time portal

Ever since I watched the movie “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeve and the gorgeous Jane Seymour years ago, I’ve had a fascination with time traveling. People who are much smarter than me use terms such as “closed time-like curves”, “cosmic strings” and “quantum gravity” in an attempt to substantiate their theories – according to them, time traveling is possible (theoretically, that is). My grandfather, with raised eyebrows, would have said, “Mmm… that remains to be seen…”. Despite the fact that, over the years, many “remains-to-be-seens” have been proven wrong with us now being able to send our holiday pictures and do banking transactions with our cell phones, aircrafts flying faster than sound and some teenagers even began tidying up their rooms  (yes it’s true, someone told me!), I tend to agree with my grandfather.

There were many occasions where I would have wished to be able to turn back time in order to change something or do something differently from the way I have done it. Or to see what the future holds before I make an important decision. However, for many reasons I cannot see how time can be rewound or forwarded like a CD or DVD,

What I’ve been wondering about lately, though, is the concept of time in the eternal context. At this point a very big WHAT IF comes into play, because how will we ever know for sure?

What if time has no beginning or end? And (bang!) there goes half my readers. Advance warning to the remaining one – it gets even more peculiar.

Time, as the average person knows it, is measured by clocks and calendars and is linked to seasons as well as solar and lunar movements. But this way of measuring time is relative, because time zones determine time on earth. When people in Australia admire the sunrise of a new day, people in other places are getting ready for a night’s rest. (I remember when my dad passed away in South Africa, it was past midnight there, but over here, in England, it was still before midnight. My sister and I, therefore, have different dates for my dad’s passing.)

I also wonder about another concept of time.

It all started with a dream. Lost in thought, I was walking on a pathway. Suddenly I found myself in a completely bizarre place, unrecognizable – an unknown dimension. Nothing resembled anything on earth. I almost panicked and wondered how I got there, realising that I was lost. I turned around, started to run back from where I came from and arrived at an extraordinary portal – like the ones you see in sci-fi movies, those that look like water. With an almighty jump I went back through this portal… and woke up. I wondered if I’d died for a second or two and came back again. Was I in another dimension for a moment? (I know someone who suffered a heart attack when he walked into the house, and fell down like a tree. There were signs, afterwards, indicating that he was dead for a moment and was brought back to life by the impact of the fall.)PORTAL

It was then that I began to wonder about our earthly existence – birth and death, the beginning and the end. And after that …

Of course, this pondering of mine is nothing new and is as old as humanity itself. Many people’s thoughts on the subject are sold as the alpha and omega (excuse the pun) and many religions and sects have been built around it. Since my childhood I’ve known about heaven and hell. As many religions would tell you, hell is a place of eternal punishment for things you have done wrong during your lifetime and heaven is a place of eternal reward for believing and being good. Other religions believe in reincarnation or the underworld.

I know that I, as a living being, consist of two primary things: tissue and energy. All living organisms are made up of this. Tissue, in humans, consists of water, protein, fats, carbohydrates and minerals. When you let go of your last breath, whether you were eaten and excreted by a lion or whether you are buried, your body is basically composted. It is broken down through different processes into a multiplicity of substances. Your brain too – your memory is wiped out. There is nothing left of the tissue-part of your body as people would have remembered it. (Although, I also wonder a lot about the transfer and destruction – or not – of DNA, human chimeras and things like that, but this is a conversation for another day). Your energy, however, does not go to waste. Einstein has already told us that energy, especially in an open system such as your body or the earth (where we exchange energy with our surroundings) could not be destroyed, but merely continues, usually in a different capacity. Energy is thus transformed.

And it is at this point that my pondering rapidly expands.

Suppose (remember that what-if?) we all live in a specific dimension (currently earth) at a specific time on a timeline. The line extends back into eternity and also into future eternity (remember, the universe is incalculably large and, it is thought, continues to expand). One glorious day your parents kissed, one thing lead to another and (voila!) you are being conceived – with the body that you will, hopefully, walk the earth. You are still just a bundle of water, protein, fats, carbohydrates and minerals – until energy gives you life. Your power pack starts you up. Your power pack now gives life to the shape that all those water and fat and goodies has taken – your body. The “power pack” might just as well have ended up in a cow or a tree, but it was destined for you.  Or what? Now a multitude of internal and external factors kick in to shape you –  your personality, cultural values, intelligence, religion, and so on.

