Workers, Friends, Home Church, The Truth, The Way, Meetings, Gospel, Cooneyites, Christian Conventions, Hymns Old & New
Preserving the Truth
The Church without a Name and its Founder, William Irvine

Introduction Index of Chapters
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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O Bio Truth?

Chapter 35
Revised February 22, 2018

South Africa

Background - South Africa
Workers Arrive in South Africa
1948-1983 Apartheid - South African Independence
Revolt of the Black and Colored Elders
1966 - Assassination of Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd

Wilson Reid - A few biographical notes
Who was Joe Kerr?
First Missions in South Africa
TTT PHOTO Gallery for South Africa

AFRICA: Africa is the second largest continent, and is over three times as large as the United States. It is about 5,000 miles from the North to Cape Town in the South; and also about 5,000 miles from East to West.

The Republic of South Africa is situated at the southernmost tip of the continent of Africa, and occupies about 473,000 square miles. South Africa is somewhat larger than Texas and California combined; or more than twice the size of France. Although a very large country, it is not the largest country in Africa–Sudan is. Cape Town is the legislative capital and is the second largest city in South Africa, after Johannesburg. 

The first white settlement was made on the Cape at a Dutch traders' refreshment station and mail exchange for ships sailing between Holland and the Dutch East Indies (modern-day Indonesia). The Dutch language became the official language and was taught in schools. The Dutch Reformed Church was the official church. The number of white people of the Cape grew slowly and consisted of German, Dutch and French immigrants, including victims of religious persecution, such as the Huguenots. Slaves were imported from West Africa and Malaya, resulting in mixed marriages.

In 1728, the first missionary attempts among the natives of South Africa was started by Georg Schmidt, a German Moravian missionary. Protestant missionary work was active throughout the 1700-1800s. Catholicism was forbidden. In 1840, one of the most popular British heroes, David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary, doctor and explorer, went to South Africa and helped to open the heart of Africa to missions. In 1905, about 175 years after the first missionaries arrived in South Africa, the first Workers arrived.

By the early 1800s, when the British annexed the Cape, there were about 25,000 white people in the colony and about 30,000 black slaves. English took the place of Dutch as the official language and was taught in the schools. The white Dutch Africans would eventually be called “Afrikaners.” In 1833, all the slaves in the British Empire were emancipated. In 1867, the first diamond was discovered at Hopetown, and in 1886, gold was discovered in Witwatersrand.

In the first thirty years of the 20th century, whites were a minority, with the majority of the African population being Africans (blacks), coloreds (mixed race), and Indians. About 60% of whites and most persons of mixed race spoke Dutch as their native language, with the other 40% of whites speaking English. The South African Dutch dialect diverged considerably from European Dutch, and is now a called "Afrikaans." Many discriminatory legislations were passed against the Afrikaners. Only a few elite Afrikaners and coloreds, and all white adult males were allowed to vote. The interests of the majority of the population were at the mercy of the white minority.


1905, SEPTEMBER: EIGHT WORKERS ARRIVED IN SOUTH AFRICA. On August 25, 1905, seventeen Workers boarded the SS Geelong in London, and eight disembarked in South Africa. Wm Irvine went to Adelaide, Aust. and the remaining eight sailed on to New Zealand. Those who disembarked in Cape Town were: Wilson Reid, age 24, Joe Kerr, age 24, Barbara Baxter, age 24 and Martha Skerritt, age 22. John Cavanagh, age 27, Alex Pierce/Pearce, age 29 disembarked at Port Elizabeth and Mary Moodie, age 38, and Lilly Reid, age 26, went to Durban. Little is known of the Missions they worked.

Joe Kerr was born in 1881 in Dumfriesshire, Wanlockhead, Scotland, and grew up in the small village of Philipstown, Scotland.  He was a convert of Ed Cooney, entered the work in 1902, and went to South Africa in 1905.

Wilson Reid was born in 1881, and grew up at Carnteel, County Tyrone, Ireland.  He and his sister, Bella, professed in 1903 in a mission of Adam Hutchison. The 1905 Workers List shows Wilson entering work in 1904, and Bella in 1905. Wilson preached a couple years in England, before he sailed for Cape Town, South Africa in 1905. His co-worker soon moved on and Wilson was left by himself.  He slept in the fields and during the day he stood on the street corners, singing hymns and preaching to those passing by in “open-air" meetings.

Mr. Muller,* a white man of Dutch descent from Ireland, was on his way home from work when he stopped to listen to Wilson preaching on the street corner. Wilson was invited to the home of the Mullers. Within three weeks, Mrs. Muller professed, and became the very FIRST person to profess on the Continent of Africa. Her husband professed a little while later and a Fellowship Meeting was placed in their home. Mrs. Muller was a colored lady (mixed race), and was married to a white man (mixed marriage).

