Fonds A1379 - Swiss Mission in South Africa

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Swiss Mission in South Africa


  • 1876 - 1896 (Creation)

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On the 9th July 1875, two young missionaries, Ernest Creux and Paul Berthoud founded the Swiss Mission station of Valdezia in the Northern Transvaal. It was on many occasions a hard hit and tested society. The field of action was in the unhealthy Lowveld, on the Transvaal side as well as beyond the Portuguese East African border, into Mozambique. The mission has constantly developed, not only geographically, but in the nature of its work and variety of its undertakings

Its hospitals were famous for the efficiency of their work and the practical help which they rendered to patients. There are hospitals and clinics, three of the hospitals having training schools for nurses. Female missionaries were of great importance in teaching and social work. Its schools and Normal College have done outstanding work. From the scientific standpoint, writers such as H.A. Junod, H.P. Junod, A.A. Jacques and others have contributed much to Bantu studies in all its branches, especially in linguistics and social anthropology. The church has helped to foster good race relations

There is a feeling of affinity and friendship between the Reformed Church of Switzerland, including the Mission Suisse Romande and a large section of South Africans of the same religious faith. There is a strong desire for union between the Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa Presbyterian/Congregational and the Tsonga Presbyterian Church (Swiss Mission in South Africa). Among the tribes of Portuguese East Africa as well in the Northern Transvaal, in Pretoria and Johannesburg, thousands of African people have been built into the fabric of a church whose standards are unusually high. Its relations with other missionary societies have been most cordial and brotherly.

The principal task of the mission was evangelisation, but another very important function was education. Schools were opened at Shiluvane, Lemana Training Institution, near Elim, and Rikatla Bible School for the Mozambicans. Some schools had an industrial and agricultural syllabus

Church organization, Shangaan literature, the Blue Croat (temperance movement), scout and guide troops, teaching patrols who were went out from the stations Into the bush, are all part of the work of the Swiss Mission.

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UNISA Documentation Centre for African Studies, May 1981.

The documents of the accession, totalling 118 pages, relate to the early work of the two missionaries in Valdezia between 1874 and 1899 and give an insight into the difficulties and hardships of early missionary life in Southern Africa of that period.

There is an extensive and almost complete set of correspondence (including copies and translations) and other documents in connection with the missionaries' requests to the authorities, namely of the Transvaal Republic, for permission to "preach the gospel to the heathen" of the Spelonken area. The request was refused in spite of the fact that the Church already owned a farm in Valdezia. Later after the two men had been taken to Marabastad and kept prisoner there for a considerable time for ignoring the orders from the State Secretary to cease their activities, permission was eventually granted to do missionary work - but only on their own farm! So the battle for recognition continued. Of special interest here is the 'Declaration' of the 'Commission des Missions' of October 1876 and a copy/translation of a letter from the President of the Swiss Confederation asking for the same rights to be given to Rev. Creux and Berthoud as to other missionaries of "friendly nations".

There is further considerable correspondence between Creux and the 'Commissaris naturellen' re various troubles concerning the local inhabitants in connection with work, taxes and warfare with chiefs Modjadji and Magato. Other letters deal with diseases and the need for vaccine, gifts of fruit, milk and meat. Documents concerning Albasini, 'Commissioner over the Natives of Spelonken' and 'Knopneus kaptein,' are kept separately.

All letters are, except where indicated, handwritten and in the original. They are in English, French and Dutch with a few in Tsonga.

The spelling of names of places and persons are given as they appear in the documents and therefore varies.

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Biographical and administrative history: The Rev. Ernest Creux and Paul Berthoud, missionaries of the Free Church of Canton of Vaud, Switzerland, came to the Soutpansberg District in the Northern Transvaal in the 1870's to work among the Knobneusen


Preferred citation: Copyright Historical Papers Research Archive, The Library, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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