The Godliness of Apartheid Planning by Elizabeth Corrado, (University of Illinois), 5 October 2013




Dutch Reformed roots in South Africa

How are colonial histories of planning transnational?

Apartheid as planning for segregation


How was apartheid justified?

Apartheid blueprint

Apartheid theologians and “proofs”


The necessity of the state in enforcing apartheid segregation planning

The Broederbond

Influence on Key Legislation


Reflection: traveling planning ideas past and present

The need for ideology

Is the state still needed in planning policy?


In this paper I seek to address the theological backing of apartheid in South Africa by focusing on the Dutch Reformed Church’s actions and rhetoric. I try to answer the question of how the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa enabled the state to enforce apartheid planning. In order to answer this question, I primarily review existing literature, and the interviews, writings, and testimony gathered by other scholars. The result is a brief explanation of the way in which apartheid planning was facilitated by the separation of the Dutch Reformed Church into racialized congregations. Subsequently, this served as a blueprint for apartheid and spurred the development of a legitimizing “apartheid theology,” which underpinned the collaboration that regulated apartheid planning in South African cities and regions.

I first look at the colonial roots of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, followed by a broader examination of the traveling of planning ideas during colonialism. I provide A brief exploration of “planning” and a demonstration of the ways in which planning was central to apartheid. Next, I scrutinize the role of the church in creating a model of apartheid through racialized church membership and justifying theology. This is tied into collaboration with the state, both formal and informal, to regulate and implement apartheid planning. Finally, a look at contemporary international organizations shows the way in which they pay lip service to equalizing processes, but in effect their development praxis often reinforces existing inequalities.

deserves noting at the outset that the Dutch Reformed Church (which I will also refer to as the NGK), was only one actor in a complex interaction of many agents and processes that contributed to the implementation of apartheid planning policy. My paper seeks to deal only with the NGK in the period leading up to and during apartheid. The scope of this paper is necessarily narrow and intentionally not exhaustive. I appreciate the necessity of other research that addresses key factors not dealt with in this paper, such as the crucial role of other religious traditions in supporting apartheid. 


Dutch Reformed roots in South Africa

The Dutch Reformed Church was an influential institution since its arrival with early Dutch settlers. A brief examination of the position of the church on race and segregation during the colonial period provides a context for the church’s later involvement with Apartheid that forms the bulk of this paper.

Dutch settlers arrived at the Cape Colony in 1652, and with them, the religion of the Dutch Reformed Church. Settlers held the view that native South Africans were meant to be the God’s “hewers of wood and drawers of water” as a result of their culturally inferior position and the raised status of those they were to serve (which, according to the Dutch settlers, was them) (De Gruchy, 2004). There were three complementary themes which outline the early historical development of religion in South Africa. These were a conviction that Afrikaans was the only medium that could convey the history and religion of the Afrikaner people; that Calvinism provides a divine purpose for the arrival and existence of the settlers in South Africa; and that a strong connection has persisted between the political and the religious in a precedent set by Calvin. It was these early attitudes about the supremacy of the Afrikaner and the place of the native South African which contributed to exploitation, segregation, and eventually, the development of apartheid theology and apartheid planning.

The term “Calvinism” refers to a large sect of Christianity which emulates the traditions and theology of John Calvin and other theologians active during the Christian reformation.

How are colonial histories of planning transnational?

Colonial urban planning depended, in much the same way as planning depends today, on a transnational linkage of actors and ideologies. In order to examine the influence of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa as a planning actor, beginning during colonialism and coming to a head with the implementation of Apartheid planning, we must first examine the broader context of colonial planning.

Colonial planning was transnational in the crucial sense that ideas traveled multi-directionally but were negotiated, adapted, and integrated at a local scale. As Anthony King (2004) posits the question, “How, in a variety of political conditions, does a local, indigenous population respond to, modify, control or domesticate the urban development strategies of an external authority of power, be it a colonial state, a powerful commercial interest, or simply a firm of planning consultants?” (p. 85). This process differed in the wide variety of colonial contexts, but the existence of locally influential agents who played a role in the interpretation and implementation of colonial planning policy and practice can be established.

My perspective on the role of the NGK as a planning actor is informed by an understanding of major theoretical interpretations of globalization beginning during colonialism and gaining speed until the implementation of apartheid. Miraftab synthesizes two major perspectives, a political science and a post-national version, together forming a coherent view of the flow of ideas in colonial South Africa and today through transnationalism (2011). The former views international planning as the sphere in which the transfer of ideas is uninfluenced by power dynamics, occurring at times and in spaces where there’s a wanting recipient and a willing patron. Ultimately, this reinforces an old colonial mentality among planners and practitioners in the global north about the development “burden of the white man,” giving the appearance that ideas travel and are accepted because recipients want or need the development practice in question. The latter version of globalization is perhaps equally problematic, while also containing valid elements, giving less attention to the nation-state and assuming that best practice can rise above structural and contextual distinctions (Miraftab, 2011). A further critique of this post-national conceptualization holds that this idea creates a false universalism that doesn’t properly acknowledge the experience of global power differentials and other imbalances. It glosses over these narrative complicating factors to draw up a form of globalization that is not tied to place, is not negotiated (it is “irresistible”), and moves from the “West to the rest” (ibid., p. 376).

An alternative to the polarity of these two perspectives is their integration to form a perspective that aims to capture the many layers and back-and-forth directional flows of planning ideas (Miraftab, 2011). The transnational approach addresses the colonial and contemporary reality of border crossing best practices, but it does more than just this. It critically recognizes the nuances and power dynamics which played out in the adaptation of best practices to the social, environmental, and economic realities of local spaces (Miraftab, 2011). 

Apartheid as planning for segregation

Apartheid was at its very nucleus a planning issue. Before delving into the legitimation of this type of segregation planning by the NGK, I outline the way in which apartheid planning policy impacted urban and regional form in South Africa. This includes a short explanation of planning, the scales at which apartheid planning was activated, and a discussion of a few key acts in an attempt to better understand apartheid as a planning issue.