When the Workers arrived in South Africa in 1905, a great deal of racial prejudice and discrimination existed there. The people were classified according to race: white, black, colored ("mixed blood"), indians, etc.  After a few Gospel Meetings in the Mullers’ home, Wilson Reid, seeking to be more accommodating to outsiders who might be racially prejudiced, suggested that Mrs. Muller not attend the Gospel Meetings. He thought that if she was not present, perhaps more whites would attend the Gospel Meetings and have the opportunity to hear the Gospel. He believed that after the whites received the Gospel, they would have a better understanding and would accept Mrs. Muller.

Mr. and Mrs. Muller had one daughter, Nunnie, who had inherited the features and complexion of her white Dutch father. Having a colored mother, she was not accepted by the whites, and neither was she fully accepted by the coloreds. In 1950-60, when Vernard Karstadt had to leave the work in West Africa, due to his health. Wilson Reid asked Nunnie, a sprightly 56 year old, to marry Vernard and move to Free Town in Sierra Leone, and provide an open home for the Workers. They married. She passed away in 1995, aged 93. Their niece wrote:

“My Uncle laboured with Wilson [Reid] in West Africa, and found him to be a very kind man. However, he had suffered awful abuse in the Work from some of the other white Workers. Uncle Vernard told us that the coloured and black friends and Workers had to address the white Workers by the title "Baas,” plus their name. In Afrikaans, a Dutch dialect, “Baas” means “Lord” or “Boss” in English. However, the white Workers didn’t want the blacks to address Uncle Vernard by that title, although in appearance he was as white as they were, but was classed as coloured on his identity pass. My uncle excused this practice with the reasoning that 'we have to suffer for Jesus’ sake.' As children, we gathered in Mrs. Muller's home for Meetings"  (Memories of Sheila Martin).

1906, AUGUST–EIGHT MORE WORKERS ARRIVED in Cape Town, having departed from London, Eng. on Aug. 14, 1906, aboard the SS Wakool. They were four Brother Workers: Hugh McKay, age 27, Jim Dunlop, age 24, Fred Alder, age 19, Jack Godding/Golding, age 18; and four Sister Workers: Jean Allen, age 22, Nellie Taylor, age 25, Beatrice ("Cissie") Maughan, age 19, and Edith Easey/Easy, age 20.

1907, SEPTEMBER: TWO MORE WORKERS ARRIVED. Archibald ("Archie") Russell and David Gibson departed from London, Eng., on Aug. 19, 1907, aboard the SS Geelong and arrived in Cape Town, "Occupation: Preachers." Archie was born Nov. 4, 1879, in Scotland, entered the work in 1904 and preached until 1915. Reportedly, Archie was orphaned as a baby in the Tay Bridge disaster near Dundee, Scotland, on Dec. 28, 1979. Archie and his siblings went to live with their Grandmother Russell in Philipstown, Scotland, who lived next door to the Kerr household. Archie and Joe Kerr became childhood, life long friends. Archie joined the Plymouth Brethren after leaving the 2x2 Sect, and died in the mid-1960s in South Africa.

After he arrived, Archie connected with Joe, and the pair traveled about the country preaching. It is not known what became of Archie's companion, David Gibson. Joe and Archie believed the Witwatersrand Diamond Rush in Kimberley would be a promising Mission field, especially in the "tent city" growing around the "big hole"  After meeting the Koekemoer family of Dutch descent, they held meetings in their home and the parents and their three daughters converted.  They spent several years in the area preaching in the open air and in house meetings, and spent a night in jail for "disturbing the peace." Eventually, Joe and Archie moved on to Johannesburg, as did the Koekemoers, and their eldest daughter, Gladys, became a 2x2 Worker. She and Barbara Baxter began preaching together.

PAST OVERSEERS:  The first Overseer was Wilson Reid, an Irishman; then perhaps Fred Alder, an Englishman; then perhaps Alex Pearce until his death in 1946; Willie Clarke, a Scotsman 1968-1970; Jim Johnston from South Africa 1970-1993 (died 1999); Louis van Dyk; Johan Kotze (date started?).

WORKER LOCATIONS AFTER 1912-13 IRISH CONVENTIONS - South Africa: Walter & Mrs. McClung ("Chrissie"), Geo. Humphries, Sarel Du Toit, Wilson Reid, Ben Baldwin, Fred Alder, Arthur Arnold, Alex Pearce, James Bird, James Dunlop, Hugh McKay, Archie Russell, Geo. Absalom, Joe Kerr, Albert van Lingen; Eddie Barendilla & J. Temane (Black); and Sister Workers: Nellie Taylor, Cissie Tregurtha, Mary Moodie, E. Johnson, Barbara Baxter, May Lund, Jean Allan/Allen, Grace Koekemoer; Gertie Barendillo & K. Williams (Black).

MARRIED WORKER COUPLES IN SOUTH AFRICA: Walter McClung, from Ireland, and his wife, Chrissie, from South Africa, professed and were in the work in South Africa by 1912-13. Walter was the brother of Wilson McClung, Overseer of South Australia and New Zealand.