Where did that energy come from? What or who was given life by it previously, what was it before it was transformed and settled into my body?

 Is this our soul?

Back to my dream. Let’s just imagine that the energy ball moves along this timeline, maybe even back and forth – forever. It moves through “portals” from one dimension to another and takes different forms from one dimension to the next. Maybe it even stays on earth two or more times in different bodies or forms. Within these dimensions, there may or may not be a sequence, like on earth. A history with time-based indicators created by the beings of that dimension. These dimensions, though,  are independent and totally different from each other. What happens in one dimension has no relevance in another. That is why there is no concept of time for the moving power pack.ENERGIEBAL

Is heaven or hell one of these dimensions? As in Monopoly. Go to jail – or hell / heaven.

Yes, I wonder. But how will we ever know?

Gosh, look at the time. It’s teatime! Well, at least where I am now. Me and my power pack. At this present time …  Oh, forget it!




Laat ek sommer met die afskop dit duidelik stel: My geloof is ononderhandelbaar. Ek het ‘n diepgevestigde geloof in ‘n almagtige God wat alles geskape het. Die Bybel vertel dat ons moet glo soos ‘n kind. Dis hoe ek glo. Sonder enige fieterjasies. Ek glo net. Party sal reken soos ‘n skaap . Of dalk erger, want ‘n skaap volg darem dit wat hy kan sien. My geloof is in ‘n Entiteit wat nie gesien of aangeraak kan word nie. Tog beleef ek Hom en sien Hom in alles rondom my. En wanneer ek stil raak, dan “hoor” ek Hom, “voel” ek Hom. (Hom? Daarmee het baie mense ook ‘n probleem. Ek verkies Hom – soos in die Bybel.) Ek kan sy Hand soos ‘n goue draad deur my lewe sien – deur goeie, maar ook deur baie donker tye. My geloof rus op twee pilare: Liefde vir my God en liefde vir my medemens. Ek glo. Dis al.

Maar godsdiens – dis nou egter vir my ‘n heel ander saak , deesdae. Ek verstaan daar is ongeveer ‘n geraamde 10 000 verskillende gelowe op onse aarde. Soos my ou pel eendag gesê het: En elkeen dink sy bende is die beste.

Hierdie artikel gaan eintlik nie om geloof nie. Ek het bloot aan die dink gegaan toe ek verlede week daar by die monument vir die Groot Brand in Londen gestaan het. Vóór ek aangaan met waaraan ek toe staan en dink het, eers bietjie agtergrond.

Toe Thomas Farriner,’n Londense bakker, die Sateragaand, 1 September 1666 doodmoeg tussen die lakens in sy huis daar in Pudding Lane, inkruip, het hy nie kon droom watse skade sy oond daardie nag sou aanrig nie. Hier by 1-uur die nag ontdek Farriner se huiskneg die rookwolke wat uit die kombuis borrel en teen Woensdag van die daaropvolgende week was 70 000 mense dakloos.

Londen het pas ‘n warm, droë somer agter die rug gehad en ‘n sterk oostewind het die vuur vinnig tussen die houthuise deurgestoot. Trae optrede deur amptenare, wat aanvanklik nie die omvang van die vuur besef het nie, het die vuur verder aangeblaas, by wyse van spreke. Om die kroon te span (verskoon die woordspeling) was die afgelope burgeroorlog nog vars in die geheue en het talle oud-soldate van die weermag nog gewere met buskruit in hulle huise gehad – nie ‘n goeie idee wanneer ‘n groot brand ontstaan nie.

Baie mense het hulle kosbare besittings in die St Pauls Katedraal gaan stoor in die geloof dat dit veilig daar sou wees. Maar teen Dinsdag het die vuur ook hierdie 11de eeuse katedraal bereik. Die vuur was teen daardie tyd so intens (tot 1250˚ Celsius) dat die looddak begin smelt het en die hele katedraal in vlamme opgegaan het.

Toe die vuur uiteindelik teen Woensdag geblus is, was 87 kerke, 13 000 huise en talle historiese geboue verwoes. Alhoewel die amptelike dodetal  tussen 6 en 8 mense gewissel het, was dit waarskynlik eerder honderde aangesien daar destyds nie forensiese kundiges was wat die as kon ontleed nie. Dit was eintlik maar net die vooraanstaande mense wie se dood aangemeld is. Tienduisende mense het daardie Woensdagaand kamp opgeslaan in Moorfields, Hampstead en Islington.