Conceptions of what it means to “plan” vary dramatically across the discipline. The United Nations habitat report, cited in Patsy Healey (2011), reads:

Since the earliest days of human settlement, people have consciously and collectively intervened in the nature and form of urban areas to achieve particular social, political, and environmental objectives. This activity has been known as planning. (p. 198)

This is the explanation I will use as I argue that apartheid policy was fundamentally a way to intervene in the urban fabric of South African cities with goals which were social, political, and environmental; in this way apartheid was a form of planning, attempting to minimize social interaction in the city while exploiting non-white labor for economic gains, and reserving the most desirable environmental spaces for white use.

As a racialized system of planning, apartheid depended on the race-based classification of individuals. Complicated by the presence of Malaysian, Indian, so called “coloured” (of mixed African and European descent), and other subgroups, the ultimate goal of separating white and black South Africans was intentionally nuanced. For example, people who were considered black by their government classification were most impacted by the establishment of homelands and the migrant labor system which kept blacks politically disenfranchised and in lesser numbers near cities than would have been the case if they were accompanied by their wives and children (Western, 1996). Those in the coloured category were afforded slightly better opportunities, particularly if their skin color was light and their features European. It was legislation like the Population Registration Act which shifted classifications from more flexible categories to “rigid” classifications (Christopher, 2000)

Apartheid planning unfolded at three scales: the personal, the urban, and the grand (Christopher, 2000). Planning for personal separation, or petty apartheid as it was also known,was invoked in an attempt to reduce interaction between different racial groups. Examples of this low-level apartheid included the creation of separate entrances or separate facilities for the use of different racial/ethnic groups. Urban apartheid targeted the separation of residential and business centers for members of different racial groups. The Group Areas Act, and the subsequent delineation of living areas based on race, is the best example of how this idea was cultivated. Forced removals were invoked as a way to achieve homogenous neighborhoods, strategically situated to “buffer” white and black South African areas with coloured areas and industrial urban sections. Finally, grand Apartheid sought the creation of separate nations. This was attempted through policies like the Bantu Acts which deported Black Africans to “homelands” and eventually stripped them of their citizenship to the South African nation as a strategy for maintaining white control of the majority of South African land. As Christopher (2000) writes, “Each of these aspects was concerned with the control and use of physical space” (p. 8), affirming my claim that Apartheid can be identified strongly, among other things, as a planning initiative.


How was apartheid justified?

Apartheid planning was tied to the church in two key ways: first, through the separation of the NGK into racialized congregations which served as a model for the way that society could be separated under apartheid. Church separation occurred prior to the emergence of a theology of racial separation within the NGK; rather it was the result of white lobbying and was contrary to the accepted principle at the time (1857) of unity in worship. Second, the result of this change in church policy was twofold: it led to the justification of such separation through the development of apartheid theology, and it was influential far outside of the realm of Christianity as an apartheid blueprint. The development of apartheid theology provided a pervasive legitimizing ideology within which the implementation of apartheid planning flourished.

Up until the mid-nineteenth century, congregations of the Dutch Reformed Church were “integrated”; all races occupied the same physical and temporal space for church services, despite the existence of a racial hierarchy within the church. For example, while all congregants received Communion during the same church service, whites were the first to receive it, and blacks were likely to be relegated to the back of the church (De Gruchy, 2004). Despite the solidification of racial and ethnic stratification, baptism was meant to serve as the foundation upon which all people received Communion. This practice was strongly affirmed by the church in 1829, when the NGK Synod wrote that Holy Communion should be given “simultaneously to all members without distinction of color or origin” as a result of the “unshakable principle based on the infallible Word of God” (De Gruchy, 2004, p. 7).

This changed in 1857 when the South African Synod gave in to white lobbying and shifted to permitting separate spaces of worship along racial lines. De Gruchy hints at the magnitude of this change when he writes “South African social history… might have been very different if the sacraments had been ‘rightly administered’ and truly represented the reconciling power of the gospel” (De Gruchy, 2002, p. 97).

Behind the shift away from integrated churches can be seen both racism and more tangible concerns of Afrikaner congregants over land and labor. Although Dutch Reformed theology made it clear that baptism serves to wipe away human differences in both religious and secular spheres, as was demonstrated through Holy Communion, some settlers felt compelled to lobby against this policy. The interests of the Afrikaner congregants of the Dutch Reformed Church were agitated by the cultural suppression of Afrikaanerdom by the British, heightening the groups’ defensiveness (Loubser, 1996). It was the social pressure that arose from these vested interests that lead to an exception on the issue of Church unity and that permitted the formation of separate churches.

The establishment of “daughter” or “mission” churches for congregants of varying racial backgrounds was one eventual result of the allowance by the NGK synod for separate spaces of worship. What had originally been reluctantly allowed under the guise of an “exception” or accommodation to white settlers was institutionalized through the formation of “Die Sendingkerk” (The Mission Church) for coloured congregants in 1881 (De Gruchy, 2004). This was followed by the creation of churches specifically for blacks and Indians.

The establishment of mission churches based on race proved to have consequences far beyond the realm of religious praxis. Separation of the church required justification and led to the development of apartheid theology. This theology was conveniently translated to extend to the secular, yielding personal, urban, and state level apartheid planning initiatives. It was these debates on racial policy unfolding within the Dutch Reformed Church which are thought to have set the stage for the emergence of Apartheid planning policy (Guelke, 2005).

Apartheid blueprint

Christopher (2000) describes the way in which church separation served as a blueprint for government implementation of Apartheid planning, writing:

The politically dominant church was fragmented into four separate entities, and acted as a model for government plans. The original Dutch Reformed Church (NGK) remained for whites, while the Dutch Reformed Mission Church catered for Coloureds, the Reformed Church in Africa for Indians, and the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa for Africans. The distribution of the denomination’s churches followed the group areas pattern with few exceptions. (p. 14)

Christopher’s reference to the correlation between the placement of the NGK mission churches and the eventual spatial dimensions of the Group Areas Act is crucial to an argument that church separation demonstrated to the state not only that separation was viable, but showed exactly how it could be done.

