Tribute to Nico Smith

Dr Nico Smith Picture: Sunday Times
Dr Nico Smith Picture: Sunday Times

The biography of an Afrikaans dominee – Dr Nico Smith, who was both praised and reviled in the 1980s for his friendships across the colour bar – is getting a new lease on life with its re-release as an e-edition.

Journalist and biographer Rebecca de Saintonge wrote Outside the Gate which was first published in 1989. Now the firm which she co-founded, LifeLines Press, has republished it with a new introduction.

In Outside the Gate De Saintonge tells the story of Smith, the former member of the Broederbond who risked his life and reputation to fight against apartheid. University of Stellenbosch Business School director Prof Piet Naude – a former columnist of The Herald – describes the book as a “must-read”.

“As we South Africans struggle at the current moment to live beyond our trenches of race, gender and especially class, this book is a must-read to inspire us to move beyond the enclaves that hold us captive,” said Naude, also extraordinary professor of systematic theology at Stellenbosch.

LifeLiness notes that where Smith was once regarded as a traitor to the Afrikaner people, a thorn in the flesh, now he is lauded as a hero by those struggling to come to terms with their recent history.

Smith shocked many people when, as a white man with an impeccable Afrikaner pedigree, a prestigious university post and a comfortable home, moved house with his wife Ellen to the South African township of Mamelodi.

The 1980s were a time of violent political protest in the townships and as whites, the Smiths could not have chosen a more dangerous place to live. The move cost him friends, status and very nearly, his life, but it was to have a profound effect on political thinking and trigger a movement of reconciliation that inspired the international community.

Leave a Reply