Tom and Martha Kilpatrick were an Irish married couple who immigrated to South Africa, where they met the Workers. They started in the Work in late 1915, when their daughter, Elna, was about three, who was raised by her grandmother. After Tom's death in 1959, Martha lived 20 more years and continued to preach until she died in 1979, at a very advanced age.

South Africa has a very high rate of Workers staying in the Work. Practically all the older native South African Workers spent their entire adult life in the Work, and that pattern has largely continued. One unique case is Cornilia Lewis, a first cousin of Frank van der Merwe. She had five children and her husband was killed in a mining accident. She professed at age 49, started in the work 10 years later in 1919, as a 59-year-old widow, and preached until her death in 1950, aged 90. She was shown on the Workers Lists as Mrs. Lewis, affectionately called "Granny Lewis."  

After Fred Alder arrived in 1906, he and Wilson Reid went to Kimberley, the diamond field area and found lodgings with one of the diggers. To pay their board and lodgings, they would dig each morning until midday. In the afternoons they visited and in the evenings they held Meetings. George Absalom was also digging for diamonds and Wilson talked with him while working. However, Wilson was careful to keep above George on the slope in case George became irritated by his words and pushed him down the hill. George eventually professed and became one of the first South Africans to go into the Work, starting in 1908-09, and was active in the work until his death in 1962. Arthur Arnold started in the Work in 1910. In those days Wilson only had one pair of trousers, which he used to wash at 4 a.m. on Sunday mornings and hang up with his pickhead tied in them. Within a couple of hours they were dry and pressed like new trousers.

Archie Russell and Gladys Koekemoer married on Feb. 3, 1915, (she was 23 and he was 35) and had three children. Their daughter Ruth (Russell) Barnett had a son, Rod, who provided much of this information. Archie went to work for the South African Railways as a fitter and turner, until he retired. He never drove a car, but cycled everywhere until well into his 70s. Archie died in the mid-1960s in South Africa. The Russell family moved a good deal, starting and ending in Johannesburg. One of their children was a daughter named Ruth (Russell) Barnett, and she and her son Rod provided some of these details.

Joe Kerr and Barbara Baxter also married in 1915, and had 3 children: Norman, Doreen and Joe Jr. Barbara died Feb. 24 1947, aged 64, and Joe died Dec. 17, 1966, aged 85, in Cape Town. They resided in Cape Town where Joe became Chief of the Traffic Department. Ruth Russell related that Joe was a good looking Scot with a marvelous sense of humor who teased everyone; and as children, they loved going to visit them in Cape Town. When Joe and Barbara married, they were forced out of the 2x2 Sect. Joe wrote Irvine Weir:

"It is about 39 years ago....We had a loan of beds etc. in the room we had and they sent the saints who owned these things and took them from us and left us the floor to sleep on. They forbid any of the saints to come near us, and I may tell you something that you may know already that the workers have almost the same power over the so called saints as the Priests have over their people. That is their strongest weapon. Then I had not any trade and all the unskilled work is done out here by the coloured and native people. I took a Diploma in Motor Engineering and later a Diploma in Fire Engineering and then a Diploma in Traffic Engineering, but it meant a lot of hard work and that was one of the reasons that I went blind." 

In 1915, the same year Joe and Barbara married, another married couple, the Kilpatricks, were allowed to begin preaching. It is not known if Archie and Gladys Russell left voluntarily left the Work. Later, Archie and Joe and their wives joined the Plymouth Brethren Church. In his letter to Irvine Weir, Joe refers to E. H. Broadbent's book, "The Pilgrim Church."  Broadbent was a member of the Plymouth Brethren. There is more about Joe Kerr in Chapter 20; and in the separate TTT article: Who Was Joe Kerr?   Joe is most well known for being the one who FIRST applied the Living Witness Doctrine (LWD) to the 2x2 Ministry, which greatly altered the course of the 2x2 Sect.

The Work started in South Africa among English speaking people, and quickly went among the Dutch/Afrikaans speaking people, and currently, the white congregation is about equally divided between English and Afrikaners. Most of the mixed-race people speak Afrikaans. Meetings have long been linguistically mixed, with both languages in the same hymnbook and people free to choose hymns in either language. Every Convention Meeting has speakers in both languages.

Unfortunately, this small amount of information is all the Author has about early Workers in South Africa. Additional details are welcome. Before Nunnie (Muller) Karstadt died, she wrote an account of how the workers brought the gospel to South Africa, and the Workers circulated it. IF anyone has this account, the Author would be very interested in reprinting a copy on TTT.

SEGREGATION: Fred Alder was reportedly the Worker responsible for instituting the strict rules for segregation of the races in South African Meetings. In those early years, even though there was no law to do so in churches or worship services, segregation was enforced in Meetings.