Apartheid Theology

The theological defenses emerging from the decision of the NGK synod to give into “the weakness of some” and allow for the separate development of mission churches has been characterized as “contextual theology,” a way of approaching religious study which, contrary to proactive biblical interpretation serves as a “theological rationalization of a political agenda that received its impetus from outside moral pressure” (Loubser, 1996, p. 10). This form of theology is intentionally subjective, with the praxis serving as the highest judge of its value as an ideology. This idea is explicated by Loubser (1996), who writes:

Apartheid theology was conducted in an almost complete oblivion to the vested material interests involved: the entrenchment of white economic privileges was never reflected upon and was covered by a paternalistic altruism toward other (presumably lesser) ethnic groups; diversity was preached but total segregation meant; Afrikaner national identity was defended while white racial chauvinism was the real subtext. Orthodoxy was projected as cover-up for praxis of apartheid. To a certain extent, an analysis of apartheid theology can be seen as an uncovering of the accompanying political agenda, which was sometimes stated openly (Groenewald) and more often mystified (especially by later church documents). (p.132)

Loubser demonstrates the way in which the theological backing of apartheid served to distance the observer and the participants in the saga of apartheid planning from the material inequalities and injustices of this form of planning. These religious distractions eased consciences as they responded to industrialization, the agricultural crisis in effect at the time, the decline of Afrikaner culture, and the issue of high rates of white poverty. In addition to rising Afrikaner nationalism and the volatile political economic environment, processes within the church at the time also contributed to the rise in nationalistic apartheid theologizing.

Afrikaner competition with the black labor force was a particular area of contention that came into focus through NGK organized volkscongresses (people’s congresses) (Lalloo, 1998). Urban and industrial segregation emerged as the way to address this issue and attempt to avoid the continued displacement of Afrikaners from their lands and associated urban poverty resulting from displacement.

The first major church document to address race policy by the NGK was released in 1921 (Kuperus, 1999). It supported state policies of white supremacy and separation of blacks and whites for cultural reasons; however there was recognition of the economic necessity of native labor inherent in policy statements such as this one, from Kuperus (1999):

Segregation, strictly interpreted, implies all intercourse between natives and Europeans must wholly cease. This is an unattainable ideal. The European does not want the native near him in his social capacity, but he wants him very badly in his economic capacity. (p. 43)

It is from sentiments such as these that planning for social and political separation, but also economic exploitation that required some level of interconnectedness, developed. Theologians of the NGK were uniquely positioned to provide moral legitimacy to this strategy through a mixed reliance on the Bible and lived experience. 

Apartheid theologians and “proofs”

is important to explore the ideas of key apartheid theologians like Totius, J.W. Coetzee, Abraham Kuyper, and E.P. Groenewald to garner insight into the specifics of theological justification. Totius designed some of the earliest biblical proofs; for example he used the story of the Tower of Babel to illustrate that God had willed the separation of distinct nations, a theme that was inconsistent with acceptable interpretations within Christian ecumenism. J.W. Coetzee used “experiential proofs,” relying on the idea that racial integration had disastrous consequences so God must not have willed it. Kuyper was a Dutch Calvinist whose work was adapted and adopted by the NGK in South Africa. The theological concept of “Pluriformity”- the idea of diversity in church practice- became part of the religious justification for maintaining a separation of races via apartheid in the South African context, and takes center stage when examining Kuyper’s role in apartheid theologizing. Groenewald synthesized many earlier ideas into influential reports like “Racial and National Apartheid in the Bible.” He was considered the first theologian to work out a biblical base for apartheid.

S.J. du Toit, or Totius, provided the first momentum towards an ethnic theology through the use of biblical proofs. According to Loubser (1996) he relied upon stories like Genesis 11, Acts 2:5-11, Revelation 5:9, 7:9, and 14:6 to demonstrate that “God even maintains the diversity of nations and languages before His throne in heaven” (p. 122). The logical consequence of this theologizing was a mandate for the keeping of separate identities of each nation. Totius made a speech at the 1944 Volkskongress which attempted to justify apartheid using scientific, scriptural, and historical “evidence” (Lalloo, 1998). He depended on the bible in its totality as opposed to basing all of his assertions on only one particular text. However, he does cite some specifics in his apartheid defenses. For example, he cites the Tower of Babel, the Curse of Ham, and Genesis 11. The creation narrative (which depicts, in this period of NGK thought, God as the great “Divider”), is summoned when Totius claims that God’s “Cultural Commandment” to “fill the earth” (Genesis 1:15, 9:1) could be chalked up to a call to nation building (see also Acts 17:26) (Loubser 1996). Finally, Totius lists two central commandments, cited in Loubser (1996):

Firstly, that which God had joined together no man should put asunder. This is the essence of our plea for the unity of people…. Secondly, we may not join together that which God had separated. In Pluriformity the council of God is realized… Therefore, no equality and no miscegenation. (p. 126) In contrast to Totius’s dependence on the use of the Bible as a proof, Reverend Coetzee used experiential proofs to demonstrate that on the ground problems resulted from interaction between racial groups, so God must not have willed it. The motif of inequality was explicitly present in Coetzee’s writings, as was the presence of a theological justification that stems not from religious writing but from lived experience. This can be seen in quotes such as this one from Loubser (1996):

And in the course of time South African Calvinism proclaimed the great commandment: no equality! It is important to note that the experienced wisdom of South African Calvinism was reflected in this. (p. 124)

This principle of “no equality” was confirmed by Coetzee’s statements warning congregants “not to try to make equal that which God had not made equal” (Loubser, 1996, p.124).

The work of the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper was also highly influential in the development of an apartheid theology despite his support for the separation of the church and state (De Gruchy, 2004). Kuyper explicated the idea that through God’s common grace, different spheres of the world maintain autonomy over their own affairs. Despite the contradiction, this idea became the foundation for Christian Nationalism in South Africa.

