?

We held our meetings regularly. Above each cell door was a window with a wire mesh and seven vertical bars. We knotted two ends of a blanket around two of the vertical bars and made a little hammock that we could sit in. From up there we could see the brother in the cell across from us, and we could shout and be heard by the others in the block. We did the daily text each day, and if we had the magazine, we did the Watchtower Study. We closed each day by taking turns in offering a public prayer. We even made up our own circuit assembly program.

We weren’t sure if an elder was going to get permission to come in and observe the Memorial with us. So we made our own preparations. We made wine by soaking some raisins in water, and we flattened and dried out some of our bread ration. On one occasion, we were given permission to receive a small bottle of wine and some unleavened bread from the brothers outside.

Did conditions change in time?

In time, conditions did improve. The law changed, and our group was released. From then on, religious objectors received one sentence of prescribed length, with no resentencing. Later, after our group of 22 brothers was released, the remaining 88 brothers in custody were granted normal prison privileges. They could have one visit a month and could write and receive letters.

When you were released, did you find it difficult to adjust?

Yes, it took time to adjust to life on the outside. For example, it was quite unnerving to mix with crowds of people. Our parents and the brothers kindly assisted us to take on more responsibilities in the congregations gradually.

While those were difficult times, we benefited from the experience. The tests of faith strengthened us spiritually and taught us endurance. We really came to appreciate the Bible, and we learned the value of reading it and meditating on it every day. And we certainly learned to trust in Jehovah. After having made those sacrifices to remain faithful to Jehovah, we were resolved to carry on, giving our best to him, doing so in full-time service if possible.

[Box/​Picture on page 126-128]

We Trusted in Jehovah During Perilous Times


BORN 1960


PROFILE Was a Rastafarian before he learned the truth. Soon after his baptism, he entered full-time service. Presently serves as a circuit overseer, accompanied by his wife, Nomusa.

AFTER assisting with the construction of the Krugersdorp Bethel, my pioneer partner and I were assigned to serve where the need was greater in the KwaNdengezi township, near the port city of Durban. A few days after our arrival, a political group sent five of their youths to our home on a fact-finding mission. They asked us to support them in protecting the township from a rival political group. The animosity between these two Zulu-speaking groups had caused much bloodshed in that region of South Africa. We asked them what they thought was the solution to this violence. They said that the main cause was white man’s rulership. We referred to other war-ravaged countries in Africa whose citizens were poverty-stricken. Then we reminded them of the saying, History repeats itself. They agreed that crime, violence, and sickness would remain even if blacks took over the rulership of the country. Next we opened the Bible and showed them that God’s Kingdom is the only government that can solve mankind’s problems.

A few nights later, we heard a crowd of youths chanting freedom songs and saw men wielding firearms. Houses were being set on fire, and people were being killed. Gripped with fear, we prayed to Jehovah for strength not to allow threats or intimidation to dampen our spirit or break our integrity. We also called to mind the martyrs who under similar circumstances had not disowned Jesus. (Matt. 10:32, 33) Suddenly, a group of youths and adults knocked at our door. Without any greeting they demanded money to buy intelezi, Zulu for a supposedly protective medicine provided by a witch doctor. We pleaded with them to be patient and asked, “Do you feel that what the witch doctors are doing is right in promoting killings by means of witchcraft?” We also asked: “Suppose your beloved relative became a victim of witchcraft. How would you feel about it?” They all agreed that it would be bad. We then opened the Bible and asked their leader to read God’s view of witchcraft, as recorded at Deuteronomy 18:10-12. After he read the verses, we asked the group what they thought about it. They were dumbfounded. We took advantage of the ensuing silence to ask if they deemed it wise for us to listen to Jehovah or to them. They all left without a word.

We survived many situations like these and came to know that Jehovah was on our side. For example, one evening another group came to our house demanding money to buy weapons to “protect” the residents. They complained that they suffered insecurity because of the opposing political group and said that the solution was to launch a counterattack with more sophisticated weapons. They demanded that we either give them the money or face the consequences. We then reminded them that their organization had signed a charter guaranteeing human rights and respect for the conscience of others. We asked them if a person should be willing to die rather than go against the constitution they believed in. They said yes. We then explained that we belong to Jehovah’s organization, that our “constitution” is the Bible, and that the Bible condemns murder. Finally, the leader of the group said to his comrades: “I understand the position of these men. They have made it clear that if the money is for developing our township​—such as for building an old-age home—​or if their neighbor needs money to go to the hospital, they are willing to give. But they are not willing to give us money to kill.” At that, the group rose from their seats and we shook hands, thanking them for their patience.