“In South Africa, from the very start, the Workers practiced racial segregation in their Meetings--when the concept was still foreign to South African people, and long before segregation became national law in 1948.  That’s all I ever knew growing up in South Africa. They would later lie to the Saints, saying that it was a law to sit separately or mix during worship. In fact, the Meetings were the ONLY church to practice racism, and that supported segregation among so-called Christians, other than the State church, the Dutch Reformed.

“The white Friends would see the colored Friends on the streets and look the other way. Conventions were segregated, and in my parents’ time, the coloured Workers had to stand and speak from the back of the Convention hall; only whites were allowed to use the platform. This practice continued until the early 1980s. At that time, the coloured Workers were allowed to speak from the platform, but not sit on it or lead a Meeting. Conventions had two doors of entry; one for Whites, and the other for the Darkies. The races were separated by the middle aisle; the Workers were also divided by races. Incidentally, they serve communion in the Conventions there; perhaps 15 cups and 15 plates of bread..

“One rich farmer and his wife had a Sunday morning Meeting in their home. One of their hired men, a black man, showed an interest in the 2x2s. He ended up professing, but this posed a problem, so they solved it by having the black man sit in the kitchen and give his testimony from there, while the Meeting took place in the living room.

“In the city of Cape Town, the Workers didn't even bother to work among the black (native) townships. All other churches went among them, but not the Workers or Friends.”

“Before the country gained their independence from Britain, people were free to mix. Please understand that although South Africa under the previous government, (before Apartheid) did enforce racial segregation, it did not affect worship or religious gatherings. Congregations could mix freely in all religions or churches. This was because during the worst time of racial oppression in South Africa, the government could not get the churches to comply with their laws of racial segregation. And the church leaders rose up in opposition to the point that ministers were prepared to be imprisoned or deported rather than go against their religious views" (Memories of Sheila Martin).

How did the black and colored Friends feel about segregation practices in the Fellowship Meetings and Conventions?  How did the Workers justify these practices with the scripture: “For there is no respect of persons with God?” (Romans 2:11).

“The problem was that the previous generation, our parents, were so conditioned into believing that this was part of our suffering for Christ, that they encouraged us to look past all this, and that someday the Lord would correct this problem as we all stood before the great white throne. Our parents said we had to put up with it because the way was perfect, but the people went wrong. Jesus would one day make things right. And so we professed, and endured it, because we did want to serve the Lord and be with Him one day.

"My parents were not happy in this way either, but then, it was "the Truth."  They have passed on into eternity, believing that it was a white man's religion. They all complained, but who would stand up against the 'anointed preacher' of God? Who would go out on a limb, to proclaim Jesus and His teaching? The Workers' authority was greater than the word of God. For those who did complain, their Meetings were removed, many were put out of the Meetings.

“We were even told from the platform at Convention, that coloured people should be thankful that the white Workers made the sacrifice to save their souls, or else they would have missed salvation. The phrase often used was ‘Know your place, and keep it.’ Our Head Worker told someone that Jesus was a white man, and therefore, the authority should go to the white man. The abuse was terrible, but who is to blame? We allowed it to happen to us--FOR JESUS’ SAKE.

“We lived in Cape Town, near the harbour. Those years the visiting Workers came over by boat mainly. Our home was often used to entertain visiting Workers, because we were the only home near the docks, and because Uncle Vernard was in the Work. We had a large home, and sometimes the Workers would arrange to have a dinner at our place. The sister Workers prepared the meals, but none of our family was allowed to eat or sit at the table with them. They took over the home and we waited in the kitchen till all was over. Workers often stayed six months at a time with us. We gave them the best room in the house. They cooked their own meals in this huge room. My folks were poor, and often I drooled over the smells that came from that room. Every day Friends would drop in, one with fresh chops and steak. Another with fresh vegetables and fruit.  Meanwhile, we sat down to a meal where meat could be hidden under four peas. We were suffering for Jesus' sake, but my stomach didn’t like it!” (Memories of Sheila Martin).

1948-1983 APARTHEID - SOUTH AFRICAN INDEPENDENCE: In 1948, when South Africa became independent, the laws of the country were changed and racial segregation began to be more strictly enforced. Segregation was nothing new, but it was given a new term “Apartheid.” (Pronounced “a-par-tite” or “a-par-tate”)  Webster’s definition of: “apartheid: Racial segregation; specifically, a policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa.”

The Apartheid regime was from 1948 to 1983, and was a regime of harsh repression implemented upon non-white people in South Africa which reached into most aspects of their lives. Most of the society was segregated: schools, transportation, hospitals, recreation, entertainment, etc. Apartheid was enforced in all public places. Notices reading “Europeans and Non-Europeans” (later changed to Whites and Non-Whites) were placed at entrances to post offices, railway stations, airports, and other public buildings. Apartheid governed where one could live and what type work one could do. There were separate theaters and restaurants for the various races. The government believed the establishment of independent homelands for the various racial groups in South Africa was the ultimate solution to the country’s problems. Whites were to live in white areas, blacks in black areas, coloreds in colored areas, Indians in Indian areas. However, the whites received far more land than all the other groups put together, though whites were only 13% of the total population. Eligible voters were white, with only a few colored and black. Black Universities were built and blacks were banned from attending so-called “white universities." The field of sports suffered, as only whites were allowed on sports teams.