It was Kuyper’s piece “Uniformity, the Curse of Modern Life” which served as the basis for the apartheid Bible and an apartheid system based on capricious biblical interpretation through the use of the concept of “Pluriformity” or the separation of different spheres as still culminating in a “collective whole” (Loubser, 1996 & De Gruchy, 2004); this was a religiously and politically convenient explanation, as it accounted for the need to maintain religious “unity” (which forms the theological basis of baptism and Communion) and the desire to materially and physically promote “separation.” Kuperus (1999) depicts F.J.M. Potgieter, a prominent NGK clergyman, framing the issue of Pluriformity quite clearly. Potgieter writes:

If this presupposition is applied in our circumstances in this multiracial land, then it is quite clear that no-one can ever be a proponent of integration on the basis of the scriptures. It would be a direct contradiction of the revealed will of God to plead for a commonality between Whites, Coloureds, and Blacks… It is not abundantly clear that God himself was ordained that the… Pluriformity of the peoples as well as that of the churches should continue to the consummation… The true unity in all its glory and blessedness will be revealed for the first time in the glory kingdom. (p. 68)

While Kuyper’s work was intended as a reaction to French and German imperialism, Afrikaner students transplanted his ideologies to serve a particular purpose in the context of South Africa (Loubser, 1996). It was this combination of the transnational idea and the local implementation that sprouted the idea of a Christian nation in South Africa; without an accurate reading of the “origin narrative” attached to the idea of Pluriformity, this concept was universalized and distorted. The position of the NGK leadership during the 1930s began to be highly influenced by neo-kuyperian ideas, leading to a conservative position on race policy at a time when the state maintained a less rigid “guardian-segregationist” perspective (Lalloo, 1996).

Finally, Evert P. Groenewald was a well-respected New Testament scholar whose work, while not all officially accepted by the NGK, was still highly influential in the development of a theology of Apartheid. His neo-Calvinist perspective concludes that apartheid and paternalism (or “trusteeship”) were not against the word of God. Groenewald, like his peers, found nationalistic meanings in unconventional places in the Bible and “from which the Bible treats as incidental facts, moral norms (were) derived.” (Loubser, 1996, p.128).

As in the work of other Apartheid theologians before and after him, the principle of unity is highlighted as it is also downplayed; because of the centrality of the idea of unity of the human population to Christianity, Groenewald’s Apartheid theologizing relies on stories like Genesis 11 to support the “division of the human generation into races, peoples, and tongues,” despite a recognition that the scriptures teach a unity of the human generation. The contradiction of apartheid is circumvented by theologizing that “In Christ a spiritual unity is created which does not suspend national differences” (Loubser, 1996, p. 127). Thus, the mystification of unity allows for the enforcement of “diversity,” or “Pluriformity,” and “the unity of believers from different nations is therefore demoted to an ‘invisible’ unity” (Loubser, 1996, p. 128). One way in which Groenewald’s argument was made compelling was by raising the scale of holiness from that of the individual to that of the “people” or the nation, as is standard in romantic nationalism.

Groenewald’s release of the text “Die Apartheid van die Nasies en Hul Roeping Teenoor Mekaar” (“The Separation of the Nations and Their Calling Concerning Each Other”) represented the culmination of Apartheid theologizing (Kuperus, 1999). This report advocated for total apartheid based on the scriptures. This statement by Kuyper sums up the tone of “Die Apartheid” and hints at the connection between the separation of churches and the development of an all-encompassing Apartheid theology (Kuperus, 1999):

Apartheid stretches over the whole area of people’s lives… The principle of apartheid between races and peoples, also separate missions and mission churches, is well maintained in Scripture. From the rich diversity of people which all together serve the Lord, may His name be brought further (Revelation 7:9; Philippians 2:9-11). (p. 72)

A later work by Groenewald, “Racial and National Apartheid in the Bible” was accepted by the Transvaal Synod of the NGK in 1948. While this Synod represented only a segment of the church, its acceptance of this report represented the views of the purist faction of the NGK (Kuperus, 1999). This report synthesized earlier positions on the application of apartheid in political, social, and religious realms, asserted that God both willed nations to live apart for the sake of cultural purity and mandated the diversity of humanity making segregation the only “just” policy. Groenewald depended also on the motif of Afrikaners as a “chosen people,” suggesting that stronger nations should “care” for weaker nations in the historical precedent of Israel. While at this point, the ideas of the church were more strictly separationist than those of the state, these ideologies soon became more closely aligned.

It should be noted that there was a subset of “pragmatic” NGK theologians who rejected the basis for apartheid theology that sprung from the “purist” faction of the NGK. Pragmatists, like B.B. Keet and B.J. Marias, asserted that apartheid might be a political best practice at the time, but that this reality could change quickly and was not tied to a divine or biblical backing. For example, Kuperus (1999) quotes Keet expressing in 1953 at an interdenominational meeting that:

With us in South Africa the gamer is that we forget the unity and emphasize the diversity in such a manner that we cannot see it as anything but apartheid-segregation. Personally, I believe that our brethren who want to maintain apartheid on biblical grounds are laboring under this misunderstanding… of course, there are certain practical circumstances which may stand in the way of a full realization of Christian unity such as geographical features, language, culture… Under present circumstances, Apartheid cannot be unreservedly condemned… but this is no proof that it is the ideal or that there is nothing better. What may seem satisfactory in practice today may be detrimental under changed circumstances tomorrow, and circumstances are changing rapidly. (p. 85)

Despite the attempt of pragmatic theologians to convince their peers otherwise, proofs like those of the theologians described above were accepted by much of the NGK. Now I will describe in greater detail some of the most common Bible stories that were put to unconventional use and broke with ecumenical understanding to help prop up a “moral” apartheid policy.

The Canticle of Moses

When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.

–Deuteronomy 32:8

This story sets the tone for God as actively involved in the separation of peoples and can be interpreted to highlight God’s role in the “inheritance” of nations, and also the reality of the lives of the people who comprise the nation.

Acts of the Apostles

And hath made one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation. –Acts 17:25

This passage contains several key motifs. These include the unity of humanity (“one blood”) that is key to Christian theology, as well as God’s role as the divider of nations. The Acts of the Apostles were also used to support the “divinely inspired” civilizing mission, with the Afrikaner as patron (Cornevin, 1980).

Corinthians 12:14

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. -Corinthians 12:14

It is apparent that this passage could easily have helped the NGK to redefine unity as a metaphysical concept (“by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body”) and “diversity” as a physical reality manifested ideally through apartheid (“the body is not one member, but many”). Redefining the practical meaning of unity within the church was of the utmost importance to the project of apartheid, as integrated church services would not have catalyzed the project of apartheid in the way it occurred.

The Curse of Ham

And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.-Genesis 9:21-27

This passage was used historically by theologians to justify slavery as Canaan was the father of Ham, who is interpreted as being an ancestor of the black race. It was similarly used by the NGK to justify apartheid in South Africa.

