Pretoria bids farewell to gallant Smith
THE last apartheid era foreign affairs minister, Pik Botha, yesterday described the late anti-apartheid activist Nico Smith as a brave man who was prepared to suffer for what he believed in.
Botha, who also served as minister of mineral and energy affairs under former president Nelson Mandela, said Smith believed in dignity and justice for all, which was against the apartheid policy.
Speaking to Sowetan after the official funeral service for Smith at the Melodi Ya Tshwane Uniting Reformed Church in Pretoria yesterday, Botha said: "Thanks to people like Nico, we came to realise after many years that apartheid was sinful and oppressive."
Smith was a Dutch Reformed Church minister who used the Word of God to highlight apartheid's unjust policies. He also quit the Afrikaner Broederbond, which led to being ostracised by the white community.
He compared his quitting the organisation to social suicide, as many of his friends had suddenly shunned him.
After labelling apartheid a sin, Smith resigned from the white sector of the church in 1981. He joined the black sector in Mamelodi.
In 1982, he started preaching in the black township of Mamelodi. Three years later he and his wife Ellen Faul went against the Group Areas Act to become the only whites living in the township through a rare permission from the South African government.
Smith encouraged interaction between black and white communities in 1988 by organising a swap in which 170 whites moved into Mamelodi to live with black families, while 35 blacks lived in white homes in the suburbs of Pretoria.
His daughter Maretha Laubscher said her father made them aware of the terrible things that happened in the country under apartheid.
"He would continuously preach that every person is created in the image of God. He stressed the point that we needed to live with each other and not at the cost of another person," she said.
Speaking on behalf of the Mass Democratic Movement, Mamelodi resident Mpendulo Khumalo said Smith was very brave. He had risked being arrested or killed by the apartheid police. He often comforted the families of murdered struggle activists.
"He provided much-needed leadership when there was a vacuum caused by apartheid police's brutal crackdown on anti-apartheid activists in the township," Khumalo said.
The service was attended by Tshwane mayor Gwen Ramokgopa, IEC chairperson Brigalia Bam and Gauteng housing MEC Kgaugelo Lekgoro.
Smith, 81, died of a heart attack last Saturday.