Cape Town missionary, intercessor and author Ashley Cloete attended a unique day of prayer in parliament last Friday — (‘Black Friday’) November 24 — along with some 250 Christian leaders. This is his report.
What a day! Yes, this was my White Friday! As they say: “One could write a book!”
Yes, what a privilege it was to have been attending such an historical event at parliament! In this regard it made up amply for two other historical moments, where I missed the respective TV live reports — on November 9 1989 (the demolition of the Berlin Wall) and February 11 1990 (Nelson Mandela released from Victor Verster prison). On both these occasions I was at places where there was no TV report of the events, respectively in the Communist Romania under the dictator Ceaucescu and in rural Mali where we could however pick up BBC News by radio.
In the morning, we had such a special time in our prayer room with a few saints ahead of our monthly combined worship coming Sunday evening at the nearby Presbyterian Church.
I arrived in time, getting card number 266. Around 250 church and prayer leaders from all over the country had been invited with Pastor Angus Buchan as our special speaker.
Soon after my entry into the reception area I bumped into Terence Philips, the Cape Peninsula coordinator of United Prayer for South Africa (UpSA). What a joy it was to introduce Terence to a few other people as my successor. In turn, Terence came to call me later to introduce me to Robbie Black from East London, the initiator and national coordinator of UpSA with whom I had only been communicating by email and telephone.
In between I was very happy to see Elizabeth Jordaan, who had invited me to join her for prayers and intercession at various venues down the years — including prayer at the Dutch parliament in The Hague in 2014, where I represented the slaves and Khoi as a descendant.
The short interactions in the reception area with various people in those approximately 40 minutes were very special, possibly strategic enough for me to go home and say it was worthwhile — it was already White Friday for me! So much more was still to come!
After I had greeted a few other friends in the old chamber of parliament where Dr Verwoerd had been stabbed in 1966, I had to discover to my horror that there was no seat left. Two dear friends offered me a seat next to them. After a few minutes I left, finding it too hot! It would become very hot theere in another sense when one speaker after the other recalled laws that had affected my life down the years such as the Group Areas Act and the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act. As a result of the former law and the related practice of so-called “slum clearance”, almost all the buildings and places of memories of my childhood have been eradicated and the latter law was the reason for my exile of just over 18 years. I was very glad that I found a seat where I was more or less out of sight of the TV cameras. I was crying quite a lot there. I heard later that many other tears were flowing freely!
But there is of course much more to share. I will only be able to touch on some highlights here. No apologies from my side that this report is therefore very subjective.
Prayers of confession and repentance
After the welcome by Dr Kenneth Meshoe, the leader of the ACDP, who introduced a number of special dignitaries like the oldest MP, Dr Mangosuthu Buthulezi, who had just retired from politics, he handed over to Peter Tarentaal, the leader of WENSA (Worldwide Evangelisation Network of South Africa). In turn, Peter soon called Anneke Rabe to the podium as his co-MC. Her moving prayer of confession on behalf of Whites for the hurts and effects of apartheid legislation is below.
I already got quite emotional when we worshipped as a rainbow nation in different languages. The atmosphere was pregnant with divine presence. The chorus in my home language Afrikaans was Die liefde van Jesus is wonderbaar — one that I have sung hundreds of times down the years, also regularly on Signal Hill in our Isaac Ishmael prayer battle for Jews and Muslims!
A few minutes into her own confessional speech and prayer Anneke Rabie called Dr Mamphela Ramphele to the podium, apologising on behalf of the whites. Dr Ramphele was the co-founder of the Black Consciousness Movement and co-leader of the South African Student Organisation (SASO) with the late Steve Biko. She would later become the vice-chancellor of UCT.
The confessions on behalf of blacks, for example for the farm murders and other atrocities inspired by hatred of whites and then perpetrated by Blacks, were just as moving. I was emotionally touched when a mother and daughter who had lost their breadwinner husband and father in unnecessary violence, spoke and prayed.
How special that Rev Michael Cassidy, the aged stalwart founder of Africa Enterprise and initiator of the albeit unsuccessful battle against same sex marriages in 2005/6, also offered a prayer. He had been the driving force with a few others, who are almost all now with the Lord, in the organising of the Rustenberg Conference of November 1990 — the event which divinely ushered in our democratic era out of the apartheid quagmire.
In his contribution, Steve Swart ACDP, a member of parliament, confessed the anti-Semitism of the government during World War II years when Jews who had fled the Holocaust in Germany, were not allowed to disembark in Cape Town. The attitude of our present government towards Israel is of course something that we are not at all proud of as followers of the Jewish Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. We continue to pray that the government may change to a stance of reconciliation and for a change in the xenophobic practices so evident in its treatment of African expatriates at the Department of Home Affairs!
Not surprisingly — the cherry on top of the cake was the relatively short speech and the terse, powerful prayer for rain of the unique pastor Angus Buchan. A few times “AMEN!!!” would roar out loud through the auditorium!
The momentous event closed with the singing of If we believe and I believe … South Africa will be saved while the jubilant congregation left the old parliament chamber. It was White Friday! Very few present — if any — were doubting that a new chapter in the history of our country has begun.
Prayer by Anneke Rabie
Father, I submit this afternoon before You and ask that You will help me to pray this prayer of repentance. I stand before You and every Black, Coloured and Indian person of SA. I stand in the gap as a White Afrikaner woman. I stand for all White people in SA — both Afrikaans and English. I stand for the White people of the past, present and future generations. I also stand in the gap for those White people of SA whose hearts are hard and who will never say sorry.
I want to ask forgiveness today to all my fellow Black, Coloured and Indian South Africans. We, as White people have sinned against you and today almost 40 years after the Soweto riots and killings we are here in Soweto to repent unconditionally.
I want to ask forgiveness for the way we treated you. I repent of the pride of the White people. I repent that we thought that we are better than you. It is a sin. I repent for the way that we shamed, humiliated and oppressed you, your mothers, your fathers, your brothers, your sisters, your uncles and your aunts.
I ask forgiveness for the killings, for the people who died under the evil system of Apartheid. I ask forgiveness for the people that died in Sharpeville, Soweto and many other places. I especially ask forgiveness for the death of the children who died in Sharpeville, Soweto and many other places.
I repent for the inferior education that you received under apartheid. I repent that our people forced you to be educated in Afrikaans. I repent that we robbed you of a proper education.
I ask forgiveness for the pain, anguish, the fear and shock that you had to endure under apartheid. I ask forgiveness for our ignorance. I ask forgiveness for the pass laws. I ask forgiveness for the detentions. I ask forgiveness for the imprisonments. I ask forgiveness for the tortures. I ask forgiveness for the violence.
As a woman and a mother, I want to repent on behalf of all white women that influenced our husbands and children to be racist and to treat you harshly.
I thank God and you for staying true to the gospel of Jesus Christ in these terrible times of apartheid. Above all I want to repent today of the way the Church condoned Apartheid and because of that many turned away from God.
Lord, please quiet the blood that is calling out over our nation that was spilt during the Apartheid years. Lord please turn the tide and heal our land.
I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ,