Original Research

Church-state relations in South Africa, Zambia and Malawi in light of the fall of the Berlin Wall (October 1989)

Paul Gundani
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 74, No 1 | a4852 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i1.4852 | © 2018 Paul Gundani | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 October 2017 | Published: 19 April 2018

About the author(s)

Paul Gundani, Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology, University of South Africa, South Africa


The fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989 bears a striking resonance with the biblical fracturing of the curtain in the Jerusalem temple. It presaged the death of the post-war dispensation of Church-state relations characterised by a Church that was, in the main, subservient, acquiescent and complicit to the apartheid regime in South Africa, as well as the oppressive one-party state regimes north of the Limpopo. As the Berlin Wall collapsed, the dispensation characterised by either neutrality or docility and co-option of the Church to the Apartheid and Independent states gave way to the birth of a ‘prophetic’ Church, which would not only gain a new lease on life, but would become a robust interlocutor of the post-Cold War state. The latter is exemplified by historical signposts such as the Rustenburg Declaration (1990), the Pastoral letter of the Zambia Catholic Bishops Conference (1990) and the Pastoral letter by the Catholic Bishops of Malawi (1992), among others. This paper is an analytical desktop study, which will be based on the published literature.


Apartheid; Berlin wall; Cold War; Church-state relations; One-Party state; multi-party democracy


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