Fault Lines: Journeys into the New South Africa / Edition 1 available in Paperback
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REVEREND FRANK CHIKANE, a twenty-six-year-old pastor, was standing naked on the fourth floor of the Krugersdorp police station. His head hung down limply; dried blood was caked in dark brown clumps in his hair and on his face. He had been standing continuously for over forty hours in a room furnished only with steel chairs and a table, his hands chained to a heating pipe behind him.
Ten brawny white policemen surrounded the cleric, each taking turns savaging him. It was sport to them. One kicked him hard in the testicles, roaring with laughter as the slight young man shrieked in pain. Another slammed him in the ribs with a cricket bat. Occasionally the policemen knocked him to the ground and all piled on. Smashing. Crushing. Breaking. Cutting. There was blood everywhere. During a break in the assault, Chikane looked up and recognized the man supervising his torture: he was a deacon in the white branch of his church, a fellow born-again Christian.
Chikane (pronounced chi-KAH-nee) was new in town. He had been sent by his church, the Apostolic Faith Mission, to minister to a congregation in Kagiso, the black township outside Krugersdorp, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. One week after he took up his new post in June 1976, the Soweto uprising began. Protests spread like a veld fire through every township in Johannesburg. Within days, every government building, liquor store, bar, and shop in Kagiso had been burned to the ground. The protests were an angry catharsis for local residents, an explosion of pent-up rage against apartheid.
The police clamped down on the township and many community leaders suddenly vanished. The families turned to their new minister to intervene with the authorities. Rev. Chikane suddenly found himself in a war situation. He retained lawyers to confront the police, demanding to know the whereabouts of people who had presumably been detained. Within a year, the police had had enough of this cheeky minister. Local police had free rein to detain and harass activists of their choosing. Now it was Chikane's turn to "disappear."
In the middle of the night on June 6, 1977, Chikane heard the dreaded banging on his front door. Flashlights shone into his bedroom and armored police vehicles surrounded the church manse where he lived. Several policemen dragged him half-dressed out of his house and threw him in the back of a pale yellow pickup truck, the "squad car" of the South African Police. The assault began with slaps and punches. That was just a warm-up.
Back at the Krugersdorp police station, a team of interrogators set to work on Chikane in earnest. They were strapping Afrikaner men from the platteland. Most of them were junior security policemen trying to impress their bosses, and each other. But they had never encountered a prisoner quite like Chikane. They responded to his intransigence with unchecked brutality.
"Where do you get your orders from?" demanded one of the men as he yanked Chikane's head back by his hair.
"I follow the word of God," replied the pastor. He cried out as another policeman slammed him in the ribs with a wooden broomstick.
"Tell us where the communists are hiding!" bellowed another cop.
"I don't know any communists. People are protesting against apartheidthey don't need communists to tell them they are being oppressed." Nothing the police tried seemed to work. They hung him upside down and beat him back and forth like a punching bag until Chikane lost consciousness. They forced him to hold contorted positions with his feet chained together, burned him with cigarettes, and suffocated him under water until he nearly passed out. They offered him money to inform for them. The young cleric gave them nothing.
After six weeks of torture, Chikane could barely walk. The Krugersdorp cops decided to subject him to a final all-out torture to break him. Maybe he would survive it, maybe not.
Chikane was dragged out of his cell and dumped in a room full of police. The white church deacon yanked the pastor to his feet by his ears and ordered him to stand. For the next fifty hours blows rained down on him. Teams of interrogators came and went in eight-hour shifts, beating him twenty-four hours a day. They had abandoned all restraint and were just venting their fury against this insolent kaffir. Every time he would crumble they would yank him back to his feet. Pieces of his hair, skin, and teeth lay around him on the floor.
After forty-eight hours, a large mustachioed policeman who was particularly sadistic said nonchalantly to the prisoner, "You can tell us who your communist friends are Chikane, or you can die here slowly but surely." Peering up through his swollen eyes, Chikane somehow mustered the wherewithal to reply.
"If I die now, I will be with the Lord. This is gain for me and for the Kingdom." The young clergyman spoke haltingly; every word was a struggle. "But if you let me live I will still live for Christ, and I will continue to challenge your evil apartheid system."