Winter was op hande.

Die brand was nou wel geblus, maar gerugte het vlam gevat. Stories is onder die dakloses daar in die kamp versprei dat ‘n lig kort voor die brand in die lug gesien is. Hierdie lig sou ‘n teken vir die 50 000 Franse en Hollandse immigrante in die stad wees om in opstand te kom en al die Engelse mans te vermoor en die vroue te verkrag.

Daardie Donderdag het Koning Charles ‘n bevel uitgevaardig dat die mense eerder die vuur moet blus as om vreemdelinge aan te val, want die vuur was ‘n natuurramp (Act of God) en nie ‘n Paapse (Papist) komplot nie. (“Papist” was ‘n neerhalende term wat gebruik is om Katolieke mee te beskryf, m.a.w. mense wat nie trou aan die “Church of England” was nie.)

Die Engelse was waarskynlik nie verniet agterdogtig nie en het dalk ook ‘n skuldige gewete gehad. Engeland was op daardie stadium in so ‘n aan-af-oorlog met Frankryk en Nederland gewikkel en net twee weke voor die brand het hulle die Nederlandse hawe in Westerschelde afgebrand.

En sowaar, ‘n Fransman, Robert Hubert, daag op en erken dat hy, as ‘n agent van die Pous, die brand begin het (al is dit na sy dood bevind dat hy ten tye van die brand iewers in die Noordsee was). Ten spyte van die hoofregter se bevinding dat die man se verklaring verdraaid is en dat hy nie skuldig kon wees wees nie, is hy op 29 Oktober gehang.

Daardie Franse en Hollandse opstand het natuurlik toe nooit plaasgevind nie en ‘n ander sondebok moes gevind word. ‘n Regeringskomitee is byeen gebring en elke Jan Rap en sy maat is aangemoedig om voor die komitee te kom getuig. Stories wat meestal in die kroeg gehoor is, is oorvertel – stories van ‘n Katolieke komplot. Die komitee het egter uiteindelik beslis dat daar geen gronde vir hierdie gerugte was nie en dat daar geen bewyse van ‘n plan van bose agente, Pape of Franse om die stad af te brand, gevind kon word nie.

Dit het egter nie saak gemaak nie. Die volgende jaar het ‘n boek verskyn – “Pyrotechnica Loyolana Ignatian fire-works”. Die skrywer het aangevoer dat die Katolieke die vuur begin het en dat die Vereniging van Jesus (verbonde aan die Katolieke kerk) deskundiges was in die gebruik van vuurwerke. Die woorde “vuur”, “vlamme” en “buskruit” is deurgaans in die boek uitgelig.

Toe ‘n gedenkplaat in 1681 op die plek waar die vuur ontstaan het, opgerig is, het dit gelees: “Here, by the permission of Heaven, Hell broke loose upon this Protestant city from the malicious hearts of barbarous Papists, by the hand of their agent Hubert, who confessed”. Hier in die 1700’s rond is die plaat egter verwyder, bloot omdat mense in die pad van verkeer gekom het.

Maar ‘n soortgelyke inskripsie op die monument, wat in die 1670’s opgerig is, is eers in 1830 uitgebeitel.

Die monument, ‘n indrukwekkende kolom in Doriese styl, staan vandag nog op dieselfde plek – 62 meter hoog en presies 62 meter van waar Farriner se oond die brand laat ontstaan het. Ontwerp deur die bekende Christopher Wren en Robert Hooke.


Daar word graag aan begeleide toeriste vertel dat daar meer mense gesterf het nadat hulle van die gedenktoring afgeval of gespring het as wat daar in die brand dood is. Wat eintlik nie waar is nie – gegewe die feit dat daar nie van al die mense wat in die brand omgekom het, rekenskap gegee kon word nie.edf


Ja, so staan ek toe die dag daar by die monument en dink. Ai tog, godsdiens!

Hoeveel geweld en verlies aan menselewens was daar nou nie al in die naam van godsdiens nie!

Die Hervorming wat tot verskeie oorloë gelei het en uiteindelik in die Dertigjaar-oorlog gekulmineer het met verlies van duisende lewens regoor Europa.

Die Inkwisisie.

Die voortslepende onrustigheid in die Midde-Ooste.