[Box/​Pictures on page 131-134]

Single Sisters With 100 Years of Translation Service

A number of brothers and sisters in the South Africa Bethel family have used their gift of singleness in valuable Kingdom service. (Matt. 19:11, 12) The following three sisters have spent a total of 100 years translating spiritual food from “the faithful and discreet slave.”​—Matt. 24:45.

Maria Molepo

I was born in the chiefdom of Molepo, in South Africa’s Limpopo Province. My older sister Aletta taught me the truth while I was still in school. When I completed my schooling, another sister, who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, offered to pay for a three-year college course for me to become a qualified teacher. I turned down her kind offer because I wanted to serve Jehovah with my two older sisters, Aletta and Elizabeth, who were pioneers. I got baptized in 1953 and put in pioneer hours on and off for six years before filling out an application and being formally appointed a regular pioneer in 1959.

In 1964 the South Africa branch invited me to work part-time translating spiritual food into Sepedi. I did this while continuing my pioneer service. Then in 1966, I was invited to become a member of the South Africa Bethel family. Bethel service was not what I had imagined it to be. I missed going out in field service every day. Soon, however, I adjusted my viewpoint by considering the weekends, from Saturday afternoon to Sunday evening, as pioneer time, although I could not put in pioneer hours. I enjoyed my weekend field service so much that I would often come home too late for Saturday or Sunday supper. When the change came for older Bethel sisters to take Saturday mornings off, I was so happy to be able to use that extra time in field service.

During my first eight years at Bethel, I shared a room with another translator in a building separate from the Bethel home. The apartheid authorities initially allowed us to live near our white brothers, but in 1974 they refused to allow this anymore. Black translators like myself were forced to live in areas reserved for black people. I stayed with a Witness family in Tembisa and had to travel a long distance to and from Bethel each day. When the new Bethel was constructed in Krugersdorp, the apartheid government had begun to relax its policies, and I could live with the rest of the Bethel family again.

I’m very grateful to Jehovah for enabling me to continue my work as a Bethel translator down till this day. Indeed, he has blessed me for using my gift of singleness in his service to the extent that my younger sister, Annah, also chose to remain single and has been enjoying the full-time evangelizing work for the past 35 years.

Tseleng Mochekele

I was born in the town of Teyateyaneng, in the country of Lesotho. My mother was a religious person and used to force me and my siblings to accompany her to church. I hated going to church. Then my aunt became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and she shared her faith with my mother. I was happy when my mother stopped going to church, but I ignored the truth because I loved the world and its entertainment.

In 1960, I moved to Johannesburg to finish my schooling. When I left home, my mother begged me, “Please, Tseleng, when you are in Johannesburg, look for the Witnesses and try to become one of them.” When I first arrived in Johannesburg, I was impressed with all the opportunities to enjoy entertainment. However, upon taking a closer look at people’s lives, I was shocked at the sexual immorality commonly practiced. Then I remembered my mother’s words and started to attend the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Soweto. During my first meeting, I remember praying, “Help me, Jehovah, because I want to become one of your Witnesses.” Soon I started sharing in the ministry and got baptized in July of that same year. After completing my schooling, I returned to my mother in Lesotho. By that time she too was baptized.

In 1968 the South Africa branch invited me to become a full-time translator of the Sesotho language. For many years, I fulfilled this assignment while living at my mother’s home. During hard times I suggested to my family that perhaps I should stop full-time service and get a job to help support them. However, both my mother and my youngest baptized sister, Liopelo, refused to hear of such a thing. They deeply appreciated the privilege of supporting me in my assignment as a full-time translator.

In 1990, I was able to become part of the South Africa Bethel family at the new branch facilities in Krugersdorp, where I continue to enjoy my privilege of translation work. I do not regret my choice to remain single. Rather, I feel deeply grateful to Jehovah for blessing me with such a happy and meaningful life.

Nurse Nkuna

I was born in the northeastern part of South Africa in the town of Bushbuckridge. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, my mother raised me in the truth while working full-time to supplement my father’s income. Mother taught me to read before I even went to school. This helped me to share in the preaching work during weekdays with an elderly sister who was a regular pioneer. She had poor eyesight, so my ability to read helped her in the ministry. Even after I started going to school, I continued engaging in field service with her in the afternoons. My association with full-time servants instilled in me a love for the ministry. Seeing people take a stand for the truth brings me joy. When I was about ten years old, I prayed to Jehovah about my desire to spend my life in the full-time preaching work. I was baptized in 1983 and spent a few years working to help provide for my family’s physical needs. To ensure that I did not develop a love of money that would impede me in reaching my goal of entering full-time service, I asked my mother to manage my salary. Then in 1987, I resigned from work when my application to become a Zulu translator with the South Africa Bethel family was accepted.