"So you are choosing to die?" bellowed the agitated interrogator, the muscles in his neck straining with anger.
"No, you must choose whether to kill me or let me live. And if you kill me, you must face the Lord on the Day of Judgment."
The cop flew at him in a rage. For over two days, they had failed to break him. He punched Chikane and slammed his knee into his ribs. The young pastor could only whimper; he was numb to all but the most severe pain by now. Secretly, Chikane thought to himself that if he were going to die, the faster the better.
After fifty hours of nonstop torture, his interrogators gave up. They drove him to a prison in nearby Rustenburg, dumped his limp body in a cell, and forgot about him. Chikane could barely move. His jailers laughed at him, saying he had "danced" to some "good music."
A few days after he'd arrived in the jail, Chikane asked a guard for a Bible. The request was denied. "'Dit maak jou 'n terroris," the jailer replied, slamming the steel bars on the wounded cleric. "It makes you a terrorist."
After six months of solitary confinement, Chikane was released. No charges were ever filed.
The silver spoon makes a delicate tingling sound as Frank Chikane stirs his tea. He slowly brings the gold-rimmed teacup to his lips and takes a sip. His lips pucker from the hot drink, and he places the teacup down with a soft clink of china on china. Then he resumes telling me about his torture, some twenty years earlier.
We are sitting in Chikane's office in Tuynhuys, the Office of the President in Cape Town. To find Chikane, I pass through the bleached white Roman columns outside the building and am ushered into a large foyer with a long deep brown wooden table polished to a mirror finish. A guard directs me to a sitting room filled with gray stuffed chairs and all manner of pomp, where I sit and exchange stares with South Africa's former leaders. Strijdom, Verwoerd, Vorstertheir portraits are all here, peering down solemnly on the interlopers now inhabiting this sanctum.
Finally, a young Afrikaner woman dressed in a tight skirt and blazer retrieves me. "Please excuse the mess," says Natassia sheepishly over her shoulder as she strides briskly up the grand staircase. "It's our first day back in three months." I am mystified by her apologythe place is immaculate.
I peer down a long white hall lined by blonde wood doors as I wait for Chikane. I recognize President Mandela's aides scurrying about. This is a sterile place that resonates power and patrimony but not warmth. Chikane's office is decorated in the nondescript shades of authority. The muted green walls are bare save for a large South African flag hanging opposite his desk.
Chikane smiles broadly and extends his hand as I enter. He is a short, trim man and a dapper dresser. He is meticulously attired in an avocado Christian Dior shirt, pleated black trousers, and polished black leather shoes. He has an easygoing formality about him, exuding at once the poise of power and the warmth of an old friend. When he smiles, which is often, it is with his whole face; he puts guests and even adversaries at ease. One could mistake his friendly manner for a man who enjoys hanging out and spinning yarns of the struggle. But Frank Chikane is consumed by his calling, and he clearly thrives on giving his all to the demands of the moment. He is a man with no time, as he abruptly informs me.
After a brief "hi-how-are-you" Chikane makes clear that I am imposing on him. "I really shouldn't be doing this," he says, darting about his office and handing documents to Natassia. She sprints in and out of his space, guarding his time, screening his calls, reminding him of appointments. "Every minute I take with you is a minute the deputy president must take to do things I have not attended to," says Chikane. His cherubic face is stretched into a smile even as he is gently scolding me for my persistence. His cellular phone chirps to emphasize his point; he hands it to Natassia to answer.
Tuynhuys is the seat of power in South Africa, and few people are surprised that Chikane is now one of its occupants. Starting with the detentions that forever politicized him, Chikane has earned a reputation as a persuasive leader, an independent thinker, and an activist with deep roots in the community. Two decades of high-profile activism have led him to his current post as director-general of the office of Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, Nelson Mandela's heir apparent.
An aura of sainthood frequently infuses descriptions of Chikane. "Frank gets his strength from God," muses Irene Meadows, the secretary at the South African Council of Churches who worked under both Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Chikane when each headed the organization. She witnessed Chikane at work on the front lines. "You as a human being don't have that strength. It's divine."