Die terroristeaanvalle deur Moslem ekstremiste.

Die Bosniese oorlog.

Die geweld in Ierland.

En so kan die lys my rekenaar se stoorplek volmaak.

Godsdiens, so glo ek, is inherent goed, met goeie bedoelings …

… totdat godsdiens ‘n god word.






Allen Saunders het in 1957 (lank voor John Lennon) geskryf dat “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans“. En het ek dit nie die afgelope tyd in oormaat beleef nie!

Ter agtergrond, sonder om in ‘n treurmare te verval:

Ons planne het seepglad verloop. September verlede jaar is ons huis in die mark gesit – tyd vir ‘n nuwe avontuur. Vir elf jaar was dit ons tuiste hier in Engeland – die huis waar die kinders die grootste gedeelte van hulle kinderjare deurgebring het. ‘n Gesellige huis met ‘n mooi uitsig op die Teemsmonding in die Noordsee. Die transaksie is vinniger beklink as wat ons gedink het en die groot trek is met militêre presisie beplan. So tussendeur die gewone daaglikse roetines is bokse begin pak, oortollige goed rommelpunt en liefdadigheidsorganisasies toe weggery en nuwe verblyf begin soek. Die trekdatum was 17 Desember.

Die dagboek was propvol van 1 Desember af.

En toe skuif die Vrydagaand van 3 Desember in ons pad. Wat aanvanklik as blote hartkloppings begin het, ruk toe so handuit, dat ek my eerste rit ooit in ‘n ambulans kry – loeiende sirenes en al. As kind was dit my grootste vrees, om in ‘n ambulans te ry – was toe nie so erg nie. By die hospitaal word die fout opgespoor en toegebrand en bepaal dat daar darem nie erge skade was nie. ‘n Week later is ek terug by die huis met die uitdruklike opdrag om my vir ‘n tyd lank stil te hou. “Tyd lank” is ‘n relatiewe begrip, veral met ‘n vol dagboek, ‘n trek binne enkele dae en ‘n agterstand na ‘n besoek aan die hospitaal.

Na ‘n goeie nagrus voel ek toe sterk genoeg en val vroeg die volgende oggend weg teen verhoogde tempo om verlore tyd in te haal. Soos almal wat al getrek het kan getuig, die dag van die groot trek is geen partytjie nie. Nadat die lorrie met ons besittings vertrek het, moes die huis netjies gekry word vir die nuwe intrekkers – ons het darem ons trots. Die probleem is egter, ons moet voor die lorrie by die nuwe plek wees om te kan oopsluit. Die druk was groot. Verlangs onthou ek iets van die dokter se opdrag dat ek vir ‘n week of twee nie mag bestuur nie. Maar nou ken ek ook mos dokters – ek sal mos stop as ek nie goed voel nie. Net onder vier ure nadat ons vertrek het, stop ons voor ons nuwe blyplek. Doodmoeg is ‘n eufemisme. Ons slaap sommer op matrasse op die vloer.

Vroeg die volgende dag is daar weer nie ‘n ding van “bietjie rustig vat” nie, want bokse moet die trappe opgedra word, meubels moet aanmekaar gesit word en die huis moet leefbaar gemaak word vir die kinders wat Kersfees kom kuier.

Stephan is darem hier vir die universiteitsvakansie en is ‘n groot hulp. Melissa en haar vriend kom met die trein aan en Etienne ry die vier ure van waar hy bly met sy nuwe kar wat hy in April gekoop het. Sy “pride and joy”.

Almal is gelukkig. Ek voel die trek aan my gebeente, maar hou dit vir myself. Dis normaal om bietjie moeg te voel na ‘n trek. Mos.

So ‘n uur voordat ons vir die Kersmaal sou aansit, wil die kinders die nuwe omgewing bietjie gaan verken en Etienne neem hulle in sy kar. Twintig minute later lui die foon: “Pappa.ons het ‘n ongeluk gehad.” Beslis nie iets wat ‘n brose, oorwerkte pa-hart op daardie stadium wou hoor nie. Etienne het in ‘n draai op geysde modder gegly, deur die veld geploeg en in ‘n klipmuur vasgery. Almal is gelukkig ongedeerd, maar die kar lyk nie meer dieselfde nie.

Ons Kersmaal was heelwat later.

Enkele dae later is die kinders terug huis toe – Etienne met die bus en sy kar agterop ‘n platbaklorrie.

