The Wall of Hope in Nieu-Bethesda

(A project created by Narda Beunders, depicting people of every race in the community sitting together at one table having a meal)

This article will explain:

  • What has happened in Nieu-Bethesda since our last report showed that Paul Waugh, Lighthouse Global CEO, was being threatened and persecuted for helping the starving local non-white children to get food, in order to survive.
  • The hopeful signs of positive change for the local non-white people in Nieu-Bethesda after the local NGK, Dutch Reformed Church, agreed to allow them in to attend their Sunday service last week, lifting a white-only attendance policy to do so.
  • How desperate the humanitarian crisis in Nieu-Bethesda is in reality.
  • Who the locals are that have vehemently opposed Paul Waugh because of his helping the children of the local school to get food, after their food was robbed by others starving in the area. 
  • How Romano Davidson has recently had a death threat from members of the white supremacists in Nieu-Bethesda because he refuses to allow them to continue their tyrannical suppression of the non-white community.
  • How you can get involved in our work pragmatically

There has been a heartwarming and long overdue development in the small village of Nieu-Bethesda, South Africa. The NG Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church) which has historically been a symbol of Apartheid oppression in South Africa has opened its doors for the first time to the, non-white Pienaarsig Christian community, for this last Sunday’s service. This is the first time in living memory, if not ever, that this has happened in over 100 years. 

As someone who has been an Associate at Lighthouse for over a decade under the mentorship of Paul Waugh, I have learnt about a great deal of human tragedy and trauma in various situations. I have come to accept and then see with greater awareness how broken humanity is. This awareness has been exacerbated by my journey of coming to Christ, a process that is continual and which will be explained in other writings. This journey has been painful at times as it has shown me the greater reality of how destructive, wicked and evil, humans are and therefore, I am.

The Nature Of Racism

Even taking the above into account, the situation in Nieu Bethesda makes grim reading on a personal level especially. As someone who grew up geographically in the far-right British National Party heartlands of South East London and Kent (Both in England) in the early 1990’s, I’ve experienced the spiteful, hostile, venomous hatred that racism brings. However, I’ve learnt that racism can come in many forms. When I was younger and living in what would be considered ‘financially poorer, working class housing estates’ the racism would be direct, harsh and in your face, with an obvious tone of physical menace accompanying it.

As I ‘moved up’ into different social-demographics and went to a distinctly middle-class university, followed by similar such workplaces while pursuing a career in the accounting profession, racism became a lot more subtle. It would be remarks that carried with them an undertone of superiority but never direct enough to be called out, not without looking like I was overreacting or ‘couldn’t take a joke.’ 

The situation in Nieu-Bethesda has the worst of both of these worlds. Brutally direct physical racism at an extreme level reminds me of reading about the lynchings of the black population, deep in Alabama, USA, in the 1900s, in books such as “To Kill a Mocking Bird” and the indirect racism of the middle-classes, who pretend that they care, but really it is a case of not wanting to be seen as being the type of hateful person they actually are. One of the most heart-breaking consequences of this racism is the inferiority that the non-white population feels, compared to the white population. This can be seen in case studies of Nieu-Bethesda by western researchers who have said:       

“A comment which was frequently made by Black people when discussing tourists to the village, was that the tourists usually treat Black people with greater respect than the White people with whom they had formerly interacted. Several informants told me that they were amazed when their temporary employers introduced themselves by their first names and requested that they should not be addressed as ‘Baas’ or ‘Miesies’. Older Black people in Nieu Bethesda find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to change from being subservient in the presence of Whites.” **

The fact that these studies were in the late 90’s and that nothing has changed (if anything the situations have got worse) is truly appalling!

Why Has This Change Happened Now?

While the situation with the NG Kerk is progress of some form, isn’t this sad situation also reflective of the world we live in? This new found change by NG Kerk has come about because of Paul Waugh, Lighthouse Global and local residents standing up to the tyranny he faced through being viciously smeared by the unofficial ‘powers that be’ in Nieu Bethesda; the van Heerden family. Peet van Heerden proclaims himself to be the self-styled unofficial mayor. By holding Peet, Niki and Elbé van Heerden publicly accountable and creating the website, he, along with local Christian residents, was able to apply enough legitimate pressure on the NG Kerk to enforce a change. 

Why, however, did it take such action for this change to happen in the first place, after so many years of unofficial racial segregation and oppression? The reason is that too many so-called “good people” have stood by and done nothing. 

Christ Himself ate with the tax collectors and prostitutes, and yet many in the so-called ‘Christian’ community in Nieu Bethesda have shown no such likeness of Christ’s love to either Paul Waugh or Chris Nash of Lighthouse Global, and, most importantly and pre-eminently, the many non-white local residents and children. Many of whom have been starving and in need of food and support in other ways for a long period of time. As someone who grew up in a Sikh and hence a non-Christian family, it was seeing on a personal level how many people paraded as Christians while claiming to ‘be Christian’ which added to an initial reluctance to explore the reality of Christianity. I’ve come to learn that just because someone says they are a Christian, doesn’t mean they actually are! 