The high esteem in which Chikane is held is evident in stories like the one about a black security policeman who refused to lock the door of Chikane's prison cell. When the guard was reprimanded, he punched his white superior and was swiftly fired. Other black guards have smuggled newspapers and letters into his cell.
But I am skeptical of such deification. It obscures the tough pragmatism and bald ambition that are the hallmark of political leaders, and makes the intrigue of high office appear nobler than it is. Chikane has always been a consummate political operator. His theological credentials have perhaps confused people into thinking that politics is a mere sideline for him. It is not. Chikane has been a loyal soldier in the South African wars. He has coveted authority and usually been duly rewarded. The struggle for powerfor his people, his country, and himselfhas been a central theme in his political and spiritual life.
Chikane is a far more complex man than legend conveys. He wrestles with forgiving apartheid perpetrators, which President Mandela has put forth as a civic duty. And the economic policies that he is advocating have impressed the World Bank but infuriated many former progressive colleagues who accuse the government of reneging on its commitment to the poor. Chikane wonders privately whether the policies he is advancing will even make a difference to his own brother, who is trying, against the odds, to succeed in business.
Suffice it to say that Chikane has endured far more hardship than most mortals can conceive of. Since 1977 he has survived six rounds of detention, countless hours and unspeakable methods of torture, a year of hiding during the 1986 state of emergency, and, finally, a 1989 assassination attempt which very nearly succeeded. Over the years, such abuse has left him at various times paranoid, confused, unable to walk, sleep, or speak. Yet every blow and epithet only seemed to fuel his determination to fight back with his whole being. The apartheid enforcers failed to break him, but it was not for lack of trying.
Chikane is the first to decline the mantle of godliness. "I am no saint," he insisted in his 1988 autobiography, No Life of My Own, written at the tender age of thirty-seven. He and his wife, Kagiso, now the parents of three sons who range in age from six to sixteen, have "normal human concerns about the family, my safety, and the type of life we are living."
"If I was asked whether I would have liked to live the type of life I am living now, I would most certainly have said 'no!' ... I would have chosen to live a normal life like other people," he began his book. "It seems that as long as the apartheid system exists we shall not be able to live a normal life as a family."
Suffering is an essential part of the Chikane worldview. It was a given that blacks suffered under apartheid. For Chikane, the challenge was to make his suffering meaningful or "redemptive." He chortles as he recalls the thinking of many blacks during the seventies and eighties. "You get detained even if you don't do anything, so you rather better do something to be able to justify your detention!" The goal became to "do as much damage to the system as you can before they catch up with you."
But Chikane's commitment went a step further: he was willing to die for what he believed. He often spoke of dying for his convictions as if it were inevitable. And he seemed at times to mock death, to dare his torturers to make a martyr of him.
"Dying in a just cause is not a vain death," he told a reporter in 1987. "Christ offered his life for us. We can do no more than he did. We black South Africans have nothing else to give. We offer our lives."
Wasn't he being a bit cavalier about death? He answers matter-of-factly as we talk over tea in Tuynhuys. He sits back confidently as he speaks, steepling his hands under his chin. "What motivated me was commitment to the Lordif I have to use theological, spiritual languagewhich meant that you should be prepared to die for the particular beliefs you hold. And if your Lord was crucified for that, then you should be willing to make that sacrifice too."
Paradoxically, Chikane probably owes his life to the fact that he was willing to die. His audacity flummoxed his torturers, and he recalls how they were "captured in the belief that you were superhuman." They were amazed when he would break down and cry under the strain of interrogation. Chikane says such breakdowns were a strength. "That just shows our humanity."
For Chikane, only religion can explain such suffering, and so religion provides him the faith and courage needed to challenge it. God sides with the oppressed, the underdog. Apartheid is a sin against God; removing that injustice will hasten the Kingdom of God on earth, a just place where all people will be free. Chikane writes and speaks often about the Kingdom, and bringing it about remains his mission in life. As one journalist who profiled him observed, Chikane "sees no difference between God's purposes and his own political objectives."
These words could of course be used to describe any religious fanatic. Such single-minded zeal is chilling. History is fraught with examples of how such fervor has as often been the rationale for oppression as it has been for liberation. What redeems this force in Chikane's case is simply his humanity. He is a warm, compassionate man, quick to smile and laugh. He has few pretenses, and so he can move easily between his poor congregation in Soweto, conservative Boers preparing to vote in the farm town of Klerksdorp, and the halls of power in Pretoria.
