Southern Africa


The “Southern Africa Region (SAR)” of the IMB includes the countries of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Reunion, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  SEAC is one of eight clusters [1] situated within this region, and has Johannesburg, South Africa, as it’s center of operation.   


Republic of South Africa (RSA)


RSA is a large nation of 1,221,000 square kilometers (471,000 square miles – about twice the size of Texas), and 45 million people, located on the Southern tip of the African continent.

The population of RSA [2] is comprised of 30 people groups and 11 language groups that are officially recognized.  There are numerous others (more than15) that are not officially recognized.  People and language groupings are extraordinarily important as these also indicate ethnic (tribal/national) affiliation that is essential to understanding, and relating to African culture.   

The majority is Black African (79%) mostly deriving from nine tribal/nation groups.  The Zulu’s are the largest of these groups, followed by the Xhosas, Pedis, Sothos, Tswanas, Shangaan-Tsongas, Swazis, Ndebeles, and Vendas.  Each group has their own cultural heritage, language, and tribal/national identity.  Previously each of these groups lived in distinct-territorial locations.  However, politics, the end of apartheid [3] , economics, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic have resulted in major migration and mixing.

 Whites make up ten percent (9.6%) of the population.  They are English-speaking descendants of English, Irish and Scottish settlers, and Afrikaans [4] -speaking descendants of Dutch, German and French colonials.  Coloureds [5] are the next largest segment (8.9%).  Indians, who are descendants of indentured laborers and immigrants from India, are the smallest of the major segments (2.5%).

RSA is divided into nine Provinces (similar to states in the USA), and magisterial districts (similar to, but less distinct than, counties in the USA.  That is, magisterial districts do not have individual governing bodies and very few people, outside of government, are aware of their geographic boundaries and significance).  

A democratically elected government with legislative, judicial and administrative branches, similar to the USA, governs the RSA; however, the various branches are headquartered in different locations.  The legislature meets in Cape Town, the judiciary in Bloemfontein, and the administrative branch is located in Pretoria (Tswane).

This nation is undergoing major changes following the end of:  Colonialism (independence from the British Empire) in 1961, that only exacerbated the racial repression which had existed since European settlers came to South Africa during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries; and, “Apartheid” in 1994, which resulted in a new constitution which guarantees full-human rights for all citizens.  This also ended a bitter and bloody struggle for equality by African Blacks that lasted for most of the 20th Century. 

The effects of:  international trade bans/isolation; the extraordinary influence of Nelson Mandela who became the first Black African RSA President; a commitment by Black Africans to avoid marginalizing whites by taking away their wealth, but rather opting to join in the development of their own wealth; and, the Grace of God - resulted in free/fair elections and a relatively smooth transition in 1994.  A considerable number of whites have left the country and the white population is decreasing both numerically (141,000 less in 2001 than 1996) and as a percentage of the overall population (down from 16% in 1960 to 9.6% in 2001).  However, most South Africans, of all races, have committed themselves to building an integrated-first-world country.

RSA is the richest country in Africa having:  vast natural resources; a strong-vibrant agriculture; a very agreeable climate; and, a well-developed economy.  However, it faces grave difficulties within the Black African population due to vastly-debilitating poverty (58% live on $50 per month or less), unemployment (43%), illiteracy (36% including those with a little primary education), and a high incidence of HIV/AIDS (24%).  This has:  resulted in a very young population (47% are under 19 years of age); contributed to a loss of cultural and religious norms in society; encouraged a deepening sense of hopelessness among many; and, led to widespread-violent crime.  Crime is so bad that people of means live with a “siege” mentality.  That is, every move must be made to include security precautions and concerns.




This Cluster is comprised of the Eastern portion of RSA, and two small land-locked nations, Swaziland with 17,400 square kilometers and a million people, and Lesotho with 30,500 square kilometers and 2.5 million people. These two nations are extremely poor, and predominantly Black African (more than 95 %).

            SEAC encompasses five of the nine RSA Provinces, which are Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal, Limpopo (formerly Northern Province), and Mpumalanga.  One Province, North West, is split between SEAC and the Zimtswana Cluster.   The other three, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape are included in the Southwest African Cluster. The total population in SEAC’s area is nearly 40 million people.

The International Mission Board (IMB) and SEAC have established goals to “determine where God is working” within this area and to help/encourage the indigenous people to establish “church planting movements”.  IMB/SEAC have assigned the available personnel and resources in such a way as to offer the best opportunity for all of the people within these areas, population segments, and people groups to come to a “saving knowledge” of Jesus Christ.

The constitution of RSA guarantees freedom of religion.  Official data indicates the religious preference of the population as shown in Table 1, page 3.

