Freemasonry has been part of the social, political and economic life of South Africa since 1772 so why do we exclude external and non-masonic factors from our Masonic assessments? We have bound ourselves to discharge our duties outside the Lodge as men and citizens of our country, whatever such duties are, while remaining loyal to lawful authority.
Many well known South African men in the profane world were also freemasons and we are reminded of a few of them:
- Anton Anreith was a freemason and a sculptor and he carved the pulpits of the Lutheran Church and the Groote Kerk in Cape Town;
- Jacob de Mist was an employee of the Dutch East India Company who became the Commissioner General of the Cape colony and who was also, at that time, the Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Netherlands;
- Charles Bell was a member of the Hope Lodge which was formed by the members of Lodge de Goede Hoop and was a renowned artist and after whom the suburb Bellville is named;
- Johannes Truter was a freemason and a lawyer who became the Chief Justice of the Cape Colony;
- Piet Retief was a freemason, a farmer and one of the leaders of the Groot Trek;
- Cecil John Rhodes was a diamond merchant, an explorer, a politician and a freemason;
- Jan Hendrik Hofmeyer was a freemason, a journalist, a politician and was one of the chief protagonists for the use of Afrikaans in official documents;
- Louis Botha was a farmer, a soldier, the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa and a freemason;
- CJ Langenhoven was an author, a journalist and a poet and a member of Cango Lodge in Oudtshoorn;
- Colin Graham Botha was a soldier, the chief archivist of the RSA, an author and the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of South Africa.
The condemnation of freemasonry by the government and the church at various intervals has never affected the principles of freemasonry and those who live by them but our membership is now somewhat less than it used to be. Notwithstanding this we are able to make meaningful contributions to people’s lives through our charitable work and no other service organization in the Western Cape can match our achievements when regard is had to our homes for seniors and our home for Quadriplegics.
One may ask what we can do to remedy this shortfall in our Masonic membership? There are many solutions but may I suggest the following two for your consideration.
Firstly, we urgently need freemasons to take up the pen. Those of us who now lead more sedentary lives and therefore possibly have more time at our disposal should share their knowledge and experiences, ideas and reflections on Masonic subjects by writing them down and making them available, even if you have no journalistic skills. The latest positive published South African Masonic literature that I could find was that written some years ago by Dr Alan Cooper and by Wor Bro Viv Saayman, while the internet abounds with negative and questionable articles relating to freemasonry.
Have the Brethren who proudly wear their OSMs and 50 year jewels written down their Masonic memories? If not, please assist them to do so before it is too late?
Secondly, we need to educate our youth who are, generally, bored and ill informed. It must be unacceptable to any right minded individual that the number of youths in detention in our country are among the highest in the world. Some of the reasons for this is the apparent lack of respect for their parents and elders, their apparent lack of belief in the GAOTU and the misguided notion that the abuse of narcotic substances and crime will bring them love, respect, happiness and salvation.
One of our Lodges has, of its own accord, adopted a home of refuge for young abandoned girls while others make meaningful but isolated gestures in the form of donations, Christmas parties and the like in respect of orphanages and homeless children. All of these are most commendable and must be supported to their fullest extent and are challenges to the rest of us to become more involved in this regard. I however hold the view that if we were to spread the message of Freemasonry to the youth of our country we will indeed begin to fulfill our obligation which we all took when we became Apprentice freemasons and we will be observing the commandment of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Let us therefore lay our hands on the trowel and build up our Masonic fraternity in this country and by doing so the Brother chain will surely be lengthened and strengthened, perhaps beyond our comprehension.
R Wor Bro John Smith
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