Chikane believes that all revolutionaries are motivated by deep spiritual faith. He recalls one evening when Joe Slovo came to dinner at his house after returning from exile. Slovo, the most prominent white member of the ANC high command, was born to Lithuanian Jewish parents but declared himself an atheist in later life. He was head of the South African Communist Party and chief of staff of the armed wing of the ANCmaking him a hero to blacks and Satan incarnate to most whites. After the 1994 election, Slovo became Mandela's first minister of housing, but he died of cancer in January 1995. Chikane recalls how the conversation that evening turned to their respective faithsor in Slovo's case, the seeming lack of faith.
Slovo conceded that he had been willing to die for what he believed in. Chikane insisted to the jocular guerrilla, "The fact that you can also go and die for that cause, it sounds like religion for me. It's a question of what type of religion really."
Chikane concluded, "I don't believe there's a person without faith. There's something that motivates people to do things that they do. In my case, I'm saying it's on the basis of my faith."
Frank Chikane was born in 1951, the second of eight children of James and Erenia Chikane. His father worked for a sanding company in Johannesburg, while his mother raised her family in the rural town of Bushbuckridge on the Mozambique border. In the late fifties the children moved to their father's house in Soweto, the vast black township that lies outside Johannesburg, to attend school; their mother moved in with them in 1962. The Chikane children cooked their own food and washed and pressed their own clothes by the age of nine. Frank recalls that his black school pants were covered with burn marks from his inattentiveness while ironing.
Soweto, an acronym for South West Township, was itself an apartheid creation. It was built in the fifties as a dumping ground for blacks who were forcibly removed from surrounding communities such as Sophiatown, a storied, racially mixed working-class ghetto. Today Soweto has a population of three to four million people.
Like all parents, James and Erenia Chikane tried hard to shelter their children from the harsher aspects of life under apartheid. They made sure their children attended school, didn't let them shirk their homework, and encouraged them to strive for professional careers. Despite their best efforts, reality always found a way to intrude.
One day when Frank was thirteen, his mother's youngest sister came to stay. His aunt was about to give birth to her seventh child, and she had come to Soweto from her rural home so that she could be close to the hospital. All her previous children had been delivered by cesarean section, and her family was concerned about her health. She arrived in the afternoon and planned to go to the hospital the following day.
But the police quickly noticed the newcomer on the block. Without warning, a group of policemen swooped down at 2 A.M. and demanded to see a pass, or dompas, for the visitor. All black people were required to carry a dompas, which stated where they were permitted to live. Blacks were only allowed to stay in Soweto if they were born there or worked in the area. Barring that, you needed permission to be in the city, which Frank's aunt did not have.
The Chikane children awoke to witness their pregnant aunt being dragged out of the house in her nightclothes. At the police station she was thrown on a cement floor to wait in the bare cell until the following morning, when a senior officer would decide what to do with her. For young Frank, it was a rude awakening to the reality that blacks were considered less than human by white society. It wasn't long before Frank experienced this firsthand.
Frank Chikane was not quite sixteen. It was a warm summer day and he was strolling down the street to visit a friend. Roads in Soweto were rutted dirt thoroughfares shared by pedestrians, farm animals, trucks, cars, and horse-drawn carts. Around him lay the Soweto landscape of mile upon mile of identical four-room "matchbox" houses. Often the only distinguishing feature between houses was the number that the authorities had crudely painted on each door.
Frank was sauntering absentmindedly and didn't notice the white Ford sedan pull up alongside him. Inside were three white policemen. Frank had already grown accustomed to playing cat-and-mouse when he spotted the police. Blacks must begin carrying a dompas at age sixteen, and teenagers were routinely stopped to ascertain their age. If they didn't have a dompas, they would be arrested and held until their parents arrived with a birth certificate to prove they didn't need a pass.
"Good morning meneer [sir]," said the nervous boy, careful to look down as he spoke. The three white men in police uniforms emerged from the car and approached him menacingly.
"Meneer?" leered a strapping fellow with a bushy mustache. "Did you say meneer?" His neck muscles tightened as he stepped closer to the boy.
