Three Visions of Africa
Volume 5 1990
A CAPTIVATING VISION
The closest that I have come to the West African state of Mali was in Cell 11 of Lusaka Central Prison. One of my cell mates was a tall Muslim businessman from Timbuktu.
He recounted how, not long ago, a tribal chief in MALI “had a vision”. The chief captivated his tribe with his “vision from Allah” that he had been chosen to lead his people “in search of the holy land”. The entire village followed him across the vast Sahara desert in search of the promised land. When they arrived in Libya the chief promptly sold all his people into Arabic slavery to pay for his lavish retirement.
As the Bible so aptly declares:
“The prophets follow an evil course and use their power unjustly.. .they lead my people astray...they strengthen
the hands of evildoers so that no one turns from his wickedness.” Jeremiah 23:10-14
A CATASTROPHIC VISION
In March 1856, a young prophetess, Nongqawuse, had a vision of some departed spirits and cattle at the mouth of the Nxara River (in present-day TRANSKEI). When her father, Mhlakaza, went to investigate he too saw a vision of these ancestral spirits — one of whom he recognised as his decease brother. In the vision he was told by the spirits: that they had come from across the water and that they were the Russians who had been fighting against the English. (This was during the Crimean War 1853-56, and rumours had been rife amongst the Xhosa that the Russians were Black people, that they were defeating the British and that they would soon come to the aid of the Xhosa).
The spirits also told Umhlakaza that the Russians would wage perpetual warfare against the Whites and that they were now coming to aid the Xhosa. But before they could do anything they would have to kill and destroy all their abundance of cattle. They were also to cease cultivating their crops and had to destroy all their grain.
The vision assured them that if they obeyed these commands then the dead would arise, their grain pits would be filled to overflowing, and large herds of cattle would come up from the ground. All those Xhosa who refused to heed the instructions would be swept into the sea by a terrible storm, and the Russians would wipe the Whites from the face of the earth.
In time the Russians became identified with the spirits of the ancestors. The Xhosa came to believe that it was their forefathers who had been fighting the British overseas in the Crimea.
Initial resistance to the grave sacrifices demanded by this vision was soon swept aside by the tidal wave of emotion whipped up by the rumours and predictions circulated by diviners, prophets and witch-doctors.
Missionaries like Charles Brownlee tried in vain to dissuade the Xhosa from having any part in this movement, which became known as “The National Suicide”. Brownlee earned the nickname, “Naphakade” (Never) because of his insistence that none of the predictions would ever come true.
The Xhosa became sharply divided between the Amathemba, who were in favour of “the Prophecy”, and the Amagogtya, who were against it. Many old friendships were ruined, many marriages broken and relatives estranged by this controversy. Most of the people were swept up by the hysteria and destroyed their crops and cattle.
By February 1857, Transkei was destroyed by famine and deprivation. Tens of thousands died of starvation, families were split, the traditional chiefs lost their positions of respect and influence, and countless thousands poured across the border into the Cape to seek food and employment from the Whites. The vision’s disruption of traditional life and the resultant devastation of the economy of Transkei caused irreparable damage, the effects of which, to some extent, are still with us.
“Therefore, this is what the Lord Almighty says concerning the prophets: I will make them eat bitter food and drink poisoned water, because from the prophets. . . ungodliness has spread throughout the land."
Yet today there is a similar national suicide movement amongst the Xhosa people. There are ministers and priests who incite gullible people to destruction with lies and dreams and visions of paradise.
“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you, they fill you with false hopes, they speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keeping saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or hear His Word. Who has listened and heard His Word?” Jeremiah 23:16-18
During four hours on March 4th 1990, communist mobs in Ciskei destroyed 51 companies and factories, razing the buildings to the ground and looting countless shops. These Xhosa vandals thereby succeeded in destroying all the jobs that foreign capital had built up in Ciskei in recent years.
During three days of looting and rioting in Port Elizabeth (6-8 August) ANC mobs destroyed 70 shops, 6 homes, 7 schools, 2 factories and 2 churches. The mob violence left 42 dead. Police were attacked 66 times with petrol bombs and rocks. 41 Police vehicles were damaged or destroyed. The damage caused was calculated to be over R100-million.
The ANC-organised, and intimidated, national labour stay away on Monday, 2 July, cost over R750-million in productivity loss, according to the S.A. Chamber of Business (SACOB).
In addition to the periodic work stayaways, the S.A. economy is being hit by the highest number of strikes, boycotts, acts of sabotage and terrorism in history. The cost in hard cash is impossible to estimate, but stoppages and reductions in production and loss of sales alone are accounting for tens of millions of Rands a day.
In order to keep pace with the population explosion of the Black community, South Africa needs to build --
Yet the South African Council of Churches, and certain prominent clergy men, continue to promote sanctions. So far, these U.S. sanctions have cost 500 000 jobs and $4-billion worth of capital investment. And ANC-inspired rioting has destroyed many hundreds of shops, factories and companies. And the endless school boycotts have produced a “lost generation” of unemployable, rebellious, violent, illiterate and lawless thugs. The damage caused by these rioters during the first eight months of 1990 alone is calculated at over R3-billion.
“See, the storm of the Lord will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back. I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message. I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets who prophesy the delusions of their own minds?” Jeremiah 23:19-26
A CLEANSING VISION
Yet there is a third vision that comes to mind. When I first started ministering into Mozambique, I often used the Kingdom of SWAZILAND as my missionary “forward base”. The Christians there told me how the Gospel first came to Swaziland.
In the early part of the 1800’s, one of the founders of the Swazi nation, King Somhlolo, had a vision. He saw men coming out of the sea with skin the colour of mealies (maize) and hair as straight as the tails of cattle. In their one hand they held “Umculo” (a book), and in the other hand “indilinga” (a round piece of metal — a coin). “Accept the Umculo”, he counselled, “for it is life. Reject indilinga, for it is death. And never shed these men’s blood.” The Swazi people believed this to be a vision from the great unknown Creator, “uNkulunkulu”.
Some years later, his son, King Mswati, was reminded of this vision and, hearing rumours that these “people of the book” were settled near Basutoland, he sent an impi to find them and command a teacher to come to the kingdom of the Swazis. And so finally, a Rev. James Allison and Richard Giddy of Grahamstown Wesley Methodist Church came to be “commanded to come and teach our people the Book.”
It was my joy to hear King Sobhuza II, the longest reigning monarch of this century, hold up the Siswati Bible in the Somhlolo Stadium in 1982.
“The Bible is the Umculo referred to in the vision of King Somhlolo, who said we should abandon all else and be faithful to the Bible, for the Bible will be our life...
If we are faithful and obedient to God’s Word we will be blessed and prosperous like our neighbour to the West — South Africa. But if we reject God’s Word we will be judged and starving like our neighbour to the East — Mozambique.” The fruit of this openness to the Gospel is evident throughout the peaceful mountain kingdom. It is seen in the joyful, friendly hospitality of its people and in the packed church services, where Jesus Christ is worshipped.
“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws: then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.” Deuteronomy 30:15-18
“Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my Word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain’, declares the Lord. ‘Is not my Word like fire’, declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces.” Jeremiah 23:28-29
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