by Fr. JOHN WALSH The Land of Afternoon by Lewis Sowden (Elek 42s.)
I MUST confess to opening
this book with a certain amount of scepticism. There have been so many written on South Africa in recent years which were biased in the extreme, and, I thought, this would be yet another in similar vein. However, I found it, on the whole, to be factual and containing much useful information to be learnt for the first time, or to be recalled to memory. Most authors have found it difficult to be objective about South Africa and her many problems, mainly, I think. because of apartheid • or separate development, as the South African Government like to call it—which gravely offends anyone with humanitarian principles, Christian or otherwise.
Lewis Sowden came to South Africa with his parents from Manchester before World War 1. He describes life in Johannesburg in the early days of that city, and his own formative years, with a number of amusing anecdotes and delightful references to the people he came into contact with. He became a journalist and for many years was on the staff of the Rand Daily Mail, a paper much disliked by the Nationalist Government for its outspoken views and attacks on their policies. Sowden, like many other South Africans, is absolutely opposed to apartheid and, this, together with his "strange" behaviour, when Dr. Eric Louw, then Minister of External Affairs, was addressing the U.N. Assembly, gained him a "one-way permit" to leave the country for ever.
The book refers to the magnificent stand by the Catholic Church to defend its Mission Schools (African), but fails to mention that the Church. at great sacrifice, continues to support these schools, the only religious denomination to do so. The so-called "Church Clause" which strove to forbid Africans from worshipping in any church in a white area. was vigorously opposed by all religious denominations, except the Dutch Reformed Church. Although this piece of legislation was ultimately passed by both houses of parliament it has never been enforced. The Catholic Bishops of South Africa have, on at least two occasions, issued issued joint pastorals condemning apartheid and all that it stands for.
Being a South African myself, I enjoyed reading this book, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about the existing conditions in a country, which has many problems, but, please God, will solve them before the coming of the darkness.