throes of one of its periodic ChurchState confrontations — and the clash appears to be growing steadily graver.
The most visible manifestation of deteriorating relations has been a government crackdown on dissident priests and their lay associates through banning ,orders. deportations and passport removals.
And with the important exception of the Dutch Reformed Church. which generally backs the government. the ecclesiastical response has been fierce.
When a five-year Nanning order was served recently on Dr. Manas Buthelezi, a leading African theologian, the South African Council of Churches — which groups most major denominations apart from the Dutch Reformed — said that the government was creating hostility and deep resentment among the black people of the country.
When a deportation order was served on Mr. Eoin O'Leary, an Irishman on the staff of a Church-hacked study centre. the council charged the move was "an interference in ihe. right of the Church to conduct its affairs in the way it sees
And when the government removed the passport of the Rey. C. F. Beyers Naude, the head of' the anti-apartheid Christian Institute. the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town accused the administration of totalitarianism.
Relations between Church and State in South Africa have long been tense and the present clash is in some respects only a particularly hitter example of the mutual distrust that has existed since the 19th century.
Clergymen. advocating Christian brotherhood without regard to colour. have repeatedly come into conflict with the racial views of successive governments — views which have found their ultimate expression in the apartheid ideology, the total separation of the races.
Since apartheid was introduced in 1948 they Church has
produced some of the system's most vocal critics, but the present state of relations with the government is causing particular concern to clergymen.
The South African Council of Churches plans to make representations to Prime Minister John Vorster. The council says it is worried about "the many disturbing elements emerging in the life of South A frica."
Many of these "disturbing elements" centre on the work of a controversial parliamentary inquiry. the Schlebusch Commission, which is probing the Institute of Race Relations and Dr. Naude's Christian Institute. an alliance of progressive clergymen totally opposed to apartheid.
The commission. set up to look into state security, hears all its evidence in secret and one of its initial investigations. into the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), led to the banning of eight leaders of this organisation last April.
There is a possibility that similar action — which usually restricts the person banned to his home magisterial district and prevents him from attending gatherings or from being quoted may follow from the investigations into the Race Relations Institute and the Christian Institute.
Already 12 people connected with both organisations have refused to testify before the Schlehusch Commission as a protest against its extra-judicial methods and their harsh results.
Dr. Naude has been fined 50 rand (£29) and given a threemonth suspended sentence for his defiance of the parliamentarians. while a second person connected with the Christian In stitute. Mrs. Ilona Kleinschmidt, has also been fin ed 50 rand. The other ten cases are pending.
In addition. four members of the Christian Institute, including Dr. Naude, have had their passports removed following their refusal to testify.
But perhaps the greatest blow to this body has been the banning of 01-. Maims Buthelezi. the Christian Institute's regional director in Natal and a cousin of Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, outspoken leader of the Kwazulu AfriHicsani:ihnonnlirIeglaonrdde. for which no official reason was given. prohibits him from attending social. political or educational gatherings for five years and from instructing or teaching students.
Dr, Naude reacted to the banning by asking: "Does the government realise hov. strongly this reaction reflects its growing loss of control over the forces of change — especially those initiated by the black community'?
"Does the government also realise the strength of feeling it is provoking, not only in Churches around the world, but even more among the black community of South Africa'?" The banning of Dr. Buthelezi can he seen as part of a government crackdown on proponents of a new black consciousnefis
movement which has emerged over the past two years as one of the more important new developments in South African politics. It is a development which Church organisations are actively encouraging.
Central to this is a research organisation called the Study Project on Christianity in an Apartheid Society (SPROCAS). set up jointly by the Christian Institute and the South African Council of Churches.
SPRO-CAS began by producing a series of highly critical analyses of apartheid and has now moved on to a second stage of activity. One of its main achievements has been the establishment of an organisation called the Black Communities Programmes (BCP). which aims to help blacks to create a sense of their own power and to enable them to organise themselves.
The government response has been to slap banning orders on at least five blacks working for the R PC. including its first three full-time members of staff.
But the Church remains cornmitted to the promotion of black consciousness and its stance seems certain to produce further and more acrimonious clashes with the government in future.