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.

Michael Cassidy
Michael Cassidy

As African nations shook off colonialism in the 1960s, a singular figure burst into prominence. A son of apartheid South Africa, Michael Cassidy appeared an unlikely candidate to bring a message of hope and reconciliation to a continent overturning white rule. But Michael saw clearly the need for quality leadership and fostered vital dialogue amongst top politicians in the tense run up to South Africa's 1994 elections. As the country hurtled towards a civil war he helped broker a last minute settlement paving the way for the peaceful inauguration of Nelson Mandela. Now he's released his book, 'Footprints in the African Sand, My Life and Times' and Jonathan Bellamy caught up with him to hear his story.

Jonathan: Did you ever feel threatened? Did you ever feel that your own life was at risk?

Michael: No, I didn't. I was in many situations that were dangerous, but I had a sense that I had a call and a mission from God. I felt the truth of the Lord's Psalm 91, known that 'angels are around me', and I never, ever felt fear, curiously, although I was in some pretty precarious situations. So I was spared fear, and that was good because we needed to bring a testimony that was fearless.

I knew what I had to do and I was going to do it regardless of what it took, and my wife was in agreement that I had to run any risks, including defying the President.

Jonathan: What do you feel were the main challenges and obstacles you did face and how did you keep going through them for so many years to overcome them?

Michael: I suppose the main obstacle was a mind-set that took hold of the psyche and the minds of white South Africans particularly. That seemed a very difficult thing to move. I think that's where prayer came in and was so important.

Overturning Apartheid In South Africa

There were many personal pinpricks along the way, and threats and secret security police informers were put onto us, and onto African Enterprise, to slow us down, or to warn us, or to imperil us. We did have to face all of that.

Theologically and biblically I was held by Jeremiah 29:11. That passage records the darkest moments in the history of Judah when Nebuchadnezzar is invading, the walls are being knocked down, the temple has been destroyed, and the people are in the process of being taken captive to Babylon. The Lord speaks in verse 11 and says "I know the plans I have for you; plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." I saw there that the Lord said also that this captivity, a judgement really on His people, would only last 70 years. Then God would do something, which is exactly what happened. That showed to me that God is in charge of history; to take a pagan king like Cyrus and have him finally say no, the Jews must go back and rebuild Jerusalem.

I took hope from that. I saw the sovereignty of God in history and I knew that that sovereignty would prevail for us in South Africa and that was a tremendous anchor to my mind and spirit.

Jonathan: You mentioned earlier your confrontation with P.W. Botha and you share very wisely in your book about how to stand against authority whilst submitting to them at the same time. I understand this is based on Martin Luther King's teaching. Can you explain that?

Mandela 1990, Mpopomeni
Mandela 1990, Mpopomeni

Michael: The Christian is faced with the biblical position, Romans 13, that the powers that be are ordained of God. That is particularly a phenomenon of Governments, but that takes the personal shape of certain rulers at certain times. So, if you are going to honour that principle it means that if you defy Government for reasons of conscience, (and in the Romans 13 passage it talks about the State being God's servant for good and that we obey it and it speaks about conscience); in other words, when conscience says to you, you can no longer go along with what the State is doing, because it is no longer serving as God's servant for the good of all, then you realise the State can come against you. If you refuse to let the State come against you, and face the consequences, then you are an anarchist and you aren't a true, Christian, biblical citizen.

So one had to submit to the consequences and for many people the consequences were more serious than anything that I had to face. But we couldn't be anarchists; we couldn't just say we will do whatever and not face the consequences of the law.

Jonathan: Let me ask you about Nelson Mandela. When the country was heading towards civil war you brokered a last minute settlement that helped bring through a peaceful inauguration for Nelson Mandela. Tell me about him and your relationship connection with him, meeting him and working with him.

Michael: Mandela was an extraordinary man.