So elfuur op Oujaarsaand begin my lyf te praat – hard te praat. ‘n Halfuur later praat hy toe so hard, dat Christine die nooddienste bel. Terwyl die res van die nasie vonkelwynproppe afskiet en vuurwerke die nagruim instuur om 2017 welkom te heet, loei die sirenes weer in my ore op pad hospitaal toe. Gedog ek dooi op Nuwejaarsdag.

By die hospitaal word ‘n hartaanval gediagnoseer. Die are word oopgemaak en ‘n week later is ek weer by die huis – weer met die opdrag: HOU JOUSELF STIL! En geen bestuur vir ‘n maand nie.

Ek traai – onder Christine se arendsoog.

Maar wat ek nou eintlik daar aan die begin wou sê (voordat ek met die treurmare begin het):

Ek vat niks meer as vanselfsprekend nie.

Skielik het ek ‘n klomp nuwe beginne. ‘n Nuwe jaar. ‘n Nuwe lewensjaar. ‘n Nuwe kans om te lewe!

En ‘n nuwe avontuur.

Die plekkie waarheen ons getrek het, Middleton in Derbyshire, is so ‘n katspoegie van Nottingham af – daar waar die legendariese Robin Hood nie vir uitdagings geskrik het nie. Volgens die laaste sensus woon hier so 700 mense in ons dorpie – almal sover baie vriendelik. Die diens Oukersaand in die ou kerkie was ‘n belewenis. En die klipmure in die omgewing is absolute fassinerende meesterstukke waarvan ek net nie genoeg kan kry nie. Kan nie wag om die plek in die somer te sien nie!


Ons dorpie

Die plan is om vir so ses maande te huur en die tyd te benut om ‘n geskikte plek te kry om ‘n gastehuis te begin.Die ses maande mag nou langer word na my uitstappie hospitaal toe.


Ons straat


Ons huis


Ons heining



‘n Opwindende jaar lê en loer. In geloof en met ons beste pogings gaan ons hom takel.

Hou hierdie spasie dop.

My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present. ― Steve Goodier

Soli Deo Gloria!



Have you ever stood on a platform at the station while a diesel locomotive effortlessly glides past you? The smooth reassuring rumbling of that immensely powerful machine demands admiration while the trembles of the platform find their way up your legs. You just know that a mighty powerful force is at work here.

I’ve often linked the well-known saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” with this diesel-power and found some inspiration in it. I made myself believe that humanity consists of two main groups: Ordinary Elves (OE’s) and the Tough Diesel Engines (TDE’s). The Ordinary Elves represent the majority of people who are responsible for the normal day to day running of life as we know it. They get ready for work, go to work, do their work, go home, watch TV and go to bed. They are very important because they do just about everything from cleaning our streets, working in the offices, building our cars and houses, to making our clothes, nursing us, teaching us, defending and protecting us. Everything… up to a certain point. The OE’s only work until things start to heat up, when the challenges get more demanding and stress levels start rising.elves

That’s the signal for The Tough Diesel Engines to start up. When the OE’s can’t go any further, the TDE’s take over. You hear that mighty rumble and stand in awe. The TDE’s work, even when others sleep; they seem to get a sadistic pleasure out of problem-crunching. They never ask for pity but, hey, neither will they give a problem any. They don’t know the meaning of surrender; they persevere in the midst of adversities, battle their way onwards, forwards, always forwards.diesel

Are you a TDE or an OE?

One of the South African Defence Force’s elite units has a back-breakingly harsh selection and training program. Many try, but only a few make it to the end. The last phase of the program demands a survival route where the soldiers have to find their way in the most inhospitable environment and under the most unforgiving conditions imaginable. As the days drag by, the group of hopefuls dwindles because at the temporally bases transport is ready for those who wish. It’s your choice: allow the whole exercise to get the better of you and make use of the transport (and get disqualified in the process) or force yourself onward vigorously with the utmost exertion. special-forces-training

One pitch dark night an unfortunate soldier walked straight into a dry twig from a low-hanging tree branch. The twig impaled him in the eye, just missing his eyeball and blood was pouring from his wound. That same night another guy broke his ankle. These two decided not to go for treatment that would have put them at risk of disqualification and, after applying a bit of very basic medical treatment themselves, they pushed on.