The Tower of Babel

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. –Genesis 11:1-9 

The story of the tower of Babel is seen as a consequence of God’s judgment regarding sin but simultaneously as an indicator of his “preserving mercy” (De Gruchy, 2004). For Christians, this story represents the height of sin and conceitedness as chaos is the result of the attempt of many peoples to build a tower to heaven (Lalloo, 1998). Apartheid theology claimed that the inability of people to communicate across languages serves as an affirmation of God’s plan for nations separated along racial or cultural lines. While the most obvious implications of such a story would be for the total separation inherent in grand level apartheid planning, attempts at minimizing any contact between races through urban and personal apartheid could also be tied to the lesson this story held for the NGK. There were considerable theological challenges made to this interpretation, but it persisted.

“Diversity” (Genesis 11, Deuteronomy 32:8 and Acts 27:26)

The motif of diversity highlights the separation between the “spiritual unity of humanity” and the division of human peoples intended and carried out by God as a consequence of the fall, which lead to a diversity of peoples, languages, and races (Kuperus, 1999). The logical extension of such an argument for the church was that humans need to enable separate nations to persist. Along similar lines is the idea that “the nation has a God-given structure and character, along with a divine mission which should be fulfilled” (Kuperus, 1999, p. 70). According to De Gruchy (2004), The Synodical understanding of the principle of diversity was that:

In specific circumstances and under specific conditions the New Testament makes provision for the regulation on the basis of separate development of the co-existence of various peoples in one country. (p. 72)

(The DRC) rejects racial injustice and discrimination in principle. Equally clearly, the DRC accepts the policy of separate development. For the outsider, this appears to be a major contradiction because Apartheid and separate development are usually regarded as synonymous. (p.73)

For the DRC, the policy of separate development is not contradicted by Scripture; indeed, the idea of diversity in the Bible lends some credence to the policy. At the same time, says the church, the policy must be “applied in a fair and honorable way, without affecting or injuring the dignity of the person” (De Gruchy, 2004, p. 74). 

The interpretation of diversity in NGK dogma was problematic as the salvation-historical background that surrounded diversity was discarded, leaving this concept to stand on its own as a concept willed by God. Durand, as cited in de Gruchy (2004), explains that:

The reason for this shift in argument is clear. The document (referring to the 1974 report) is honest enough to realize that such a ‘salvation-historical’ application cannot be maintained on biblical grounds because that would mean that every phenomenon that runs counter to ethnic differentiation must be considered as a hindrance for the gospel and therefore as a sin against the purpose of God. (p. 75)

The Truth and Reconciliation commission provides a good medium through which to reflect on the actions of those who supported apartheid. Rickard (1998) cites the commission in saying:

The churches have to accept moral responsibility for providing religious and theological legitimacy for many actions of the armed forces in their role of maintaining Apartheid and crushing dissent. In addition, the churches failed to give proper expression to their ethical teachings that directly contradict Apartheid and thus helped to create a climate in which the system could flourish. (p. 3)

The failure of the churches in their regard contributed not only to the survival of Apartheid but also to the perpetuation of the myth that Apartheid was both a moral and Christian initiative in a hostile and ungodly world. (p. 3)


The necessity of the state in enforcing apartheid segregation planning

The mechanisms by which the church influenced the state to adopt apartheid policies were varied. They included pervasive representation of the church in all aspects of Afrikaner life and the close relationships between church and state; the link between the church and the Broederbond (a group heavily influenced by Nazi ideology); and the church’s position and influence in the implementation of a few key pieces of apartheid legislation (for example, the Immorality Act). Acknowledgment must be given to the ever shifting nature of the church-state relationship and the ways in which each institution enabled and constrained the other during the drafting, administration, and decline of apartheid. 

G.D. Sholtz, referenced in De Gruchy (2004) provides a fitting segue into a discussion of the church as a crucial legitimizing instrument of the state in the unique situation of South Africa, writing that:

Without hesitation it can be said that it is principally due to the Church that the Afrikaner nation has not gone under… With the dilution of this philosophy (i.e., the unity of the nation, church, and party) it (the Afrikaner nation) must inevitably disappear… that is the great difference between the Afrikaner nation and other nations. (p. 31)

The church and the state routinely enabled each other to achieve what finally took shape as apartheid, with politicians serving as a sounding board for the concerns of NGK leadership, the political machine allowing the NGK autonomy in the increasingly repressive South Africa scene, and attempting to meet the needs and interests of the Afrikaner (and by extension, of the NGK). In return, the church was a crucial legitimating tool, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s, and steered clear of conflict with the government (Kuperus, 1999).

Interestingly, the history of the relationship between the Church and State during the twentieth century is mostly characterized by differences in views about Apartheid and its proper use as a planning tool. The two institutions rarely saw exactly eye to eye, however they managed to reinforce, enable, and constrain each other in ways that ultimately fostered the flourishing of a system of Apartheid planning (Kuperus, 1999). The relationship between the church and state was not one of static agreement in the development and implementation of apartheid planning. Rather, the nature of their positions shifted, and they came into conflict as well as consensus.

During much of the 1930s and 1940s, the church advocated for a more ‘pure’ segregationist policy (apartheid) in line with the idea that separation was practical and was supported biblically and theologically (Kuperus, 1999). The state was more flexible, and found the church to be extreme. This stemmed in part from the separate ideologies behind church and state posturing, that of Christian nationalism and cultural relativism, respectively. The final goals of both parties were slightly different as well; the state aimed to disenfranchise Africans from political participation and to solidify a separation of social spheres. The appeal of Apartheid to Afrikaners as a group concerned about maintaining their ethnic (and not just racial) purity and economic status in the face of Black and Coloured South Africans, but also British imperialists, was the heightened security of national purity not specifically focused on in the tempered segregation the state was advocating for (this would instead aim to hold onto economic and political rights of all whites).

The period between 1948 and 1962 marked the most dramatic agreement between the church and the National Party dominated state; this was also the period in which Apartheid planning policy began to be implemented in earnest. While the goal of the supremacy of Afrikaner economic and political interests was shared by the NGK and NP, the two groups differed on the means to achieve those aims. During this period the state was characterized by those who supported white domination (baaskap) while the NGK was characterized by both purists and pragmatists, formally standing behind “vertical apartheid” (Kuperus, 1999).