"Cheeky kaffiryou call me baas!" Chikane was not sufficiently practiced in dealing with whites to understand the fine points of slave parlance. He had been taught to address white adults as meneer. But that might imply you were equals. Whites insisted that blacks address them as baas (boss) in perpetual acknowledgment of their mastery.
The portly man suddenly buried his fist in Chikane's solar plexus. The slight boy was lifted up in the air by the blow. He felt a sharp pain as he landed on hard ground, and he could taste the dust as it hung limply around his head. He gasped for breath, straining for wind against the spasm in his abdomen. He thought he was suffocating. The policeman grabbed his white shirt and yanked him forward.
"Let's see your dompas, kaffir!" he snapped.
The young man was flustered. "Yes, baas," he mumbled between gasps as he searched his pockets. "I have the papers ... somewhere."
Chikane was still fumbling when the next blow slammed into his temple, followed by another in his jaw. He was crying now, shrieking helplessly between sobs. He was on the ground, scrambling away, trying desperately to avoid the men. But there were three of them, and they formed a circle around him. One of the other policemen kicked him in the groin, causing Chikane to let out a high-pitched scream.
"Please, baas. I have it somewhere, my baas," he sputtered. Blood ran in deep crimson streaks from his nose and down his white school shirt. But they were on him again, picking him up and throwing him back down onto the hard dirt.
"I'll give you the papers, baas," wailed the frightened teenager. He was too old to be a boy, too young to be a man. He lay crumpled on the ground, praying that they would spare him.
James Chikane encouraged his second son to be a lawyer from a young age. But the young Chikane excelled at math and instead considered a career as a physicist or mathematician. Frank's math talents were unusual, as "Bantu education" typically offered little to students of the sciences.
Chikane enrolled in 1972 at the University of the North in Turfloop (near Pietersburg), one of South Africa's "bush universities" that were designated exclusively for "nonwhites" starting in 1959. Like all "bush" schools, it was located far from the "white" cities. Among his classmates and friends at university were Cyril Ramaphosa, who went on to head the National Union of Mineworkers and led the ANC in the pre-election negotiations with the National Party in the early 1990s. Most of the student leaders, including Chikane, were members of the South African Students Organization (Saso), an organization led by black-consciousness leader Steve Biko. Biko was killed at the hands of security police in 1977, and Saso was subsequently banned.
Chikane's studies in math and physics were soon disrupted by politics. In September 1974, students at Turfloop staged a "Frelimo rally" to celebrate the victory of the Mozambican liberation movement against Portuguese rule. The school was not far from Mozambique, and many black South Africans identified strongly with the anti-colonial guerrilla movements in the neighboring African states. The celebratory rally was abruptly dispersed when police attacked with dogs, sjamboks (leather whips), and tear gas. Many students were badly injured. Chikane observed that a simultaneous anti-Frelimo protest by students of Portuguese descent went off without incident.
The Frelimo rally was followed by a six-day sit-in during which many student leaders were arrested. Chikane was elected a trustee of a student legal defense fund, which assumed the responsibilities of the student representative council, most of whose members were in detention. Chikane was suddenly thrust into the leadership limelight. He testified against the police and the university at a subsequent commission of inquiry into the unrest.
When Chikane attempted to take his exams later that year, the strain of all that was happening was too much for him. He had a nervous breakdown and was admitted to a hospital. The university administration refused to let him retake his exams. When he returned to school to resume his studies the following January, a sympathetic professor informed him that he would be victimized, and suggested he not return. At the age of twenty-three, Chikane's hopes for a university degree and a career as a scientist were dashed.
The Chikane family was deeply religious. They were members of the black branch of the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM), an evangelical Pentecostal church whose services are richly participatory. Like many charismatic churches, AFM congregations are composed largely of the poor. Throughout the services the faithful shout out the name of the Lord, speak in tongues, lay on hands, and dance, stamp, and sing their devotion to God. Frank describes African spirituality as "holistic," in which the spiritual and social worlds are intimately intertwined and God is involved in all aspects of life.
James Chikane led church services in the family's Soweto home, but the size of the congregation soon outgrew the living room. A church was eventually built in Naledi, a poor community on the far western side of Soweto. James became a pastor in 1975 and officially took over the congregation.