Serving as a single sister at Bethel has brought me many joys. Comments given at morning worship have helped me to improve my field ministry. Serving in close quarters with fellow worshippers of different backgrounds has helped me to improve my Christian personality. True, I have no children of my own, but I have many spiritual children and grandchildren whom I may not have had if I had chosen to marry and have a family of my own.

While working hard at their Bethel translation assignments, at the same time these three single sisters altogether have helped 36 individuals to become dedicated, baptized worshippers of Jehovah.

[Box/​Pictures on page 146, 147]

Mountain Splendor

The Drakensberg Mountain range stretches some 650 miles [1,050 km] through South Africa. However, the section that forms a natural border between KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho is the most spectacular part of the range. It is often called the Switzerland of South Africa.

Challenging summits​—such peaks as the massive Sentinel; the smooth, dangerous Monk’s Cowl; and the treacherous Devil’s Tooth with its sheer sides​—beckon adventurous mountaineers. Climbing such mountains can be dangerous. A number of passes to the escarpment, though, are steep but safe and do not require special climbing equipment. Of course, it is essential to obey the rules of the mountains. Warm clothing, a tent, and a reserve of food are vital. The escarpment can be bitterly cold, with fierce winds at night.

Each year thousands of hikers, campers, and mountaineers leave behind the stress and pollution of the cities and come here for the fresh mountain air, the tingling sweetness of mountain water, and the grandeur of the majestic heights.


Rock paintings done by Bushmen

[Box/​Pictures on page 158, 159]

Rescued From Spiritism and Polygamy


BORN 1916


PROFILE Disillusioned with Christendom, he was a wealthy witch doctor before learning the truth.

ISAAC and three of his friends​—Matlabane, Lukas, and Phillip—​grew up in the Sekhukhune Mountains situated in the northeastern part of South Africa. These four young men decided to leave the Apostolic Church because of the hypocrisy they saw among church members. Together they began searching for the true religion. In time, they lost contact with one another.

Three of the four friends eventually became Jehovah’s Witnesses, together with their wives. But what happened to Isaac? He had followed in the footsteps of his father, who was a renowned witch doctor. Isaac’s motive was to make money, and he became wealthy. He owned a hundred cattle and had a large bank balance. As is traditionally expected of wealthy people, Isaac also had two wives. Meanwhile, Matlabane decided to search for Isaac and show him how his three former friends had found the true religion.

Isaac was pleased to meet Matlabane again and was eager to know why his old friends had become Jehovah’s Witnesses. A Bible study was started with Isaac in the brochure Enjoy Life on Earth Forever! Picture number 17 in the local-language edition shows an African witch doctor throwing bones onto the ground to divine an answer to a client’s question. Isaac was amazed to learn from the cited scripture, Deuteronomy 18:10, 11, that such spiritistic practices are displeasing to God. He was disturbed by picture number 25 of a polygamous man and his wives. The picture includes the citation of 1 Corinthians 7:1-4 to show that a true Christian cannot have more than one wife.

Isaac was eager to obey the Scriptures. At the age of 68, he dismissed his second wife and legalized his marriage to his first wife, Florina. He also stopped practicing as a witch doctor and threw away his divining bones. During one of Isaac’s Bible studies, two clients arrived from a long distance. They had come to pay him 550 rand ($140, U.S., at the time) that they owed him for his services as a witch doctor. Isaac refused to accept the money and gave the men a witness, explaining that he had given up his former practice and was now studying the Bible with the intention of becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Soon Isaac reached his goal. In 1985 he and Florina were baptized, and for the past few years, Isaac, now aged 90, has served as an elder in the Christian congregation.

[Chart/​Graph on page 124, 125]

TIME LINE​—South Africa


1902 Bible-based literature arrives in South Africa.

1910 William W. Johnston opens branch office in Durban.

1916 “Photo-Drama of Creation” arrives.