In 1958, a “factional switching” began to occur, yielding a more purist state and a more moderate church. This can be tied in part to the 1960 Cottesloe Conference. This marked the peak of the influence of a minority of pragmatist church leaders, as a marked but short sway in the direction of more moderate apartheid planning occurred (Lalloo, 1998). The Cottesloe report was produced which asserted that there was no scriptural basis for the ban on marriages between Whites and others, discussed the damaging consequences of migrant labor on black families, and stated that land ownership and political rights should be possible for Blacks who were living in White areas. This relaxation in church position was stymied by a threatened state who had become increasingly married to a policy of total apartheid. In the end, the report was rejected (per the suggestion of Dominie JD Vorster, who was the brother of JB Vorster, Minister of Justice at the time) and the NGK broke with the World Council of Churches.

When movement within the church started to head away from apartheid theologizing and practice, it was, in a sense too late; the church had backed itself into a corner in its collaboration and association with the National Party (Kuperus, 1999). The NP effectively stifled those who attempted to air grievances and flaws in the justification of Apartheid, as they posed a threat to the Afrikaner nation and the project of Apartheid. Having provided the theological framework for apartheid, the church had touted the idea that it was the singular “just and moral solution” for the South African context, and that the National Party was the only political institution which could address the needs of the Afrikaner (Lalloo, 1998).

Even though the church was attempting to distance itself from the National Party and to represent more moderate views at the time of the 1976 Soweto uprising, this event highlighted the continued delegitimacy of the church in the eyes of non-white South Africans. One black minister of the Dutch Reformed tradition was asked to explain why church buildings were targeted by rioters; he responded that it was “because the black people identify the Dutch Reformed Church with the political dispensation in our country” (De Gruchy, 2004, p. 181). While Soweto was political, it targeted the church insofar as it represented “a drug which induces apathy towards apartheid” (De Gruchy, 2004, p. 181). The rejection of the church wasn’t just a practical rejection though; it represented the fight against a vehicle of human rights violations and “false claims” inherent in apartheid theology.

It was not until the 1980s, when changes in the political environment promoted a more moderate approach to apartheid that this changed; it was a sustained challenge for the church to reverse positions on the morality of apartheid and the biblical proofs it had advanced in support of the policy; the religious or transcendent couldn’t be so easily shifted with a changing environment on the ground.

As one of the most revered Afrikaner institutions, the involvement of the NGK in promoting Afrikaner ideals was highly influential in diffusing nationalistic goals throughout the population (Lalloo, 1998). Kuperus (1999) points out that despite this reality, the church sometimes maintained an official position of neutrality, saying things such as:

Our church will best be able to fulfill both the task regarding God’s kingdom, and regarding our Afrikaner existence as a people, when the church, and her preachers in their official positions remain strictly outside of the party political struggle, unless religious or moral principles are at stake, or the concerns of the Kingdom of God explicitly justify such actions. (p. 29).

Informal meetings and agreements were as important, or more, than formal negotiations between the church and the National Party (Lalloo, 1998). Most senior political and administrative officials were active congregants of the NGK, with Johan Heynes (former clergyman and NGK moderator) estimating that 95 percent of cabinet members and 70 percent of parliament members were also NGK members (in 1993), and their regular participation in church services encouraged others to attend as a way to show loyalty to those who held higher positions of power. Also, alliances between NGK members and politicians, as well as their families, proved significant to certain decisions, often quite visibly (Cornevin, 1980). Heyns explains some of these close knit connections in an interview with Kuperus (1999), stating that:

My second congregation in Rondebosch- I had access to the ministers, the Prime Minister and the President. They were all members of my congregation. And I visited them regularly, and I prayed with them, and I had discussions with them on current affairs. You see there was a very, very close link and overlap between church and state. (p. 114)

In addition to the participation of the majority of National Party members in NGK life, the greater part of those employed in other areas of government- like the police and military- were also members of the NGK. The church’s role in providing military chaplains has been widely criticized (De Grouchy, 2004). The moral credibility of military chaplains who ended up condoning violent acts further implicated the church in their role of providing legitimacy to apartheid planning and the clashes that ensued (Rickard, 1998). Willem Nicol, a major NGK clergyman in Pretoria, stated that

In the 1980s, the ideology of state security was the main thing. The church was very close to the government because it supplied the ideology of ‘our sacred calling to defend the southern African continent against communism’. You had religion being directed toward the needs of the people. And by means of the chaplain service in the army which the DRC was the main supplier- that whole thing was very devious I might add. (Kuperus, 1999, p. 133)

In addition to providing chaplains to give moral legitimacy to military activities aimed at crushing civil and human rights, the church produced documents condemning conscientious objection to the draft.

Part of the way in which the church became indispensable and maintained its role between the people and the state was through its active ego soothing of the Afrikaner. By providing a narrative of the Afrikaner nation as a chosen people, the need for a boost in morale for the defeated Afrikaner was fulfilled. Additionally, the church provided tangible support in the form of social service provision, assuming a role generally played by the state (and one which the South African state later took on) (Lalloo, 1998). 

The NGK produced a large volume of statements affirming the Godliness of Apartheid. For example, Kuperus (1999) writes about how in 1943, prior to the official start of Apartheid planning policy, the Council of Dutch Reformed Churches met, taking note of:

The increasing agitation for equality of color and race in our country, but (we want) to point out that according to the Bible God actually called nations into existence (Gen 11:1-9; Acts 2:6, 8, 11) each with its own language, history, Bible and Church, and that the salvation also for the native tribes in our country has to be sought in a sanctified self-respect and in a God-given national pride. (p. 72)

The formal church newspaper stated that “apartheid can rightfully be called a church policy” at the advent of the National Party’s reign in South Africa (Lalloo, 1998, p. 43).

The Broederbond

The Afrikaner Broederbond (Association of Brothers) was a secret, all male, political society with strong links to the NGK. By serving as a sort of illicit liaison between the church and the national party, the Broederbond provided a space for these institutions to converge. The group first assembled in 1918, and was visible until 1924 when it “went underground” (Bunting, 1989). There were widespread suspicions regarding this collaboration such that Reverend V. de Vos left the NGK in 1944 claiming that the church was “dominated” by Broederbond members; he formed a “Reconstituted Dutch Reformed Church” (Bunting, 1989). According to de Vos’s estimates, membership in the Broederbond included 357 clergy members (and 2039 teachers, 905 farmers, 159 lawyers, and 60 MPs). Included in this count would have been Reverend W. Nicol, the Moderator of the NGK for three synods.