As the days progress, you start to lose all sense of time and the only drive, ultimately, is to reach the prearranged rendezvous in time.

Unbeknown to the soldiers, the end of the course was in sight and, after a day with barely enough water supplies, the men reached the rendezvous, semi-conscious, anguished, hungry and dehydrated. The commander came up to them where they were huddled in a cloud of dust, flies and the sweaty smell of protracted scorching days in the bush on them. He addressed them – gesturing while clutching an icy cold beer. Pausing for a moment, he took a long sip, looked at the bottle and then emptied the content onto the absorbing sand, within sniffing distance of the shattered men. The beer was not cold enough.

“Guys,” he said, “I’m going to enjoy a colder one in the base after taking a long hot shower. Anyone care to join me? Transport is ready – anyone?”

Two men cracked then and there and stumbled to the waiting Land Rover. While two others tried to suck the wasted beer from the sand, the commander informed the remaining men that the next day would be the final day of this grueling encounter and that they could expect a barbeque and cold beer at the rendezvous.

With renewed effort and all the strength they could muster, they tackled the final stage.

The next evening, on approaching the rendezvous, the depleted group of men, drained to the bone, noticed a solitary Land Rover, nothing else. The closer they got, the clearer it became: no barbeque-fire, no beer, nothing to eat. Some of them flopped down onto their knees in a cloud of dust and started weeping. During the day they had consumed all their water and rations – no need to save it because, so they had been told the previous night, tonight the end of this phase would be celebrated with plenty to eat and drink. Of the initial squad, only nine had survived. The commander then stepped out of the Land Rover and walked towards the wretched group of men.

“Listen guys, there’s been a misunderstanding and I admit that I’m the one to blame. I got the dates mixed up, and I’m truly, truly sorry. Tomorrow, not today, will be the end of this phase. As a token of my remorse, I’ve brought you a little something to eat. It’s on the Land Rover. I will completely understand if some of you want to go back with me, there’s plenty of space on the Land Rover. The rest of you, get your instructions for tomorrow and something to eat.”

Two men summarily got onto the Land Rover, Their grazed, grey faces, empty eyes sunken into the sockets, told the whole story of disappointment and disillusionment. The remaining seven opened the stainless steel food container – raw cabbage drenched in diesel. No water either, only their instructions. Was it a sadistic smile on the commander’s face as he started the engine? Another guy got onto the vehicle. The remaining six contemplated the long, dry stretch ahead of them, and then started walking.

About two kilometers further, as they came round a hill, they could at first smell it and then they saw it: a campsite with flames from barbeque-fires and cold beers to welcome them. The end of their ordeal!braai

What went through the minds of those guys on the Land Rover? If only they’d held on for two more kilometres – two kilometres stood between them and a victory!tired-soldier

All so often we throw in the towel without really knowing how close we are to success. Isn’t it worthwhile, after all the pain and suffering, to give it one more push? Are we not just two kilometres away from victory?

My mother engraved a saying in my memory and even when the diesel engine wearies, her catchphrase echoes:



May you experience God’s loving care in the same abundance I have.

God bless.


  1. Unemployment, you and …

2. Unemployment, You and…

3. Unemployment…


Book Cover2


More than twenty years ago a Catholic man, Benedict Daswa was clubbed to death in a remote part of the Soutpansberg in South Africa for his religious conviction.

You don’t have to be particularly religious to realise that, given his background, his accomplishments were nothing short of a miracle. His village was high up in the mountains near Thohoyandou in one of the most deprived areas in the country – a community forgotten by the rest of the world. Unemployed people wrapped in ragged clothes, scavenging children with empty eyes and scabby dogs roamed the dusty streets.

Today, just a few kilometres from where Benedict Daswa was murdered, the Nweli Primary School stands as a monument to the seeds that this extraordinary man had sown in his community. The proud head teacher keeps an eye on his dedicated staff while the eager children absorb every word of their teachers.  Across the street at the Assumption of Mary Catholic Church, women are busy preparing food for the countless children in the area who were left orphaned by aids.

Benedict Daswa was the driving force behind the realisation of this haven.

So extensive was this extraordinary man’s influence on this community that the local Catholic Church has sent a request to the Vatican to declare him a saint. Saint Benedict.

Daswa’s case was sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints after he was declared “Servant of God” and diocesan-level inquiries were completed. If approved, Daswa would be on his way to being declared blessed, making him one step away from becoming the first South African-born saint.