Every South African citizen had to carry an identification card (or pass) in which their race was clearly stated. In some cases, members of the same family were classified in different racial groups. Before the country gained its independence from Britain, the various races were free to mix and marry at will; but during Apartheid, sexual contact and marriages across the color line became illegal and a criminal offense. 

After the Suppression of Communism Act was passed in 1950, hundreds of South Africans of all races and persuasions suspected of “furthering the aims of Communism” were banned for periods of 5-10-15 years. This meant they were banned from public life, restricted to certain areas, prevented from entering any educational institution, from preparing any material for publication, from attending any social gatherings, and from being quoted in the media or at public gatherings. Many publications and books were banned and destroyed. 

Prior to 1948, congregations in most churches were unilingual and uniracial. The Dutch Reformed Churches were constitutionally structured into separate white and black bodies. After 1948, the religious isolation of the races from each other became a matter of public policy. However, the first unsuccessful attempt to bring this about occurred under Hertzog in 1937; and the second was in 1957, when renewed public outcries again prevented the Government from enforcing the religious separation then enacted by law. The churches regularly made affirmations of dissent to the racial policies of the Government. One such was the declaration was by the Anglican bishops in 1957, in reaction to the “church clause,” that if the churches were segregated by law, they would be bound in conscience to disobey the law (Alan Paton). Several black South African theologians and clergymen came to international prominence for defying the Apartheid creed.  In 1957:

“...the Native Laws Amendment Bill contained a clause to empower the Government to prohibit the holding of classes, entertainments and even church services if they were attended by Africans in white Group Areas. The public protest was sharp—a good deal sharper than had been the case in 1937, when the Hertzog Government had introduced a not dissimilar proposal.…It was argued that the Bill violated the Reformed principle of the sovereignty of the Church within its own sphere, while the Anglican Episcopal synod informed the Prime Minister that its members would not be able to advise their clergy to obey a law which excluded people from a church on racial grounds. The terms of the Bill were modified…”  (South Africa - A Modern History by T.R.H. Davenport, University of Toronto Press, 1991).

Under Prime Minister Verwoerd’s rule, white society became increasingly insular and inbred, kept in isolation from the views and lifestyles of the modern world, as well as from the majority of the population. However, even the whites had problems getting along with each other. The Dutch-speaking majority never got along well with the 40% English-speaking minority who tended to be better off financially and educationally. It was a society that expected conformity and regarded dissent, however trivial, as treachery. As historian Alan Paton said,“South Africa is not a Nazi country, but it is not a bad imitation of one.” Finally in 1991, the basic Apartheid laws were repealed. Many political prisoners were freed, bans lifted and those in exile were allowed to come home.

1960s - REVOLT OF THE 2x2 BLACK AND COLORED ELDERS: In the mid 1960s, the black and colored Friends and Workers discovered the white Workers had deceived them. They realized the 2x2 Sect did not practice segregation because it was the law, but because it was what the Workers wanted. One of the Elders personally checked with government officials regarding churches being subject to segregation and received an official document stating the government did not interfere with religious gatherings:

“He was assured that this was not the law, and he also received a written document stating the law in effect at that time. However, none of the white Workers would read it when he showed them! Then, in the mid 1960s, some alarming events began to take place in the Meetings. The coloured (mixed race) Elders revolted against the white Workers for the racial barriers that were being enforced and their abuse and misuse of authority.  Meetings were removed from some homes, and some were excommunicated.  It was utter chaos.
“...when the coloured Elders got together to discuss the problems with the Workers about the separation enforced at Conventions, their argument was that when people from other churches came, this would be a hindrance for them, and they would not be able to see past this, that this way was 'the truth.' Fred Alder's reply was, 'If people are not prepared to come into the fold on these conditions (segregation), they can stay outside and perish.'....The Meetings had enforced segregation into their worship services all along, way before it became the law of the country. They have now been forced through political pressure to sit mixed in the Conventions, but the social or fellowship side of it still keeps to the old way of separation” (Memories of Sheila Martin).

“After receiving orders from the Workers to do so, some Elders threw people out of their Sunday morning Meetings. One young mother was put out in this manner, and left with her small children, who were afraid and crying and didn’t know what was happening. Her husband wouldn’t take 'no' for an answer, and he and his wife and their seven little children kept coming back to the Meetings. They insisted that it was God’s Meeting, and would sit outside the Meeting on the porch so that those passing by could see that they were Outcasts. Then, as all the people came out, they would greet them. They were eventually reinstated, probably to keep them from stirring up any more trouble!