Frank Chikane was involved in the church from an early age. He delivered his first sermon at the age of eight, and was secretary of his father's congregation by the time he was eighteen. But by the time Frank reached high school, he began questioning the role and relevance of the churches in the society around him. While he continued to be a devoted member of his father's congregation, he saw that the church as a whole was doing nothing to challenge the oppression that weighed on black congregants. Politicized youth in his Soweto high school were eager to point out how whites had historically given blacks the Bible while stealing their land; they seized upon the Marxist slogan that "religion was the opiate of the people." Frank observed, "To be a Christian to them therefore was to help the minority white racist regime to continue to oppress the people. It was an act of collaboration and cooperation with the enemy."
Chikane was deeply troubled by this schism between his spiritual and political lives. This conflict boiled over in 1971 when students at Chikane's high school got into a violent confrontation with a group of devout Christians. A mass meeting was called, and the young Chikane was asked to speak. He was forced to reevaluate his own spirituality. He declared at the meeting that the Bible had indeed been used to dispossess blacks, but that this was a grave misuse. He asserted that blacks had to reclaim the Bible, and he coined the slogan, "Re-read the Bible and re-interpret it in the light of truth, and turn it against the oppressor." This was a step that ultimately led Chikane to be in direct conflict with his church.
Chikane's experience at Turfloop solidified his political outlook. He was deeply impressed by Steve Biko's philosophy of "black consciousness." Biko spoke of the need for both physical and psychological liberation for blacks. Slogans of South Africa's black consciousness movementsuch as "black power" and "black is beautiful"echoed the Black Power movement of the late sixties in the United States. Elements of the black consciousness movement later split with the ANC, with the former advocating all-black leadership in a new South Africa while the latter called for nonracialism. Chikane always held that black consciousness and nonracialism were compatible, that psychological liberation was a key component of black freedom.
When Chikane left Turfloop in 1974 in the wake of student unrest, he was uncertain about his future career. He finally decided to heed an old calling and become a pastor in his church. This decision was fraught with contradictions: the Apostolic Faith Mission was cautious by reputation and led by conservative Afrikaners (like most churches in South Africa, the AFM had separate divisions for whites, blacks, coloreds, and Indians). But, Chikane insisted to his critical friends, "This is the church in which I was brought up."
Chikane's posting as a pastor in Kagiso the week before the Soweto riots was fateful. In the aftermath of the uprising, he instituted a variety of self-help schemes aimed at addressing the pressing problems of poverty. His church became a center for job assistance, literacy programs, and health care advocacy. His social action ministry quickly earned him the loyalty of his congregation and the wrath of the authorities.
Frank Chikane was taken from the Rustenburg jail in January 1978. His savage six weeks of beatings had left him unable to walk for some time, and it took weeks before he could think clearly following his release after six months of solitary confinement.
Chikane's treatment was not particularly unusual. While he was not well known outside the township at that time, he was a visible and effective local leader. Local police had sweeping authority in the black townships, and they routinely harassed, brutalized, and even killed activists at will. Chikane's experience at the hands of local cops was standard treatment for blacks in countless South African towns.
Chikane was hauled before an austere looking magistrate with six other men, most of whom he had never met. The black-robed white magistrate surveyed the bedraggled looking septet. "You are charged with public violence," intoned the official. Chikane was surprised. During his entire detention and torture, no one had asked him about or accused him of "public violence," nor had he been involved in such a thing. The magistrate was uninterested in Chikane's comments. He set bail at R 200 ($175 in 1978) and told the men to return in six days.
Chikane was overjoyed to return to his congregation. Community people greeted him warmly, mustering their scarce resources to throw him a small party. But on the day he was to return to court, a loud banging on the door of the church manse at 2 A.M. awoke him. He knew who it was.
Police stormed in and were greeted by Chief Deacon Isaac Genu, who tried to stop them. They forced the older man back into his room at gunpoint. They found Chikane in his bedroom, and immediately began assaulting him. Punches, whips, and wooden batons tore into his skin. They dragged him out of the house in his pajamas. Taunts"Kaffir!" "Terrorist!"punctuated the morning stillness.
