In part 2, Jonathan Bellamy speaks with Michael Cassidy about how to take a stand against Governments biblically, his relationship with Nelson Mandela, and how South Africa is doing today.

Continued from page 1

Michael and Mandela
Michael and Mandela

I had longed for an opportunity to meet him and a couple of these came along. Perhaps the most significant one was opened up for me in a curious manner by the head of the local South African Communist Party, who thought it would be good for Mandela and me to meet.

I had a book from Billy Graham, 'Peace with God', that Dr Graham had asked me to try and give to Mandela personally. So when this open door came, I took Billy Graham's book and gave it to Mandela. He was very appreciative of having this book and he told me that Billy Graham had been an inspiration to him. That was an interesting experience; it was just before he became President. I saw that Mandela was going to try and bring a spiritual component into his presidency.

Later on, two years after our first democratic elections, the provincial elections in Natal were on the verge of collapse. Mandela asked two other church leaders and African Enterprise and myself to try and intervene, which we did. He said we politicians can't fix this, which I thought was amazing, and a humble thing to say.

Early African Enterprise team, Michael Cassidy centre
Early African Enterprise team, Michael Cassidy centre

We went about engaging all the Christians in Natal and the ministry of reconciliation and this was very powerful. It brought the death rate down from 20 a day and 70 or 80 at the weekends to zero.

I saw there the humility of Mandela, in recognising that there were things that Christians and the Church could do that were beyond the capacities of politicians by themselves.

Those two encounters with me and a couple of colleagues were very significant. The one was nearly three hours, so we got a sense of his heart and the stature, dignity and grace and the spirit of forgiveness of the man.

Jonathan: Could you identify what you think are the main keys to securing the end of apartheid and also the process then of reconciliation?

Michael: I think a real key, and maybe history hasn't given adequate credit here, was President F.W. de Klerk, who succeeded President P.W. Botha, when he decided to release Mandela, to un-ban the liberation movements and take the army out of the townships. That was a huge thing.

Mandela could never have commanded the South African stage and the world stage had it not been for what de Klerk sanctioned and gave him that hand. And obviously I'm sure de Klerk realised for him personally it was committing political suicide, because the overwhelming majority of blacks would take control. I think that was really a very critical factor.

Michael Cassidy and Festo Kivengere
Michael Cassidy and Festo Kivengere

Perhaps the other factor was Mandela came out of prison with a spirit of forgiveness. He could have come out calling for Nuremberg trials and that would have sent us into a spiral of retaliation and vengeance and South Africa would still be fighting. He came out with that spirit and he introduced the Reconciliation Commission, which was very important, whereby amnesty would be extended to apartheid offenders in exchange for the truth. That was very powerful; many people who had been guilty of apartheid crimes came forward and confessed them and got amnesty and were freed up. That released something in the country.

There were quite a lot of blacks who thought that that was an overly generous gesture, but I don't think we would have come through without it. I have to say that the role of the Church was important. Figures like Archbishop Desmond Tutu were critical to the process. He was such a Christian champion for human rights and the role that he played, and other significant blacks like Frank Chikane of the South African Council of Churches, they were very important in the whole equation.

And the prayers of the church; I can never minimise the power and importance of the prayer that went on from the Church in this country and from the Church around the world.

So these are the factors, as I look back, which really played a very significant role.

Jonathan: How do you view the journey that South Africa has been on since the fall of apartheid, and particularly where it's at today?