Benedict grew up in a traditionalist family from the small Lemba tribe who live mainly among the Venda people in the Limpopo Province. His real name was Tshimangadzo, but as a teenager he became one of a small group of Vendas who converted to Catholicism. He took the name Benedict after the sixth-century monk and Benedict Risimati, his catechist, who instructed him on his faith. He also made Saint Benedict’s motto his own – ora et labora.  Pray and work. He soon realised that the practice of witchcraft was against his Catholic faith. From then on, both in his private life and publicly, he took a strong stance against this custom because he said it led to the killing of too many innocent people accused of witchcraft activities. After completing his studies to become a teacher, he returned to Nweli where he was, two years later, appointed head teacher.

Chris Mphaphuli, current head teacher of the local high school, still remembers how he, as a young man, often went to Daswa for advice. “Benedict always said: Let God be your light and pray before you do anything. But you must work!”

The local church is built with stones that Daswa gathered. Nweli’s teachers acquired their work ethics from him. He propagated highly controversial issues like telling men to assist their wives with household chores and childcare – something unheard of in those patriarchal communities. More controversial questions were raised when he opted to work rather than rely on witchcraft to bring him fortune. When the local soccer team put muti (traditional herbs and medicine) in their boots to win matches, Daswa trained a new team made up of young people who focused their efforts on a dedicated training program rather than believing in magical powers.

This standpoint eventually led to his death.

In 1990, after a series of unusual thunderstorms and lighting strikes caused the deaths of people in the area, a group of local men suggested hiring a sangoma  (traditional healer) to determine the cause. Everyone contributed R5.00 (about £0.40/US$0.60), but Daswa refused.

We have to think rationally; lightning is a natural phenomenon, he declared at the meeting.

On the night of 2 February 1990, while driving home, he found his way blocked with logs across the road. When he stopped the vehicle and tried to remove the obstruction, a group of people emerged from behind the trees and began pelting him with stones. Wounded, he escaped on foot and ran to a woman’s home nearby. After members of the mob entered and threatened to kill her if she didn’t reveal where Benedict was, he came forward. The gang dragged him outside where he was tortured. Realising he was about to be killed, he made a final prayer – God, into Your hands…  receive my spirit – before they finished him off, crushing his skull and then pouring boiling water over his head.

He was 44.

His killers were arrested, but because the community was too frightened to testify, no one was ever convicted.

We hope that he will eventually become a saint, not just for his community, but also for the whole nation and that his death will bring healing all over the country…

… and that he helped to rid people of fears that prevent so many of us to stand up for what we believe.

Inspired by an article in Rapport by Johannes de Villiers (2 July 2012)

My Octopus



Many years ago the most astounding thing happened to me, a miracle. It was so extra-ordinary that, for many years, I struggled with the question: Why did it happen to me?

I was a young man living in South Africa, unmarried and my income was nothing to be envious of. Like any young man, I dreamt of my own house and so I bought a piece of land, a beautiful plot on which I had to pay monthly instalments. Every month the levies and taxes had to be paid as well. Shortly after that I got married and moved into a rented flat with my new bride. Then my pocket truly started to feel the strain: Flat rental, instalments on my loan for the plot, levies and taxes and all the usual added expenses that come with a wedding (furniture, honeymoon, ring, etcetera, etcetera…).

We have all, at one stage in our lives had something that clings to our shoulders like a big octopus. “One day” I am going to run a marathon. Another person wants to go overseas, “one day”; or, “one day” starts a business. This vague ambition just hangs there round your neck, dragging you down and, until you actively do something about it, that’s all it does – just weighs you down. If you see someone jogging, you think: “One of these days…” Or if a travel brochure slips out of the newspaper and you longingly look at the inviting idyllic pictures of foreign destinations, you think: “One of these days…”


My octopus was a house on the plot that I was still paying off – I constantly dreamt of my own house on that piece of land. When I saw a truck with a load of bricks or trusses, I felt the grip of this weight around my shoulders. Or when a building society dangled their mortgage rates with alluring advertisements in my face, I felt the tentacles tightening. My wife and I even went so far as having the plans drawn up.


But, with the war going on between my income and liabilities, I just couldn’t imagine my dream house ever becoming a reality. So the situation dragged on until one day when I decided enough is enough and took the day off. With the building plans, bank statements and all the determination I could gather I went to see anyone who could possibly advise me on what would be the best route to realise my dream. Banks, building societies, an architect, building contractors, a quantity surveyor…and I gathered information, a bulky folder full of it.