As a result of these suspicions the NGK initiated an investigation into the Broederbond in 1949, finding that the organization was healthy and an apolitical Afrikaner interest group (Bunting, 1989). As Bunting points out, the Broederbond had a power grip over the Afrikaans churches, and the outcome of this assessment could only be expected (1989). Where the church provided scaffolding for apartheid justification, the Broderbond utilized their highly articulate membership to fill in the gaps, and further the interests of the “divinely ordained” Afrikaner nation. 

Reverend Beyers Naude, the founder of the Christian Institute, demonstrated that indeed the Broederbond was exploiting the church for political ends when he stole Broederbond documents. He shared the documents with Dr. Albert Geyser, NHK minister and a Divinity Professor who shared copies of the documents with the press, stating that his “immediate observation was that these people were making the Church, which is the bride of Christ, a servant girl for politics.”

Influence on key legislation

“Very few of the laws that were implemented in 1948 weren’t already asked for by the NGK before that” (Kuperus, 1999, p. 87). These were the words of Nico Smith, theology professor and former minister in the Dutch Reformed Church, who supports his argument with examples of church backing for the ban on mixed marriages and support for an Afrikaner education which does not include Blacks (Lalloo, 1998). Indeed, the Federale Sendingrad (FSR), a body created in 1942 to firm up a central Missionary Policy, proved influential as a lobbyist organization, pushing for “mother tongue instruction” in schools, urban apartheid and the illegalizing of transracial marriages. The FSR also developed the interdenominational church conference which produced the Bloemfontein document in 1950. This document advocated for “Christian trusteeship” and pushed the idea that all nations are equal, but not the persons which make up each nation (with the extension of this being the need of the “strong to help the weak” through trusteeship). Supporting separate development, the document reads (in part),

The policy of autogenous development which we advocate… is no static condition but dynamic in its separate development. It proposes a process of development which seeks to lead each population group to its purest and speediest autonomous destination under the hand of God’s gracious providence. The policy is the means to an end, namely an independent status. It envisages the elimination of conflict and friction, of the unhealthy and unequal competition between the more and less developed.

In addition to addressing autonomous development, the Bloemfontein report also addressed theories on economics, education, social welfare, and politics. In particular, the creation of Bantu homelands was pushed along with segregation in the economic, social, and political spheres. The document served as a detailed and polished version of apartheid theology. What emerged was: “the theology of humanity as equal because of separation” (Kuperus, 1999,

p. 189). In addition to church support of Bantu homelands, politicians relied on religious rhetoric to push this policy. M.D.C de Wet Nel, who was the Minister of Bantu Administration and Development, said these words as he introduced the Bantu Self-Government Bill to Parliament:

The first is that God has given a divine task and calling to every people (volk) in the world, which dare not be denied or destroyed by anyone. The second is that every individual has the inherent right to live and develop… In the third place, it is our deep conviction that the personal and national ideals of every ethnic group can best be developed within its own national community… This is the philosophical basis of the policy of Apartheid… To our People this is not a mere abstraction which hangs in the air. It is a divine task which has to be implemented and fulfilled systematically. (Kuperus, 1999, p. 95)

Though results weren’t immediate, meetings between clergy and government leaders (like Smuts, Hertzog, and minister of Native Affairs Major Piet van der Byl) led to dialogues on native policy and eventually to policy changes in favor of Afrikaner interests.

The idea that “chosen people” should not interbreed with other peoples was formalized in the Immorality Act (which took effect in 1927 but was updated in 1957) and the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949) (Cornevin, 1980). The Immorality Act banned cross-racial sexual relations (with slightly stricter definitions of cross-racial in the latter version) outside of marriage, while the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, as the name implies, banned cross-racial marriages. Taken together, these acts “legislated morality” through race. It was also the view of the purist segment of the NGK that “controllable” black laborers should be the result of a black education system (Kuperus, 1999). The goal of this was to be able to meet the interests of the white community, supposedly ending with the establishment of a separate black community.


is my goal that this examination of the patterns of legitimation and support seen between the NGK and the apartheid state will not be left only to the history books. Rather, I see this complicated narrative as one example of the way in which non-state actors manufacture “planning” ideologies and partner with states in their implementation. Whether ideologies are religiously based, like that of the NGK, or representative of “secular modernity,” it is crucial to understand the forces behind the development of these ways of thinking, their inherent bias and the tangible inequalities which they often breed.

Reflection: traveling planning ideas past and present

This historicized examination of the NGK’s influence into the legitimation of apartheid planning has contemporary implications. Transnational flows of ideas were influential then as today, although the institutions which spread these ideas are different. Whereas the NGK fulfilled the ideological void leading up to apartheid, international NGOs like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund play that role at present. Despite this difference, the channels through which these ideas flow and the partnerships between ideologically “credible” institutions and those with the power to implement ideologies of planning are still crucial in planning praxis today. It must be noted that then as now international actors wield power and are responsible for its misuse.

Miraftab (2011) sets the tone for an examination of the way in which patterns of engagement present in colonial planning practice continue today when she writes, “Planning, as a profession with a colonial genesis, has often feasted on the very inequalities and development problems it has produced through its plans and models for ‘progress’” (p. 375). Anthony King (2002) highlights the contemporary implications of the historicized question of the transnational and the local in planning processes which I attempt to address in a small way through the examination of the NGK and apartheid South Africa that this paper details. He writes:

In more recent decades, influences on the form and development of major cities, from the World Bank, global corporations, international planning consultants, global tourism and, not least, global terrorists, make the idea of the city being the sole product of a single, geographically bounded ‘society’ enclosed behind the borders of the nation state, increasingly suspect (if, indeed, the idea ever had credibility before). (p. 83)

The support which exists for the development of Apartheid as a transnational endeavor which selectively uprooted religious ideas from their unique contexts and supports the application of these ideas spatially in South Africa, would indeed lend credence to King’s final words in this excerpt, affirming the historical nature of a transnational exchange of planning ideas. Patsy Healey (2011) makes it clear that: 