The creation of this website, holding the van Heerden’s and the NG Kerk directly accountable is due to Paul Waugh and Chris Nash being attacked by the local white-supremacist populous, for feeding starving children! Can you believe that?! Being attacked for helping the most vulnerable in our society! What sort of world do we live in, where people are attacked for helping to feed children?! We clearly live in a wicked, depraved and increasingly evil one, because those attacking Paul Waugh and Chris Nash have supposedly justified their inhumanity to themselves as somehow doing a ‘good thing’. How warped do the minds and hearts of the complicit residents of Nieu-Bethesda need to be, to have allowed this situation to have materialised in the first place, never mind persisted over all these years?! The answer ought to speak for itself.    

As part of the mural project called The Wall of Hope people from throughout the community were recently invited to take part, choosing a person on the mural to represent them and paint a pattern on that figure’s clothes.

What Has Been The Consequence Of Challenging The Local White Authority Figures?

The van Heerden family have even tried to use their media connections to try and turn national newspapers and the local press against Paul Waugh and Chris Nash; falsely claiming that they were fugitives on the run, which is absolutely outrageous, provably false and could not be further from the truth. Fugitives do not go out and meet those in their local community and stand up to them when they see injustice and tyranny of the highest order, neither do they identify themselves to local police! A police report was submitted by Paul about the local atrocities and threats to his life with the local police in Graaf-Reinet and then posted for all to see online, as can be seen here.

Fugitives do not also put themselves, literally, in the firing line when their physical safety and lives are put at risk to the extent that they need to leave their own home in the middle of the night, through stealth and surreptitious means! This is not a unique situation as many others that have wanted to and tried to make a difference but have also been chased out of the village. This includes Romano Lombard who was the non-white Chairman of a school Board of Governors that Paul Waugh supported (see below) As was the case for Paul Waugh and Chris Nash when they received reliable word in Nieu-Bethesda of a serious and tangible threat to their lives if they had remained any longer.     

While we appreciate the move by the NG Kerk, this is merely a start to true reform. We do not think that one moment of change means they have had a sincere and full change of heart, but rather, the pressure has been impacting them enough to now make this concession! Nevertheless, we are hoping and praying that their hearts do truly change through the love of Christ and they begin to live with the love in their hearts of the one they profess to serve, our Lord, Jesus Christ.  

I was part of the team putting together this Nieu-Bethesda website and this involved researching academics who have visited the area. I was truly shocked at what I was reading. Descriptions such as these (see below) were the norm and not the exception! I couldn’t believe what I was reading in the year 2024. It felt like I was reading something from 1964!  

In particular, one academic, Janet Sandell, spoke of how the black population was subjugated through white farmers, supposedly giving ‘opportunities’. I was shocked when I saw the van Heerden’s mentioned by name. It was one of those situations where, for a split second, I couldn’t believe it was the same van Heerden family that Paul Waugh had spoken of, but then of course I could, because that is exactly the sort of thing the van Heerdens would do. Ms Sandell, spoke about how farmers such as the van Heerdens would tie their workers to their farm in the name of helping them:

“In spite of having risen to the position of foreman on the Van Heerden’s farm, Flip Olifant and his family are still trapped in the ‘spiderweb’ of which Waldman (1993) speaks. Angelina lives in a sub-economic house in Kloof Street, with no bathroom or inside sanitation, and were Flip to leave his employment, he would be forced to join her there. Were Angelina to move to the farm with her family to live with Flip, she would lose her house in Pienaarsig. Thus, historically deprived of access to land, like all Black people in Nieu Bethesda, the Olifants have no real independence and remain as Du Tait puts it ‘dee/ van die plaai’ (part of the farm).” – Janet Sandell**

What Is Our Intention With Our Work?

As has been made clear on this website, our intention is for reform where it is needed.  Vengeance belongs only to God. It is clear that urgent reform is needed for even a basic level of humanity to be restored and demonstrated in Nieu-Bethesda, where currently so much is inhumane instead.

Paul Waugh, Lighthouse Global CEO, has even gone so far as to help the local schools with much needed supplies and food, after some of the starving local population broke in and raided their kitchen, meaning they could not feed their children. In response the white Nieu-Bethesdians were vehemently opposed to the support Paul was giving the school to the extent that they actually withdrew their own support from the schools (those guilty of this know who they are)!! Furthermore, there was only a handful of people offering a tiny bit of support in the first place which is totally inadequate.

Charl Du Toit, the white founder of the school and pastor of his church is someone who chose the side of the local church and those persecuting the non-white population, above his commitment to the school. He currently remains on the Board of Governors but continues to oppose the support the school has received from Paul Waugh. This is scandalous! Because, if the motive was to genuinely and legitimately help children, then they would be warmly welcoming and encouraging as much support to be directed to the schools and thereby the children, as possible.