That night, after supper, I sat down with all the collected information and I processed it. Much later that night (could have been early morning) I came to the conclusion that, if I could get R10 000 (that is South African Rands) for one week, I could build my house – but where would I get such an amount (quite a fair amount for those days!). I didn’t know anyone who could lend me that sort of money. I hadn’t got any security for a loan and, after all, financial institutions would be very reluctant to lend me money for a week only.

Mulling over this problem I went to bed with absolutely no sign of sleep as my brain was running in overdrive.


“R10 000! How will I raise such a vast sum? Can I pray for it? Maybe, but then again, how many people on earth went to bed tonight on an empty stomach and I want to ask for R10 000! Yet, in Matthew 7:7 God promises: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Yes! I am going to ask.”

Then I went onto my knees and I prayed for God to give me R10 000 for a week. After finishing my prayer, calmness descended upon me and I peacefully fell asleep.

I was employed by a university at that time and we had a spacious tearoom where most staff members went during a tea break.  My boss and I however, chose to have our tea served by the secretary in his office so that we could discuss important matters like the weekend’s rugby scores, latest films and books or even sometimes the forthcoming faculty meeting – always in the office, never in the tearoom.

That day (following my struggle the previous night) was no different – initially. Like every day, most people went to the tearoom, and we had our tea served in my boss’s office. By the way, at this stage it is important to mention that absolutely no-one knew about my R10 000 or the previous night’s struggle.

I was just about to take a sip of tea, when my boss announced out of the blue that, for some reason he would like to have tea in the tearoom that day and he wanted me to join him because he didn’t want to go there on his own.


For the first time in all my time working there, it so happened that we went to the tearoom to have tea.

In the tearoom people sat around these low coffee tables scattered with magazines and newspapers, chatting and discussing the latest happenings. My boss engaged in a conversation with the professor next to him while I was stirring my (new) cup of tea, intensely absorbed in my thoughts, pondering on my R10 000. Opposite me a professor noticed my absence of mind. He wasn’t particularly well-known to me, I only knew him from greeting in the hallways.  He commented that he could see my thoughts were miles from the tearoom which triggered the rest of the conversation: about my excursion the previous day, my tussle with all the information and finally my conclusion that R10 000 stood between me and my dream.

Then he said: “Young man, this has got to be the hand of God that brought us together here today. You know, I seldom come to the tearoom. I usually have tea in my office, but today is the maturity date of one of my investments and I was hoping to see old Gerald here so that I could prod him for a bit of advice on how best to re-invest my money.” (Gerald was professor of Economics). “What’s even more intriguing is the amount of my investment: R10 000, exactly! You can have it for as long as you need it.”

For a moment I was speechless – a complete stranger offering me R10 000 without any security or guarantee, nothing. To cut a long story short, the next day he brought me the cheque, which I used to settle the outstanding balance on my loan for the plot which I could then use as security for a building-loan. The loan was approved within a week allowing me to make the first withdrawal: R10 000 to settle my dues with the professor (interest free!). I was owner-builder (a builder friend advised and assisted where necessary) and six months later my wife and I took up residence in our brand new house. 

For many years I contemplated why God had answered that particular prayer of mine so easily and so quickly – until, later in life, it dawned on me. I often prayed for – according to me – equally worthy issues, in just as righteous a way as the R10 000, often without apparent success. When old Satan then tried to delude me into believing prayer is a futile act, I could banish him by remembering how God, when I was a young man, indeed answered my prayer and gave me R10 000. God listens! I have proof.

I also learned another valuable lesson from this episode. We often ask God to give us a house, for instance, but God has another way of working. He is keen to give it to you, but not just like that. No, you too have to do something.

If someone had told me before this amazing experience that God is going to give me R10 000 for a week in order for me to build a house, I would most probably have sniggered and said: “A doll’s house, maybe. What else can you build with R10 000? And after a week, do I have to return the doll’s house?”small-house

After doing a bit of research, though, and putting in some effort, God opened my eyes to bring me to the conclusion that, with borrowed R10 000, my dream could become a reality. Trust God with your dreams, but never expect Him to deprive you of the satisfaction of partaking in the accomplishment of them.praat


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