Better late….

January 11, 2008

I have previously blogged on Race and Seventh-day Adventism in South Africa: here, here, here and here.I want to briefly recap the situation focussing on Helderberg College (extracted from my ASDAH presentation here):

While at least one Black student and several Coloured students were admitted to Claremont Union College–the forerunner of Helderberg College, established in 1893–early in its history; the school’s constituency remained almost entirely White until 1974 when having been relocated and renamed Helderberg College Coloured fourth-year Theology students were officially admitted.[1]

  • Coloured students attended Good Hope College established in 1930 which when compared with Claremont/Helderberg College, was grossly under-resourced, understaffed, and underfunded.
  • From 1909, the Seventh-day Adventist church also operated a separate school for Black students. The institution operated under various names and in various locations most recently as Bethel College. It was also grossly under-resourced, understaffed, and underfunded.

In 1968 Alwyn du Preez became the first non-white to graduate from Helderberg College, completing the third and fourth years of the theology course there after graduating from the two year Good Hope course in 1957. His presence was a special concession by the college; du Preez was required to live off-campus and was barred from using an college facilities other than the classrooms and library. He was not permitted to attend the Helderberg College graduation ceremony in 1968.
In 1971, Robert Hall a black student from Zimbabwe who had completed three years of the Theology course at Good Hope College was grudgingly permitted to enrol at Helderberg College.
Similar restrictions to those placed on du Preez were placed upon Hall. He was not permitted to board in the dormitory, nor to eat in the cafeteria; nor was he allowed to graduate with his class in 1971.[2] That same year, the administration of Helderberg College asked the South African Government to rule on the acceptance of a foreign non-white at an all-white South African educational institution. They were told that it was not, and never had been, government policy to interfere in the training of ministers by any denomination. As has been pointed out, this meant that Adventists of colour had been barred from Helderberg College all these years because of naked racist attitudes, not by government laws![3]

[1] I. F. du Preez and Roy H. du Pre, A Century of Good Hope: A History of the Good Hope Conference, its Educational Institutions and Early Workers, 1893-1993. (East London: Western Research Group/Southern History Association, 1994), 181-182. Antonio Pantalone points out that even if some non-White students were enrolled, the college’s graduation records show that during its 25 year existence, not a single non-white student ever graduated at [Claremont] Union College. “A Missiological Evaluation of the Afrikaanse Konferensie (1968-1974) and its significance for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Africa” (Dth, University ofDurban-Westville, 1998), 177.

[2] du Preez and du Pre, A Century of Good Hope, 104-105.

[3] du Preez and du Pre, A Century of Good Hope, 109-113.

Well why bring up this shameful history once more? Well on November 25, 2007 at a Graduation Ceremony at Helderberg College, small steps were taken towards righting these past injustices. At this ceremony–to a standing ovation–both Alwyn du Preez and Robert Hall were graduated (Post Facto); 39 years and 36 years late respectively.


Alwyn du Preez (Left) and Robert Hall (Right)

Thanks to Claudelle for the photos.



  1. A small step…but an important one nonetheless…Wish someone posted video of the event…

  2. I appreciate this church history lesson. I hope we learn enough to change.

    Sadly racism, institutional and otherwise, is still alive within the church throughout the world, not only in South Africa. An “us” and “them” mentality remains quite common. I pastor two multi-racial churches and see it weekly. And I must confess, because I am a member of the majority ethnic group in Wales, which is white, I am sure I remain blind to many subtler forms of racism within myself.

    I can only say I am doing my best to see things as they truly are rather than how I want them to be. This is the only way change can even begin to take place.

    On a minor point, having a number of African friends, particularly from South Africa and Zimbabwe, I understand the distinction between Black, Coloured, and White, but I doubt all of your readers will. You might want to explain the difference between Black and Coloured. For many in America and the UK they mean the same thing.

  3. The Lord sometimes guides his church in mysterious ways:


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