We will ensure that those involved will not be able to manipulate their support or evade their and our responsibility in helping these children. These children are so desperately in need of the basics, such as food and water, much of which our Western society takes for granted. This shows the level of malevolence that we are dealing with here, which explains the attacks that Paul Waugh and Chris Nash have received. What is the mindset of someone who is willing to use the wellbeing of children for their own personal power games?! 

Again, this experience that Paul Waugh and Chris Nash have experienced is verified by academic researchers. As another one put it: 

“Negativity among the village dwellers in reference to the residents of the township is endemic. Whether it is lingering racism or just burnout, a dense smattering of ‘white’ villagers have very disparaging views regarding the intellectual capacity, worth, and ability of their township counterparts to affect change in their communities and/or ‘make something of themselves’. In years past, interracial cooperation was quite high. But today, some villagers refuse even to assist their disadvantaged brethren with a ride into town to buy food.

We Will Make Sure We Can Help These Children…

There are many stories that will be revealed in relation to the reality of life in Nieu-Bethesda. Paul and Chris aren’t the first to have been under such immense threat for their lives there. There have been many others who have had similar experiences and have also had to leave Nieu-Bethesda. There are multiple academics that have visited the region and reported the same or similar findings that we have witnessed.

We have also heard that there are certain members of the non-white community whose lives are under threat because they challenge the self-proclaimed local ‘powers that be’ – the van Heerden family – in the white community of Nieu-Bethesda. This is currently being reported to the police.

We do not, of course, speak for every white person in Nieu-Bethesda. Nevertheless a lot has happened since Paul Waugh refused to accept that he could not feed the children who were starving and in such desperate need. The scale of this need is shocking. The lack of food is a killer. As one academic put it:

“In South Africa, malnutrition is a discrete killer—widespread famine and starvation are not daily news events….With South Africa’s social welfare nets full of holes and not strong enough to break the fall of its people, there is hunger. It is estimated that over one third of infant deaths have malnutrition as the primary cause. With an infant mortality rate exceeding 72 in every 1000 live births, the numbers tell the tale. Malnutrition’s sway does not end at infancy. The mortality rate for children under five is even more staggering at 112 in every 1000 children in the poorest provinces. Death is not the only outcome. The 1999 National Food Consumption Survey indicates that 21.6% of children between ages of one and nine are stunted” – Amelia Peterson (2004)*

We Will Be Relentless And Succeed For God’s Glory

One thing I have witnessed and am personally learning through Paul Waugh’s mentorship is how to challenge tyranny and to never give up. Paul Waugh is someone who never gives up and will fight tyranny like no one I have met before. As a result, I’ve seen the character qualities I lacked myself in fighting racism and injustice, especially when I was a child and now as a grown up. He has and is continually helping me, through Christ fundamentally, to develop them and is doing the same for the rest of the Lighthouse Associates. That’s why we know we will succeed where others who have tried to be a catalyst for positive change, fail and been driven out of Nieu-Bethesda. God Bless them – we won’t fail.

I’ve seen how much Paul Waugh feels the pain of the vulnerable and in particular the most most vulnerable in society – children. Especially when they have been the victims of tyranny and oppression. I’ve been in so many mentoring sessions where Paul Waugh has expressed the tyranny he fought in his childhood and I see continually how he helps families who are suffering – and there is much more that he does not share because it’s not about him. Our groundswell is building, and will only become bigger and stronger with the right people, in Christ, learning to take the right actions for the right reasons. 

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

How Can We All Stand to Protect The Vulnerable?

The work we are doing in Nieu-Bethesda is not a one-off… There are many more prominent developments to come in relation to this in helping the Nieu-Bethesda community, their schools and primarily their children. We are building much needed momentum and we will not rest until children are first and foremost given the basics to sustain themselves physically. We will then build on this ongoing.

If you’ve ever felt a sense of helplessness at times, that the problems and suffering in the world are just too much for any one person to face, you’re not alone. Do you sometimes turn away from the suffering because you know if you really faced the problems, you would feel how incapable you and humanity is at alleviating suffering? 

You are right to feel not up to the task by yourself. God did not make us to be ruggedly isolated and fragmented from one another. The Body of Christ is of many individual component souls, to strengthen each other. If you feel a desperation to be part of a proactive, practical problem-solving community that is dedicated to Christ’s commandments to take care of widows and orphans, then put your name to the growing global community registration. Let us know what skills and ideas you can contribute. This is not a charity model begging for money. We need empathy, care, love, generosity of time, skills, ideas, resources, networks, relationships and so much more. That is what children need.  

A lot of a little is a lot, and the more that Christians can develop value inside their own front door, the more they can alleviate the suffering of those outside of it.