The assault continued in earnest in the back of the police vehicle. They began pulling out the pastor's hair and punching him in the face. "Why are you doing this?" shrieked Chikane. Blind rage was their only reply.
When he arrived at the Krugersdorp police station, Chikane was pushed to the ground and ordered to pick up all his hair, which lay on the floor in bloody clumps. The police drove him, hours away, to his court appointment, assaulting him the whole time. They eventually arrived at the wrong court and then had to backtrack all the way to Krugersdorp.
When Chikane finally stepped into the serene white courtroom, he was a mess. His head hung down limply, his eyes were swollen shut. Blood was still oozing from where his hair had been pulled out. His pajamas protruded from beneath his pants. He looked like a vagrant who'd fallen asleep in the road and been run over by a truck.
The courtroom was packed with members of Chikane's congregation. They gasped in horror at sight of their pastor. "Shame!" they cried out. "Killers!" Guards advanced on them threateningly, intimidating them into silence. But the congregants' rage boiled over onto the streets outside after the magistrate spoke.
"Daar is nie 'n saak teen die man nie", the magistrate said flatly as he flipped through the police report with a look of disinterest. "There is no case against this man."
Chikane could not sleep for months after his second arrest. He jumped at loud sounds or abrupt movements. Friends counseled him to leave the country, as they feared his life was in danger. He refused. "If we all left, no one would be there to minister to the people who had no option but to face the pain and misery of living under an oppressive, white minority racist regime," he told them.
Chikane was detained a third time in November 1980. He had just married his wife, Kagiso, when he was rounded up. The occasion for this latest arrest was the awarding of the Freedom of Krugersdorp Medal to Prime Minister P.W. Botha. To celebrate that freedom, police swooped down on the township and rounded up scores of people. This was to be Kagiso's first experience of life with her new husband. As she stood among concerned people in her house, "it was as if life had come to a standstill for me," she said.
The leadership of the AFM Church was unhappy with the radical pastor's activities. During his second detention, the local AFM leadership removed Chikane from his congregation. They cited the fact that he was a "terrorist," by virtue of the fact that he was detained under the Terrorism Act. His congregation refused to agree to the order, and Chikane returned to preach there after each release from jail.
The AFM relented and ordained Chikane in 1980 with the warning that he "not engage in politics." But the church soon charged him with doing just that. Chikane protested in a letter to church leaders that "politics" had different meanings. "When it involves whites in South Africa it is party politics, which is not sin. When one is black and supports the South African Government ... one is not involved in politics. But if one sees some wrong in the Government of South Africa, however genuine he may be or Biblically justifiable, he is taken as being actually involved in politics."
Chikane went on to insist that "the church in Southern Africa is in a conflict or war situation ... Many lives are going to be lost as is already the case today." He challenged the church "to be the conscience of the State, to undertake the ministry of reconciliation, peace maker, demand justice, reprimand, demand love and that man live righteously."
Chikane's challenge fell on deaf ears. In October 1981, the AFM suspended him for a period of one year until he "repented." The church leadership again charged that he was "involved in politics" because he "appeared in the newspapers."
Chikane was deeply wounded by his church's action. But he was jailed again in November 1981 and held for nine months, so there was little he could do to clear his name. The most painful episode of that year was the treatment that his wife, Kagiso, received. The church ordered Chikane and his family to vacate the church manse where they lived, but Frank was detained before they could find alternative accommodations. The church didn't care. On the eviction date, a six-man AFM delegation arrived at Chikane's house to evict Kagiso and her sixteen-month-old son Obakeng. They dismissed her pleas for help, saying, "When your husband did what he did, he must have been aware of the consequences."
Chikane wrote later, "My wife was never as hurt by the church and by Christians as she was then. It is a miracle that she remained a Christian."
Upon his release from his fourth round of detention in July 1982, Chikane attempted unsuccessfully to be reinstated by his church. Friends encouraged him to start a new church or join another denomination. But Chikane was adamant that he would remain in the church where he was born, even though the AFM leadership continued to view him as a heretic and an opportunistic troublemaker. His congregants from both Kagiso and Naledi fought the suspension for years. But the church hierarchy was to spurn Chikane for the rest of the decade.