According to Sheila Martin, the Workers told the Friends that, by law, they must sit separately and not mix during worship services. But the truth was that the meetings were the only Christian church in South Africa that practiced racism and supported segregation, except for the State Dutch Reformed Church.
The Friends and Workers entered the convention hall by entry doors marked Whites and Darkies. Races were segregated by the middle aisle. The Workers were also divided by races. Families did not sit together (sexes were seated separately). The colored Workers had to stand and speak from the back; only white Workers were allowed to use the platform. This practice continued until the early 1980s, when the colored Workers were finally allowed to speak from the platform, but not to sit on it or lead a convention meeting. Seeing the colored Friends on the streets, the white Friends often looked the other way. Martin elaborated further.
“The previous generation, our parents, were so conditioned into believing that this was part of our suffering for Christ, that they encouraged us to look past all this, and that someday the Lord would correct this problem as we all stood before the great white throne. Our parents said we had to put up with it because ‘The way was perfect, but the people went wrong.’ Jesus would one day make things right. And so, we professed and endured it because we did want to serve the Lord and be with Him one day.
“We were even told from the platform at Convention, that coloured people should be thankful that the white Workers made the sacrifice to save their souls, or else they would have missed salvation. The phrase often used was ‘Know your place and keep it.’ Our Head Worker told someone that Jesus was a white man, and therefore, the authority should go to the white man. The abuse was terrible, but who is to blame? We allowed it to happen to us—for Jesus’ sake.” (personal communication, Martin 1998)
Martin further observed, “They not only told lies, they sang them too … To add to our misery, we would all participate in that beautiful hymn at conventions, Hymn 335 ‘In Christ, there is no East or West.’ “
Eddie Barendilla and his sister Gertie (colored) went into the Work when they were very young, possibly 17–18. In 1925, Gertie Barendilla and Dora McKenzie (from South Africa) and Teenie Walker (New Zealand) were the first Sister Workers to preach in India.
In the 1950s, Eddie Barendilla vocally opposed segregation so strongly that the Workers shipped him to the United States. The white Workers dreaded Barendilla’s periodic home visits to South Africa every five years when his outspokenness regarding segregation created dissatisfaction and discontent among the black and mixed race 2x2s. The Workers were let with the task of pacifying and restoring peace after he departed for the U.S.
1960s: Revolt of the 2×2 Black and Colored Elders. In the mid-1960s, a 2×2 black Elder personally checked with a government official; he was assured that it was not the law that churches must be segregated. He was provided with a document containing the law then in effect. When he showed the document to the white Workers, none would read it. Reportedly, Brother Worker Fred Alder’s reply was, “If people are not prepared to come into the Fold on these conditions [segregation], they can stay outside and perish.”
This was the last straw. The black and colored Elders revolted against the white Workers. Confusion reigned. Meetings were removed from some homes. Friends and Elders were excommunicated. For a time, there was utter chaos in the 2×2 church in South Africa.
Sheila Martin’s father was involved in the revolt. She recalled, “When I gave my testimony, people used to close their Bibles because I was born of the wrong spirit … one of the Workers approached me at the death of my father and told me that if my dad had still been involved in the revolt to the end of his life, he could not bury him.”
Dimitri Tsafendas. It was into this atmosphere that a vagrant arrived in South Africa. Dimitri Tsafendas (aka Demetrius) was born in the capital of Mozambique on January 14, 1918, the illegitimate son of a white Greek man, Michaelatos Tsafandakis, from Crete and Amelia William, a black woman from Mozambique. Sometime later, his father married a European Greek woman who did not want Dimitri. When Dimitri was only eight years old, his father gave him a large sum of money and sent him away. He became a stowaway, traveling to many countries by hiding on trains, boats, etc.
Tsafendas claimed he had professed and was baptized by Brother Worker John Micheletos in Greece in 1947. In the mid-1960s, Tsafendas arrived at one of the Friend’s homes in South Africa, supposedly looking for a wife. They invited him to stay with them in their duplex residence. Sheila Martin and her sister (both 2x2s) lived in the other half of the duplex.
