the British Era
|Christianity at the Cape
| Colonialism in Cape Town, as
elsewhere in Africa, was driven not only by concepts of civilisation and
commerce but also by Christianity.
Under the VOC religious activity had been restricted but the
British permitted freedom of religion and missionaries arrived from across
Europe. Particularly to serve the garrisons, Roman Catholic, Episcopal and
Presbyterian were established.
The Dutch Reformed Church also expanded markedly, both in Cape Town and in the
developing rural districts. Perhaps this represented a reaction to British
rule, a cultural statement of independence.
DRC churches were often built at the very centre of the new
villages - a good expression of the way the Church had become the core
institution of the Afrikaner community.
Anglicanism also thrived. As the state religion it attracted
the middle classes, including many Afrikaners.
Missionaries arrived at the Cape with a view to the conversion of the 'heathen'
- particularly the remnant Khoe and to counter the spread of Islam among the
'free blacks'. The Cape proved a popular place for missionary work, in part
because it did not suffer from the diseases that claimed the lives of
missionaries in the rest of the continent. Furthermore, their work met with
The middle class, especially women, rallied around the efforts
of missionaries. Their values emphasised 'self improvement' and they sought to
help the poor become sober, literate, cleanly, hard working citizens - in other
words, 'respectable'. A 'Mechanics Institute' opened in 1853 'for the
improvement of the working class'. It included a library and facilities to
Moral zeal led to such societies as the 'Ladies Benevolent
Society' and the 'Bible and Tract Society' and various temperance societies. A
'free dispensary' opened in 1860, and did much to gather accurate statistics on
the state of health among the poor. Their efforts sustained the evangelical
movement and helped develop welfare programmes in the city.
| A lasting consequence of the
missionary movement was the establishment of schools, which multiplied the
efforts of the government and led to a vast increase in the number of primary
The Diocesan College ('Bishops') was founded in 1849, St
Cyprians (for girls) in 1871. The Anglican church also established Zonnebloem
College for the children of poor families and various missions and orphanages.
The DRC worked on similar projects, particularly under the influence of the
Andrew Murray revivals of 1860 and 1875.
| The Moravians, the London
Missionary Society and the DRC established popular churches and mission
stations in the the poorest areas of Cape Town and the troubled frontier
regions. The LMS missionaries, in particular, became advocates for the rights
of the Khoe and slaves, notably John Philip who campaigned hard for their
rights both in the Cape and London.
John Philip argued that all free people should enjoy equality
before the law. His conviction was rooted in the legal practices already
adopted in the UK, and the movements working in Britain to ensure workers'
rights. Based upon his research in the Eastern Cape he wrote critically of the
treatment of Khoe by trekboers.
Philip campaigned in Cape Town and London for legal measures
to protect them. Thus a directive arrived from London in 1828 'to secure to all
the natives of South Africa, the same freedom and protection as are enjoyed by
other free people of that colony whether English or Dutch' (Thompson pg 60).
In this regard Ordinance 50 of 1828 made all 'free' people
equal before the law.
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