In South Africa Archbishop enters High Court fray

ANGLICAN Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has joined the fray to retain the seat of the High Court in Grahamstown. Makgoba, who was formerly the Bishop of Grahamstown, this week wrote dozens of letters to powerful religious, political, and business leaders imploring them to assist in preventing the passing of the Superior Courts Bill in its current form.

The letters have been written on behalf of the Grahamstown High Court Action Committee, which consists of dozens of organisations, businesses, schools, Rhodes University, churches, NGOs and foundations.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Anglican Provinces, Law & Legal Issues

8 comments on “In South Africa Archbishop enters High Court fray

  1. Terry Tee says:

    This is an area that I know well, because I took my first degree at Rhodes University. I am absolutely shocked at this idea of moving the High Court. I can understand the argument that connections with Grahamstown are poor – I was there in January last year and the rail station seemed to have been mothballed. Essentially you have to drive there from Port Elizabeth or East London (over excellent roads – but around 70+ miles each way). However Bisho is even more at the back of beyond, being north of King Williams Town which I doubt if any readers of this site have ever heard of. I suspect that one of the factors militating against Grahamstown is that it is a curious relic of the colonial past – established like an English country town in 1820 by settlers from the UK, with a later Anglican cathedral in Victorian gothic dominating the town square. But the district council is run by the ANC and has taken giant steps to increase participation by poorer black residents. It’s not entirely Sleepy Hollow – apart from the thriving university the annual national arts festival draws huge numbers. Unemployment is very high. When I visited I was followed everywhere by beggars. But Bisho’s political associations from the past are if anything even worse. Bisho was the capital of Ciskei, one of the pathetic Bantustans set up by the apartheid government as allegedly independent states, while being completely manipulated by Pretoria. Finally, Rhodes University has a flourishing Law Faculty. Let the High Court stay!

  2. dcreinken says:

    Thanks for the background. I just returned from 9 weeks in SA, and the poverty and corruption in the Eastern Cape seem to be the worst I encountered or heard about.

    Abp Thabo often gets criticized for not speaking out as much as his predecessors, but he seems to be finding his own voice now. Hopefully the right decision will be made for G’town and the province.

  3. Terry Tee says:

    DCReinken I have been trying to make sense of this move on and off during the day, and it struck me that tribalism is surely partly to blame. Both Grahamstown and Bisho are in Xhosa territory (note for readers: Xhosa are second largest tribe in SA, and have a large territorial area beginning near Grahamstown, called Transkei.) But Grahamstown is, as I have said, linked by its past to an English culture. The move to Bisho would take it into the Xhosa heartland, and symbolically would represent a move to take control of the judiciary, not least since many of the judges would refuse to move from Grahamstown’s quaint, if creaky colonial-era beauty, to a dusty new town in the middle of nowhere. For readers curious about my references to a colonial England in the middle of southern africa, complete with Anglican cathedral, check out this wikimedia commons pic:;=/images?q=grahamstown&hl=en&safe=off&gbv=2&tbs=isch:1

  4. Terry Tee says:

    Hmm … don’t know why the full URL would not highlight in the posting above – you would have to include all the URL I have given, not just the bit in red, to get the (wonderful) picture.

  5. dcreinken says:

    I think this is the picture you were going for?

    Grahamstown Cathedral

    I had the privilege of seeing a full rainbow over the Cathedral from my guesthouse on the High street. I tried to go in for a Taize service on Sunday evening, but the next day was a bank holiday, so nothing was going on.

    The move could certainly be symbolic because of Grahamstown’s English heritage, but the answer to the question of who will profit from the move might be equally informative!

  6. Terry Tee says:

    Yessss! Thanks. Folks, do click on the URL that dcreinken has kindly given above – it will amaze you as a little slice of counties England in Africa. Just to the left of the cathedral, between the cathedral and the delivery truck, you catch a glimpse of the clock tower of Rhodes University, white tower with red roof.

  7. Terry Tee says:

    I apologise for obsessive posting, but when I was there 15 months ago, the cathedral dean was an Episcopal priest. Also, the Order of the Holy Cross have a monastery and retreat house just outside town at the aptly named Hillandale.

  8. dcreinken says:

    Yes – they took over the monastery from a group of Anglican nuns who have moded out toward Queenstown (or Alice?) They come back to worship with the monks on major feasts like Holy Week and Easter.

    They OHC monks were invited over by Abp Tutu. Since they are an integrated community, he asked them to model how whites and blacks could live in community, saying “You don’t have our baggage. You have your own baggage, but you don’t have our baggage!”

    They now run an afterschool program and provide scholarship for several Xhosa farm youth to go to private schools and college. They hope to start a primary school in the next year or so.

    Sunday worship at the monastery in fascinating – the Xhosa farm workers come to the monastery to worship instead of their own churches because the monks offer Sunday School and let the kids sing and participate in worship. Even more interesting to me is that many of the farmers also come and worship, so it’s very much an integrated Sunday service where white and black are drawn together through the monastery’s presence in a way they never were before.

    It’s the custom of the Order that each participant in communion receives and then distributes to the next person. It’s quite moving to watch a white farmer give communion to a black child who then, in turn gives communion to someone else. You can see in their body language and that they get what this moment is about.