“I professed at 15, and when I gave my testimony, people used to close their Bibles because I was born of the wrong spirit, they said. My father was involved in the revolt, and one of the Workers approached me at the death of my father and told me that if my dad had still been involved in the revolt to the end of his life, he could not bury him" (Memories of Sheila Martin).

Sheila wrote: " They not only told lies, they sang them too...To add to our misery, we would all participate in that beautiful hymn at Conventions. Hymn 335."

"In Christ, there is no East or West, In Him, no South or North.
‘Tis ONE the Shepherd's sacred flock, Though scattered o’er the earth.
"As brothers, sisters of one faith, Whatever their tongue or race,
United stand, from bondage free, True monuments of grace.”

Eddie Barendilla and his sister Gertie were colored and went in the Work when they were very young, possibly at the ages of 17 and 18. In the 1950s, Eddie vocally opposed segregation so much so that he was shipped off to the United States where he found the situation no better. Eddie formed a black Convention near Roanoke, Virginia, at Scrabble, “so the blacks would not have to suffer abuse from the whites.” After about 50 years, this Convention was closed in the late 2000s and the colored and blacks Friends integrated with the whites at their Conventions.

“Every time Eddie came back to South Africa for a visit, an uproar occurred. The white Workers dreaded Eddie’s outspokenness when Eddie returned on his 5-year visits from America. On one of his visits, he attended the Convention and stood at the back of the Convention to preach, telling the people that it was there that he and other black Workers had to preach from, when he first went into the Work in South Africa. They often tried to pacify him through his sister, Gertie Barendilla, who was also in the Work. Every year at Convention, a well known Elder protested the segregation of the different races in the Meetings. He refused to sit down during open Meetings and had a lengthy scripture as to why God wants His people to be ONE. He never got angry–just smiled and made his little speech" (Memories of Sheila Martin).

According to a white professing Cape Town man, since at least 1970, the colored Workers have sat on the Convention platforms, spoken from it and also taken charge of some meetings. People enter and exit at the nearest door to which they sat. For a time, the races were separated and also the sexes.  Men sat in one section and women in another. Families did not sit together.  Eventually there were combined race meetings on Wednesday night. Then for a time in the mid 1980s, due to the political climate, it became unsafe for white people to go into colored suburbs. Since most of the apartheid laws were repealed in 1989, the Fellowship Meetings are composed of mixed races.

PRIME MINISTER ASSASSINATED BY A PROFESSING 2x2: In 1961, Prime Minister Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd withdrew South Africa from the British Commonwealth. He was considered to be the supreme architect of Apartheid. His philosophy was one of “divide and rule.” He was assassinated on September 6, 1966, as he was about to deliver a speech to Parliament by a messenger named Demetrius Tsafendas (also spelled Dimitri, Dimitrios and Demetrios), who stabbed him several times with a knife. Sheila Martin personally knew the assassin and went to Meetings with him. The following Account was written by Sheila Martin.  

"In the mid 1960s, “the truth” was in utter chaos in South Africa. The coloured Elders were revolting against the white Workers for the racial barriers that were being enforced; and Meetings were removed from some homes, and some were excommunicated. Confusion reigned. It was into this atmosphere that a vagrant, Demetrius Tsafendas, arrived in South Africa looking for a wife. 

One of the Friends had given him the name and address of  Helen Daniels, the unmarried sister of my sister’s husband. He appeared at her door, and since he claimed to be professing, he was taken into her Mother’s home. My sister was living in the other half of the same house; they shared a house divided into two dwellings. After my father died, I boarded with my sister in this house while I worked at a store. At this time, South Africa was a police state where you never said a word to anyone about how you thought or felt about the government of the country, or you might wind up in prison or lose your life.

Our first impression of Demetrius was that he was a mysterious character. He read his Bible constantly, but was never really in tune with the 2x2 doctrine. He once prayed the Lord's prayer in Convention! He tried to hose down some of the chickens on a hot day, stating that they were too hot.  He simply had to have the daily newspaper and read it from cover to cover. He would say that the government was doing far too much for the black race, and not providing enough for the poor whites. He claimed to have had a tape worm that would come up into his throat and torment him, which I think was probably a demon.

Demetrius had a kind face and was a quiet, gentle man, and I did not find him threatening in any way. He was also a very restless man. I think he was a lost individual, who drifted through life, taking chances to survive. He was actually born in the capital of Mozambique on January 14, 1918, the illegitimate son of a white Greek man, Michaelatos Tsafandakis, from Crete and a “half-caste” African domestic worker named Amelia William of Mozambique. Some time later, his father married a pure Greek woman who did not want Demetrius. When he was only eight years old, his father gave him a large sum of money and basically told him to get lost.