Summarily, our assessment is that European settlers and missionaries exploited, repressed and culturally isolated the indigenous people at the same time they were introducing them to Christianity.  They presented Christianity in a ritualistic-white-culture format, rather than a Gospel-oriented, culturally-sensitive, and evangelical approach.  Many Black Africans consider themselves Christians, but their true allegiance is often to African Traditional Religion (ATR).  Many other Africans, of all races, are “traditional [6] ” Christians.  Most African Independent Churches [7] (AIC’s) offer a mix of the Bible (primarily the Old Testament), and ATR derived from the individual pastor’s/leader’s interpretation.  Most hold to few, if any, absolutes.  That is, their theology changes dramatically and frequently.

Southern Baptist work is relatively new to this part of the world, and there are numerous Great Commission Christian (evangelical) groups working here with which we seek cooperation rather than competition.  There are many other groups that are not evangelical with whom we have minimal contact.  In the RSA we also have “Baptist Partners” (Afrikaans Baptist Kerke-ABK, Baptist Union of SA-BU, Baptist Association of SA-BASA, Baptist Mission of SA-BMSA, and Baptist Convention of SA-BCSA) with whom we cooperate.  For example, they advise and concur in our requests for additional SEAC personnel.

Within the SEAC ten teams of missionaries, with distinctly different geographic and/or people group responsibilities, have been assigned, as shown in Table 2, page 4.




Religion                                          Official Estimates             SEAC’s Estimate of 

                                                                                                    born-again believers [8]   

          1.  African Traditional (animism/ancestors) 19.5%

          2.  Atheist/non religious                            5.0%

          3.  Hindu                                                 2.0%

          4.  Muslim                                               1.3%

          5.  Christian                                                72.2%                                            7.6%

a. Mainline denominations                                  48.5%                                         1.8%

b. African Independent                                         35.5%                                         1.3% 

c. Pentecostal/Charismatic                                   8.9%                                         2.5%

d. Other                                                               7.1% [9]                                         2.0%

                  (Evangelical)                                                      (16%)

















Research is ongoing to determine who and where the most needy and responsive people groups are, currently.  We are also conducting surveys to validate our research and the experiential data derived by our missionaries in the field.   

            This has resulted in a strategy with plans to request that IMB allocate additional personnel and resources, as shown in Table 3, page 4.

            As additional research and surveys are conducted, it is anticipated that a considerable number of additional requests (over 100) will be made.  As people groups are engaged and “church planting movements” are established, it is also anticipated that indigenous people will carry on this work so that SEAC personnel may be reassigned into areas of greater need.










People Gp

Units [10]

Basotho Evangelism (BAT)

Kingdom of Lesotho, and RSA Free State

All of Lesotho, and surrounding RSA Districts






All of Gauteng

Handicapped - hearing


Durban Urban Evangelism Team (DUET)

Kwazulu Natal

Durban and urban Pietermaritzburg

Greater Durban [11]



Eastern Gauteng Evangelism (EGET)



Eastern Gauteng and Jo’burg

Greater Jo’burg [12]



Eastern Metro-politan Evange-lism (EMET)


Eastern Johannesburg (Jo’burg)

Greater Jo’burg

9 [13]

Kwazulu Natal Evangelism (KZNT)

Kwazulu Natal, Free State, and Gauteng

Rural areas, small cities and towns



Mpumalanga Evangelism (MET)


All of Mpumalanga

Black African


Swaziland Evangelism Team


Kingdom of Swaziland

All of Swaziland



Tswane Evangelism (Swazi)


Northern Gauteng, and Pretoria

Greater Jo’burg


Western Gauteng Evangelism (WGET)


Western Gauteng and Jo’burg

Greater Jo’burg





      TABLE 3           SEAC’s PROJECTED TEAMS [14]

People Group



# Units

African Blacks


Southwestern - Townships


African Blacks






Eastern - Potchefstroom and





Northern - Dendron and Bochum



Limpopo and Mpumalanga

Eastern - Ekangala and Middleberg




Northeastern - GazanKulu



[1] A cluster is a geographic area designated by IMB as a territorial division for allocating personnel and resources

[2] The statistical data, herein, are derived for the RSA 1996 and 2001 censuses and related publications

[3] A system of government that denied basic human rights to non-whites.

[4] Afrikaans, the language, is a derivative of Dutch and is spoken by about two thirds of all whites (Afrikaners), and many Coloureds. 

[5] Coloureds are mixed race people who guard their status as they have traditionally been ranked higher in society than African Blacks.

[6] Consider themselves such because their families/communities are considered Christian

[7] These purport to be wholly-indigenous churches, but usually have outside influences/sources, e.g., the Zionist Church

[8] Based on SEAC’s research and analysis of official data

[9] Including all Baptists

[10] A Unit may consist of a single person, a married couple, or a family

[11] Durban area is designated a  “population segment” rather than a people/language group

[12] Johannesburg area is divided into three  “population segments” rather than people/language groups

[13] This team is made up of personnel who have full time jobs, such as treasurers, nurses, etc., who work on ministries during off-hours

[14] Through 2003 – many others are projected for  the out years

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