According to Martin, their first impression of Tsafendas was that he was a mysterious character. She described him as quiet, gentle, restless, but not threatening. He spoke eight languages fluently. He regaled them with interesting stories about his travels. While he attended the same meetings as Martin, and read his Bible constantly, he was never quite in tune with 2×2 doctrine. He once prayed the Lord’s Prayer aloud at convention. Without fail, he read the daily newspaper from cover to cover. He acquired a job as a messenger at the House of Parliament. See Wikipedia, Dimitri Tsafendas,
Prime Minister Assassinated by a 2×2 Man. In 1961, Prime Minister Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd withdrew South Africa from the British Commonwealth. He was a ruthless, heartless man some believed was evil and insane. He planned to pass another very cruel law against the already suffering black population. On September 6, 1966, as he stepped forward to deliver a speech regarding the new law to Parliament, he was stabbed several times by Dimitri (Demetrius) Tsafendas, age 48.
The assassination appeared well planned. The story was published in South African daily newspapers such as the Argus and Cape Times, and also internationally, including in the U.S. editions of Time and Newsweek magazines. Reportedly, Tsafendas told the police he killed Verwoerd because he was disgusted with his racial policies. The September 6, 1966, Star Newspaper of Johannesburg reported that Tsafendas claimed that a tapeworm had possessed him. At his one-day trial, Tsafendas was ruled insane, detained at Pretoria Central Prison, and incarcerated for thirty-three years, until his death.
In 2018, a Document entitled “Report to the Minister of Justice … in the Matter of Dr Verwoerd’s Assassination” re-evaluated Tsafendas actions and judged the motive to have been political, and the insanity verdict and tapeworm story to have been a cover story to save the government embarrassment over the security lapse. It remains to be seen if South African history books will acknowledge the findings of this report. See Wikipedia Dimitri Tsafendas
A background story has also been circulated that in 1959, Tsafendas had taken a job in England offered by a British man, Anton Rupert, who owned the Rothmans cigarette factory. In 1960, Rupert learned that Tsafendas had stated that he wished for an opportunity to kill the South African Prime Minister. Rupert and some murder-plot members held a meeting in Birmingham in March 1963. They made an agreement with Tsafendas that they would pay him 5,000 rand for him to assassinate Verwoerd.
This man, Dimitri Tsafendas, who irrevocably changed the course of South Africa’s history, died of pneumonia in Johannesburg on October 7, 1999, aged 81. His funeral was held according to Greek Orthodox rites; less than ten people attended. He was buried in an unmarked grave outside Sterkfontein Hospital where he had been detained. In 2019, a comprehensive biography of Tsafendas, The Man Who Killed Apartheid: The Life of Dimitri Tsafendas by Harris Dousemetzis and Gerry Loughran, was published by Jacana Media, South Africa.
End of Apartheid (1948–early 1990s). Finally, in 1991, after the better part of fifty years, the country’s harsh, institutionalized system of racial segregation, came to an end in a series of steps that led to the formation of a democratic government in 1994. Nelson Mandela was elected the first black South African president.
For a time in the mid-1980s, due to the political climate, it became unsafe for white people to go into colored suburbs. After most apartheid laws were repealed 1989, the 2×2 Church Meetings have been composed of mixed races.
While the 2×2 Sect started in South Africa among English-speaking people, it quickly spread among the Dutch/Afrikaans-speaking people. Currently, the white congregation is divided about equally between English and Afrikaners. Most of the mixed-race people speak Afrikaans. The meetings have long been linguistically mixed, with both languages in the same hymnbook, with Friends free to choose hymns in either language. The conventions have speakers in both languages.
At least since 1980 according to a white professing Cape Town man, in conventions, the colored Workers have sat on, and spoken from the platform; some have led meetings, with people entering and exiting at the nearest door.
This summary was compiled from correspondence
Meredith, Martin. 1988. In the Name of Apartheid: South Africa in the Post War Era. New York: Harper & Row Publishers Inc.
NOTE: The above was compiled by Cherie Kropp from correspondence
Read Sheila’s Exit Letter dated December 1997. Sheila’s funeral was held May 18, 2005. She died from lung cancer.