The lesson from research and experience is that the technique could not just be extracted from its context of invention, uprooted, and ‘planted’ somewhere else. It arose from a particular ground and context, and might well not transplant easily somewhere else. This suggests that it is helpful to attach some kind of ‘origin narrative’ to planning ideas as they travel from place to place, to help others work out what could be learned from its relevance to other institutions and other contexts. (p. 190)

Healey goes on to discuss the way in which planning practice is “located in a particular moment- of local and national political history” and how the packaging of a planning “best practice” and its wider distribution and consumption involve its separation from its crucial origins (ibid. p. 190). While Apartheid planning fortunately never became a globalized “best practice,” its development in South Africa was tied to the uprooting discussed by Healey above, as Dutch theological ideas were removed from their context as European and religious in nature, and re-interpreted by local South African actors to attain spatial meanings. This transnational ideology of the Dutch Reformed Church was significant in its own right, but also served a critical legitimizing function which enabled the apartheid state to enact planning in policy and practice.

While the ideologies which mark the transnational exploits of the colonial (and modern) Dutch Reformed Church maintain considerable differences from the present day ideologies of actors like the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, similarities are also striking in the approach of these actors and their inexorably transnational functioning. For example, exclusion from urban space is now being perpetuated by the hand of the free market, whereas it was once legislated by race. This is represented today in the high price of desirable urban housing, as well as the inability of poor people to access privatized spaces and services that builds on the legacy of segregation/apartheid planning. Escobar (1992) writes that:

The first ‘mission’- note it’s colonial, Christian missionary overtones- sent by the World Bank to an ‘underdeveloped’ country in 1949, for instance, had as its goal the formulation of a ‘comprehensive program of development’ for the country in question, Colombia. Staffed by experts in many fields, the mission saw its task as ‘calling for a comprehensive and internally consistent program… Only through a generalized attack throughout the whole economy on education, health, housing, food and productivity can the vicious circle of poverty, ignorance, ill health and low productivity be decisively broken. (p. 135)

This quote highlights the thin distinction between the “secular and religious,” pointing out “That development was about ‘salvation’- again the echoes of the colonial civilizing mission- comes out clearly in most of the literature of the period” (ibid. p. 135).

The need for ideology

Transnational planning has always relied upon ideological credibility for its success. King cites a few major “exporters” of best practices in development that hold considerable credibility within mainstream planning practice. It is in this way that a parallel can be drawn between the historic role of the NGK in South Africa and the present day role of organizations like the World Bank. This example affirms Christof Parnreiter’s (2012) assertion that “Best practice cases are always politically constructed, and the drawing of such lists reflects the power of certain actors to impose their interests” (p. 4).

In an example provided by Tomlinson, the World Bank synthesized data on housing from approximately 40 countries to generate a best practices model, titled “The Do’s and Don’ts in Enabling Housing Markets to Work” (2002). This report was important in the coordination of changes to South Africa’s housing policy. A goal was developed to create 1 million housing units in the five year period between 1995 and 2000; this was later adjusted to include subsidies when it became obvious that the goal wouldn’t be met in its original form. While the policy was proclaimed a success, in order to secure low-cost land, avert political opposition, and avoid the potential for legal challenges which would mean high cost pauses in development, the majority of housing units were located in peripheral, sub-par areas, far from job opportunities, schools, medical services, and shops. While “The South African government aims to build ‘compact, integrated cities’ that reverse the mutually reinforcing system of spatial, economic, and social exclusion under apartheid, and to ensure that the basic needs of all South Africans are met, needs that include housing and municipal services” (ibid. p. 379). in this example, the reverse occurred and apartheid was mirrored and reinforced rather than being challenged through spatial policy. As Tomlinson writes, “Economic and social exclusion, deliberately fostered under apartheid, is being accentuated in the post-apartheid era” (ibid. p. 380). While once we had religious (and other rhetoric), today we have “neutralizing” language of rationality and capitalism. As Escobar (1992) writes,

Institutional practices such as project planning and implementation, on the other hand, give the impression that policy is the result of discrete, rational acts and not the process of coming to terms with conflicting interests, a process in which choices are made, exclusions effected and world-views imposed. There is an apparent neutrality in identifying people as ‘problems.’ (p. 140)

Is the state still needed in planning policy?

During colonialism and apartheid in South Africa, the ideology of the NGK needed the state for implementation. Today, according to Tomlinson, “the roles for government and the private sector have become the principles that guide, for example, World Bank and USAID advice and assistance as well as that of many other organizations.”

There are still considerable differences between the way in which international organizations like the World Bank operate in the context of “development” today and the way the NGK operated historically. However, both remove ideas from their contexts in ways that are intended to be universalizing. The acceptance of these ideologies on a global scale is closely related to whether or not they have been universalized. Arguably, the universalizing tendency of NGK planning ideas on race and space failed particularly because of the project of modernity touted by institutions like the IMF. This universalized emphasis on secular rationalism and neo-liberalism was steadily gaining traction during the same period as the implementation of Apartheid in South Africa, and ended up filling the ideological void left at the fall of apartheid.

Just as theological proofs emerged which created an ideology of racial integration as a “disaster,” the creators of modern development planning ideologies are also basing their assertions on experience. Rebecca Black, as cited in Tomlinson (2002) commenting on the development of universal development strategies, writes in response to the use of the phrase ‘best practice’ that:

“best practice” may be the wrong word… rather than being driven by real best practice, current policy is driven by informed history of worst practice, with emphatic advocacy for what is the most unlike the past but as yet untested. (p. 387) 

This paper has sought to provide an overview of the role of the Dutch Reformed Church in apartheid planning by focusing on the historical separation of racialized congregations and the subsequent theology of apartheid. The colonial, and thus transnational, genesis of these ideas contextualizes their development, and provides a framework for examining the necessity of the state for the regulation and enforcement of planning for inequality. Finally, this historicized work is brought up to the present through the use of a parallel between unlikely bedfellows: the Dutch Reformed Church and current global institutions like the World Bank. While differences abound, both have served as legitimizing policy shapers who preach “best practice” but perpetuate inequality

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