Sale Circuit News

MINISTER’S LETTER

March/April 2019

Sale Methodists – 1 Church in 6 locations

Joe Seremane started his working life as a teacher but was soon stopped due to his political views and activities. Becoming a political prisoner in the 1960’s on Robben Island and locked up in solitary confinement, he was at a low point and didn’t know how he was going to get out of it. Though not a believer in God, through his suffering he came to acknowledge the presence of God in that little cell.

As a changed man, he went into the public arena of politics in the early 1990’s through to the end of the first decade of the new millennium and becoming a prominent person in trying to reshape the ways of his country.

As he set about doing this, there remained the uncomfortable feeling that his brother Timothy had been wrongly killed after being mistaken for a spy. He got the opportunity to confront General Andrew Masondo, the man who authorised his brothers killing. The moment was on national television and people viewed nervously as to how Joe Seremane might respond.

Masondo, who had also been imprisoned on Robben Island had had difficult things to contend with too. His eldest son had been killed, his wife died in exile, his family connections were never the same after he’d been imprisoned on Robben Island. As General Masondo & Joe Seremane sat with the Bishop of the Cathedral they were in, they talked awkwardly yet openly with each other. 

The General said to Joe,

“this was not a personal thing. In a war situation you have people who are very different. Our troops were getting killed and we buried pieces of some of them, they were very frightened, people react differently.”

His openness to deal with what had gone on in what was considered a war, gave hope to others. He went on to say in an emotional comment that,

“I’m the only person who went to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (to testify in a closed hearing about the death of Timothy Seremane) without a lawyer. I have experienced pain too as a husband, as a father. I cared about those troops.”

Clearly affected by his own experiences, he went on to clarify,

“But in the course of a revolution certain things happen, decisions are taken. Now it is difficult to understand what happened then; the pressure of the enemy is not seen. You can start something with a good intention to satisfy some people, but you hurt others. There are people who do wrong things for their own purposes, but there are people who do wrong things defending the revolution.”

Both men had been fighting their own wars and when they got together all those years later, both much older now, they had the opportunity to reflect differently.

As the meeting drew to a close, Joe Seremane asked General Masondo for forgiveness too,

“for all the things my brother may have done to harm people too”.

Holding hands with each other and the Bishop, they prayed together, blessing each other in their work.

Prayer

You asked for my hands that you might use them for your purpose,

I gave them for a moment, then withdrew them for the work was hard.

You asked for my mouth to speak out against injustice.

I gave you a whisper that I might not be accused.

You asked for my life that you might work through me.

I gave a small part that I might not get too involved.

Lord, forgive my calculated efforts to serve you

only when it is convenient for me to do so,

only in those places where it is safe to do so,

and only in those who make it easy to do so.

Lord,

forgive me, renew me, heal me, nurture me,

empower me, send me out as an instrument of your peace

that I might take seriously the meaning of servant-leadership.

Amen.