He decided to travel the world and became a stowaway to many countries, hiding on trains, boats etc. He would tell us of the many places he had visited in his life, and he spoke eight languages fluently. I worked late many nights, and when I got off work it would be too late to go to the Wednesday night Meeting. I would come home and find Demetrius reading the newspaper, and I would question him on his world knowledge and travel. Having never been abroad myself, I found his stories fascinating. Many evenings I would visit with this man who spoke of his arrival in Greece in 1947, his conversion there and his baptism by John Micheleto.

After some time, and having shown no interest in the lady, he moved to the city of Cape Town, where I then lived. He told us that he had a job as a messenger at the House of Parliament. This was a surprise, because foreigners were never employed there. Actually, he shouldn’t have been allowed into South Africa due to his race and alleged “communistic” leaning.  He was on the government “stop list” prohibiting entry. The last time I saw Demetrius, I was waiting for a bus to go to Meeting. He acted strange, saying he would join me, and then walking away; doing this a few times, very nervously.

On Sept. 6, 1966, the Prime Minister of South Africa, Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd, a ruthless, heartless man some believed to be both evil and insane, planned to pass another very cruel law against the already suffering blacks. As he stepped forward to read his speech regarding the new law, Demetrius Tsafendas met him and fatally stabbed him four times in the heart. The speech and documents were covered with Verwoerd’s blood. Even after the murder, I could not feel afraid of Demi.

Demetrius Tsafendas was 48 years old at the time and had been working less than a month as messenger in the Parliament. The murder appeared well planned. The story was published in the "Argus" and "The Cape Times," daily newspapers.  In the Sept. 6, 1966, Star Newspaper of Johannesburg, Tsafendas was reported to be unable to “give a single coherent reason for committing the murder.” It was also published in Time and Newsweek Magazines.***  Demetrius claimed the reason he did it was because a tapeworm possessed him. The fact that the 2x2 Sect has no name, no headquarters and Meetings are held in homes raised suspicion, as it resembled an underground business to the authorities. I think Tsafendas used the 2x2 route because it offered the secrecy he so badly needed to carry out his commission.

Some Workers and Friends who had been in contact with Demetrius were called as witnesses for his trial, including my sister and brother-in-law, Merle and Peter Daniels; Jimmy Johnson, the (now deceased) Head Worker of South Africa at the time; and also Mr. & Mrs. Pat O’Ryan.** The trial lasted only one day. The Friends and Workers were optimistic that the Workers would have the opportunity to tell their story of going out to preach like the early disciples. We were excited over this wonderful opportunity to spread the Gospel, to tell about this marvelous truth that they preached, while the whole world watched on television!  However, to our shock and surprise, the Head Worker, Jimmy Johnson,  proceeded to tell how the group practiced segregation, and how he had been concerned as to which Meeting this man should attend, not knowing for certain Demetrius' full origin. Can you imagine the reaction of my work associates the next day? None of their churches practiced racism! A sign outside the Catholic church read, “All Races Welcome.”

I heard there was a book written about Demetrius concerning the assassination. An article in an Africaan publication, Beeld,  contains a reference to a book written in 1967 about Verwoerd and Tsafendas by J.J.J. Scholtz. One news account said:

'Demetrius Tsafendas came to England in 1959 and  was offered a job by a British man who owned the Rothmans cigarette factory. In 1960, he mentioned the fact that he wished he had the opportunity to kill S.A. Prime minister. The owner, Anton Rupert, picked up on this, and this is how it got the ball rolling. The murder plot members met at a meeting in Birmingham in March, 1963.  There they decided on the assassin’s assignment. He was paid 5,000 Rand. He would remain in England, until ‘Time Magazine American,’ would print a picture on its front page of Dr. Verwoerd in the form of a lamb dripping with blood, and that would indicate the time had come to start proceedings.' ”

By: Sheila (De Jager) Martin (passed away in May 2005 of cancer)
Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada

Demetrius was ruled insane and detained at Pretoria Central Prison. The December 31, 1996, "Electronic Mail & Guardian"  ran an article titled: “Where are they now?” In this article, reporters took a look at some of the people who were in the news in the past, whose fame had faded.  It contained the following regarding Tsafendas: "The man who assassinated apartheid architect Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd, Dimitrio Tsafendas (79), is at Sterkfontein Mental Hospital near Krugersdorp, to which he was released after decades in Pretoria Central Prison.  His doctor says he is ‘quite frail’ and suffers from ‘cardiac complaints.’ His mental state ‘has not changed.  It is the same as it has always been."

The man who irrevocably changed the course of South Africa's history, Demetrius Tsafendas, died on October 7, 1999, aged 81. He was suffering from pneumonia, a condition aggravated by chronic heart disease. Reportedly, the plaque on his grave reads: "Dimitri Tsafendas 1918-1999 - Displaced Person, Sailor, Christian, Communist, Liberation Fighter, Political Prisoner, Hero - Remembered by His Friends."

