Canon Edward Morrow

Anglican priest exiled from Namibia
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Edward Sydney Morrow, priest: born Brakpan, South Africa 30 July 1934; ordained priest 1975; Vicar-General, Diocese of Damaraland (later renamed Namibia) 1975-78; Rector, Usuthu Mission and Grantee of Schools, Swaziland 1979-81; Rector, Zimbabwe Foundation for Education and Production and chaplain, University of Zimbabwe 1982-84; Rector of Sabie with Lydenburg and Bushbuckridge, South Africa and Archdeacon of the Lowveld 1984-87; Director, Namibian Chaplaincy in Europe 1987-90; Vicar, St Thomas's, Stamford Hill, London 1990-98. Chaplain and Clerk to the Trustees, Bromley and Sheppard's Colleges, Bromley, Kent 1998-2003; married 1957 Laureen Black (one daughter); died Beckenham, Kent 13 August 2003.

Edward Morrow was the last in a great tradition of Anglican priests who helped the people of Namibia to freedom from particularly brutal colonial rule - German followed by South African.

From the Revs Michael Scott, who confronted the infant United Nations with its south-west African duty, and Theophilus Hamutumbangela, who stood up against apartheid oppression internally, to the deported Bishops Mize, Winter and Wood, the Anglican leadership became a thorn in apartheid South Africa's side. Ed Morrow was recruited to the territory in 1971 by the fiery and flamboyant Colin Winter to build schools and churches for the diocese, and went on to train for the ministry at Queen's College, Birmingham, all Anglican seminaries in South Africa then being segregated by law.

Ordained in Grantham in 1975, he returned to Windhoek on the eve of Richard Wood's deportation, three years after that of Bishop Winter. The intense harassment that followed did not deter Morrow from ceaseless pastoral work and from holding together a church divided between its white membership, willing to compromise with the South African administration, and the great majority of indigenous worshippers, mainly in the north, absolute, as he was, in its rejection of apartheid rule in defiance of the UN.

There followed three years in the eye of the storm, with Morrow heading the Anglican church as Vicar-General. Succouring the victims of torture and political repression, giving sanctuary to Security Police targets, such as David Meroro, national chairman of the main liberation movement Swapo, and aiding his escape abroad, channelling funds for political trials and to support dependants of the accused, briefing journalists, politicians and church visitors from abroad.

In the false dawn in 1975, when Andrew Young for the US and David Owen, the British Foreign Secretary, led South Africa's trading partners in a near-miss attempt to effect South African withdrawal, Morrow brought spokesmen from Swapo and other groups and the Western "Contact Group" together, free of a South African presence. He took the fight into South Africa itself, with, inter alia, a public lecture in Cape Town, on torture, and a meeting with the opposition Progressive Party, who disappointingly refused to oppose South Africa's "internal settlement" scheme to buy off a UN take-over. It was probably the latter, and the imminence of local elections, that led to the promulgation in 1978 of "AG 50", an edict to legalise the expulsion, in seven days, of the Morrows, South African citizens unlike Winter, Wood and other earlier deportees. The Morrows flew to England, since South Africa would inevitably have meant house-arrest. The work for freedom and justice of this most modest, unassuming yet dedicated of men was to continue in exile.

Ed Morrow was no stranger to Afrikaner Nationalist thug tactics. With his South African born parents and six siblings, he had left his birthplace, Brakpan, as a child when his father came back from the Second World War, to be hounded by local pro-Nazis. He went through technical school in Durban (meeting his only girlfriend, and future wife, Laureen, on the school bus), did his builder's apprenticeship, qualified and ran his own construction company. Loathing of apartheid and the meeting with Colin Winter changed all that and led to his great contribution of later years.

Exile did not end his Namibian connection, though for five years he worked in Swaziland, at the Usuthu Mission, and in immediately post-independence Zimbabwe, building schools for 10,000 returned refugee children, and doubling as university chaplain in Harare.

Local petitions to successive South African Administrators- General in Namibia failed to effect the Morrows' return and they moved into South Africa itself, to the eastern Transvaal where, as Rector of Sabie and Archdeacon of the Lowveld, Morrow set up the Transvaal Council of Churches. The old familiar harassment returned, with Special Branch raids (even on his church - police were told to leave their guns outside) and Home Guard surveillance. The Rectory was, nevertheless, a safe house for political fugitives heading for the Mozambique border.

In 1984 the Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops in Namibia organised the Morrows' return to England to set up a Namibian Chaplaincy in Europe. In a house in Islington, north London, they gave pastoral care, house room and hospitality to a flock of Namibian exiles. Ed Morrow took charge later also of the Namibian Peace Centre in Cephas Street, London E1, founded by Winter.

With the independence process under way in 1989, Morrow spent a month back in Namibia, advising the UN Transition Assistance Group and picking up the threads of his church work. The Swapo leader Sam Nujoma (who became President of Namibia the following year) urged him to stay on, but AG 50 was still in force and there was no funding for Laureen and their daughter Lydia to join him.

Though always in touch with Namibia, he became at last an ordinary parish priest in England, serving as Vicar of St Thomas's, Stamford Hill, for eight years and in charge of a home for retired clergy and clergy widows, Bromley and Sheppard's Colleges, until March this year. He co-founded the Friends of Namibia Society in London in 1997 and became chairman three years later, but his tragically brief retirement also cut short his work in building Anglo-Namibian friendship.

Randolph Vigne

Comments