The Yearly Meeting
consists of a total of 200 members and attenders including children
organised into 13 Monthly or Regional Meetings or Friends Groups. These
are in Botswana, Bulawayo, Harare, Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia,
Madagascar, and in South Africa in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Johannesburg,
Eastern Cape and Western Cape. The majority is local citizens, black
and white, as well as a significant number of expatriates.
Quakers in this region
follow the British tradition of silent, unprogrammed meetings.
The first Quakers
in South Africa were Nantucket whalers who were based in Cape Town in
the 19th century. Richard
Gush was an early Quaker settler in the Eastern Cape who lived his peace
testimony remaining unarmed and making peace with his Xhosa neighbours.
Quakers in Britain
opposed the Boer war and supported the work of Emily Hobhouse in her
work with Boer women and children in concentration camps. After the
war they helped collect family bibles that had been looted by British
soldiers and taken back home as trophies, and returned them to the original
owners when they could be traced.
liberal causes, education, and the general improvement in race relations
in South Africa, and set up Quaker Service projects in Johannesburg,
Natal and the Eastern and Western Cape. As apartheid became more entrenched
they campaigned against detention without trial, removals, conscription,
and supported conscientious objection and non-violence. Quakers in Botswana
set up a refugee centre (Kagisong Centre) and initiated the rebuilding
of an ANC house destroyed by the South African security forces. The
Centre is now a conference centre and they have initiated the building
of a women’s shelter.
is supported at Hlekweni near Bulawayo and in Zambia on the shores of
Quakers in Cape Town
supported the work of Steve Biko through an organisation, Friends
of the Ciskei, and later supported a peaceworker resisting forced
removals which eventually led to the formation of the Quaker Peace Centre.
The late HW van der Merwe started the Centre for Intergroup Studies
(now the Centre for Conflict Resolution) and was involved in setting
up the first contacts between the South African government and the African
National Congress that was banned and in exile.
A member from Johannesburg
meeting initiated the building of a Quaker centre in Soweto with funds
from the United States. Conflicts and the difficulties of the small
Soweto meeting led to its eventual donation to the City Council.
The American Friends
Service Committee representative supported the liberation movements
in the states neighbouring South Africa.
Quaker Peace and Service
in Britain supported peace workers at the Quaker Peace Centre and the
Two Quakers were employed
full time by the international Fellowship of Reconciliation in training
church and community group in non-violent direct action.
Quakers in the region
were fairly isolated from the large numbers of Quakers in the rest of
Africa during apartheid. These contacts are being built slowly through
the Friends World Committee for Consultation—Africa Section, and through
practical projects with the Quaker Peace Centre.
Meetings have usually
been active members of councils of churches and interfaith groups and
have supported many initiatives and activities of individual members
through their work or volunteer activities.t