Los Angeles Times, 1999 - Obituaries October 8, 1999 - Dimitri Tsafensas; S. African Assassin:

"Dimitri Tsafendas, 81, who assassinated South African Prime Minister Hendrik F. Verwoerd in 1966. Tsafendas was born in Mozambique to a Greek father and a mother who was a house servant of mixed race. A bright man with an I.Q. of 125, Tsafendas did poorly in school before joining the South Africa Merchant Navy. His mental instability became noticeable during his foreign travels. At one point, he walked across the frozen St. Croix River from Canada into the United States. At another time he presented himself at the Mandelbaum Gate, demanding entry to Israel from Jordan. According to a story in The Guardian, Tsafendas was "given shock treatment in Portugal, certified insane in England, given more shock treatment in Germany and baptized on a beach in Greece before returning to South Africa in 1964."

"Despite his curious past, Tsafendas got a job as a messenger in the South African Parliament in Cape Town. On Sept. 6, 1966, Tsafendas walked up to the 64-year-old Verwoerd and plunged a knife into his heart four times. The assassin claimed that a giant "tapeworm" in his stomach had forced him to kill Verwoerd, who was widely considered the architect of Apartheid. Despite opposition from human rights activists, Tsafendas was imprisoned in 1966 and remained there until 1991, when he was sent to a mental hospital. On Thursday at Sterkfontein Mental Hospital near Johannesburg. No cause of death was given."

Sheila and her husband, Bert Martin, were both from Cape Town, and lived in Ontario, Canada, at the time Sheila wrote this. Bert came to Canada in 1965, and sent for Sheila in 1971 and they were married in Canada. Sheila professed at age 15 through Eddie Barendilla when he visiting South Africa. Bert professed at age 12. Sheila was colored, coming from a background of grandparents who were East Indian, Dutch, German and South African colored. Sheila wrote:

“In 1963, while teaching in SA, three government police interviewed two lady teachers and tried to force them to write affidavits stating that I, plus three other teachers, were propagating communism. Although these women were threatened with imprisonment if they refused to support these accusations against us, they could not be coerced. I do not have any idea why the police were after me. At this time I saw my uncle and some close friends imprisoned for no reason. I realised I could soon face a life behind bars so I applied to Canada for refugee status and arrived in Toronto in 1971.

“Yes, you may use my name; the only one I fear or respect now as my Greatest Authority, is my Lord, Jesus Christ.  It was drummed into us as children that we were suffering FOR JESUS’ SAKE, and some bright day Jesus would come and make it right. Four years ago, I learned that Jesus came to make it right 2,000 years ago. He died that I would be free. He came to remove the wicked bondage that Satan had kept us in for so long. You know what I did? I had no time to gather anything there, I took myself and ran through those prison gates, celebrating with praises and thanksgiving, for the greatest moment of my life. Jesus reminds me everyday, that I am important to Him. I am wonderfully and fearfully made. I am unique. There isn’t another like me. Thank you Lord!”


Cape Town Newspapers: Argus, Cape Town; The Cape Times, Cape Town; The Star, Johannesburg, Sept. 6, 1966

Periodicals: Sept. 16, 1966 Time Magazine, pp. 38-40; Sept 19, 1966  Newsweek Magazine, pp. 40-44; Oct. 28, 1966 Time Magazine, p. 41; 10/31/66 Newsweek Magazine, pp. 56, 58; Granta Magazine's "Assassins" issue

Books: Verwood is Dead by Jan Botha, Books of Africa, Cape Town, 1967; A Mouthful of Glass by Henk Van Woerden (translated by Dan Jacobson) awarded the 2001 Sunday Times Alan Paton Aqard for Non-Fiction.

  A Question of Madness by Liza Key

Play: One-man play titled:  "Tsafendas" produced in December 2001, in South Africa.

Historical Sources: South Africa – A Modern History (4th Ed) by T. R. H. Davenport, University of Toronto Press (Toronto & Buffalo) 1991; ISBN 0-8020-5940-6; In the Name of Apartheid by Martin Meredith, Harper & Row Pub, NY, 1988, ISBN 0-06-435659-0; Wolves, Jackals, and Foxes: The Assassins Who Changed History, Author: Kris Hollington, Publisher: Macmillan (New York), 2008, ISBN: 978-0-3123-7899-8, pp. 115-120; Refers to 2x2's as: "Followers of Christ." May be viewed online in Google Books

**Title: The Assassin: a story of race and rage in the land of apartheid, by Henk van Woerden (Dan Jacobson, translator) Publisher: Macmillan, 2002, ISBN: 978-0-3124-2084-0. Read portions online at Google Books:
**Book mentions Patrick and Louise O'Ryan, a 2x2 couple who attended the funeral, and with whom Tsafendas had stayed prior to the assassination.

Telling the Truth has a hard copy of the documents, books, newspaper articles, references, etc. used in this book. Any exceptions are noted with an asterisk (*).

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