1917 Branch office is moved to Cape Town.


1924 Printing press is shipped to Cape Town.

1939 First Consolation is printed in Afrikaans.


1948 Kingdom Hall is built near Cape Town.

1949 Zulu Watchtower is printed.

1952 Bethel is completed at Elandsfontein.

1979 TKS rotary offset press is installed.


1987 New Bethel is built in Krugersdorp; expanded in 1999.

1992 First quickly built Kingdom Hall is erected in Soweto.


2004 Printery is extended. MAN Roland Lithoman press is in production.

2006 Peak publishers is 78,877.


(See publication)

Total Publishers

Total Pioneers



1900 1920 1940 1980 2000

[Chart/​Pictures on page 148, 149]

A Multitude of Languages

The South Africa printery produces “The Watchtower” in 33 languages

A Variety of Fashions

In Africa you can find a colorful variety of ethnic clothing, jewelry, and textile designs


GREETING “Sanibona”

MOTHER TONGUE OF 10,677,000 *



GREETING “Lumelang”




GREETING “Thobela”








GREETING “Molweni”








GREETING “Dumelang”




GREETING “Ri a vusa”




^ par. 519 All figures are approximate.

^ par. 520 All figures are approximate.

[Full-page picture on page 66]

[Picture on page 71]

Yellowwood tree

[Picture on page 74]

Stoffel Fourie

[Picture on page 74]

“Studies in the Scriptures”

[Picture on page 74]

Durban Congregation with William W. Johnston, 1915

[Picture on page 74, 75]

Johannes Tshange and his family

[Picture on page 75]

The first branch office was a small room in this building

[Picture on page 77]

Japie Theron

[Picture on page 79]

Henry Myrdal

[Picture on page 79]

Piet de Jager

[Picture on page 82]

Henry Ancketill, 1915

[Picture on page 82]

Grace and David Taylor

[Picture on page 82]

This 1931 booklet contained the resolution to adopt the name Jehovah’s Witnesses

[Pictures on page 84]

The 1931 Bethel family in Cape Town, including George and Stella Phillips

[Picture on page 87]

Recording in the Xhosa language

[Picture on page 87]

Andrew Jack and the Frontex press, 1937

[Picture on page 87]

First “Consolation” and “The Watchtower” in Afrikaans

[Picture on page 90]

Assembly delegates, Johannesburg, 1944

[Picture on page 90]

Advertising a talk with placards, 1945

[Picture on page 90]

Frans Muller and Piet Wentzel with phonographs, 1945

[Picture on page 95]

Gert Nel, servant to the brethren, 1943

[Picture on page 95]

Witnessing in the rurals, 1948

[Picture on page 99]

Andrew Masondo and his second wife, Ivy

[Picture on page 99]

Luke and Joyce Dladla

[Picture on page 99]

First Zulu “Watchtower”

[Picture on page 102]

Velloo Naicker’s example helped 190 family members accept the truth

[Pictures on page 102]

Gopal Coopsammy at age 21 and today with his wife, Susila. They have helped 150 people to dedication

[Picture on page 104, 105]

Isabella Elleray

Doreen Kilgour

[Picture on page 108, 109]

original, 1952

Bethel, Elandsfontein, 1972

[Pictures on page 110]

Convention Highlights

(Top) Release of the book “Children,” 1942; (middle) baptismal candidates, 1959; (bottom) Xhosa chorus welcomes delegates, 1998

3,428 were baptized last year!

[Picture on page 120]

Elijah Dlodlo endured a whipping

[Picture on page 121]

Florah Malinda, a regular pioneer. Her daughter was brutally murdered

[Picture on page 122]

Moses Nyamussua was murdered by a mob

[Pictures on page 140, 141]

Accelerated Kingdom Hall Construction

The congregation in Kagiso was assisted to have a new place of worship




The Rathanda Congregation in Heidelberg love their new Kingdom Hall

In 37 African countries, 7,207 halls completed, 3,305 more to go!

[Picture on page 147]

The Rossouw family today

[Pictures on page 150]

Midrand Assembly Hall

[Picture on page 155]

Relief to Zimbabwe, 2002

[Picture on page 155]

Computer software has been provided to assist translators

[Pictures on page 156, 157]

South Africa Branch, 2006

Residence and office buildings, new press, and Shipping Department

[Pictures on page 156, 157]

Branch Committee

Piet Wentzel

Loyiso Piliso

Rowen Brookes

Raymond Mthalane

Frans Muller

Pieter de Heer

Jannie Dieperink

[Pictures on page 161, 162]


William and Ellen Heindel

Coralie and Dick Waldron, 1951

Namibia translation office

[Pictures on page 167]


(Top) Abel Modiba in the circuit work; (above) cave dwellers gather around a missionary; (left) Per-Ola and Birgitta Nygren

[Pictures on page 168]


The Thongoanas witness to a street vendor

Preaching from hut to hut

[Pictures on page 170]


James and Dawne Hockett

Sharing the truth at a craft market, Mbabane

[Pictures on page 170]

St. Helena

The “Kingdom News” campaign was completed in one day; (below) port city of Jamestown

[Picture on page 175]

1993 international convention