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Reverend Fenner Christian Kadalie (Posthumous)

The Order of Luthuli in

Reverend Fenner Christian Kadalie (Posthumous) Awarded for:
His exceptional contribution to society, and his dedicated service to the community of District Six and the Cape Flats through his ministry, which took care of the poor and the marginalised.
Profile of Reverend Fenner Christian Kadalie

Rev Fenner Christian Kadalie was born on 8 September 1928 in Johannesburg to Molly Davidson and Clements Kadalie. His father was South Africa’s first black trade-union leader, who started the Industrial Commercial Workers Union in 1919. He made many rousing speeches on the Grand Parade and at the harbour, mobilising black workers against exploitation and white minority domination.

Rev Kadalie ran two churches in District Six, one in Smart Street and another in Constitution Street. Under Kadalie’s leadership, the City Mission grew into an evangelical movement that incorporated social welfare issues, such as fighting against gangsterism and drugs, providing food and clothing to the poor, running social clubs for the youth and using the church as a centre for community development and social cohesion. As such, he was a community- and institution-builder par excellence.

The City Mission became the receptacle for all those excluded from the mainline churches – the marginal and the alienated. He conducted marriages, funerals, baptisms and burials to all who needed them regardless of their social standing. He broke up gang fights and enjoyed great respect from District Six’s skollies, who would shout: “Hey watch it, here comes the Pastor!”

The City Mission was hit hard by the Group Areas Act, 1950. From 1971 to 1979, Rev Kadalie saw his entire parish dispersed across the Cape Flats, brutally uprooted from a vibrant community that included 22 churches, schools, community halls, and a lively cultural, political and artistic life. Powerless against the apartheid state, and as a family itself a victim of the Group Areas Act, 1950, he refused to submit to the tyranny of the Act by following his parish members wherever they were scattered. He set up a City Mission in areas such as Bonteheuwel, Manenberg, Hanover Park and Heideveld.

In addition to his extensive church work, Rev Kadalie ran soup kitchens, distributing food to the poor in poverty-stricken areas such as the Flamingo Crescent informal settlement in Lansdowne, to the unemployed men at Kromboom, Lansdowne and Philippi Roads, for 40 years.

With funding from his brother, Dr Victor Kadalie, and sister-in-law, Dr Ruth Kadalie, he built and ran a crèche in Khayelitsha for 15 years. This crèche provided employment to 19 people and cared for 250 children.

In 2004, a journalist was walking around the Cape Flats and saw a man distributing food, from his combi, to long queues of indigent people from all colours of the rainbow. She was astounded, interviewed him and discovered that he had been doing this for more than 30 years. This unsung hero was Rev Fenner Kadalie.

He was an extraordinary husband, father, pastor, counsellor and leader, who served his family, the community, the homeless, the disabled and the unemployed with a commitment, dedication and compassion that is unsurpassed. For this dedication, the City Mission bestowed the title of Honorary President of the City Mission on him at the age of 78.

After a coronary bypass operation on 14 July 2011, Kadalie unexpectedly died of heart failure on Tuesday, 19 July, after what seemed like an almost dramatic supernatural recovery. He was about to turn 83. Rev Kadalie was unselfish with his love and his generosity knew no boundaries. He was a father par excellence and a role model to many as to what fatherhood meant, especially in the townships where the abuse of women and children and absent fathers were commonplace. He was instrumental in transforming the lives of many men who were alcoholics, abusers of women and social rejects and he would include them into the social structures of the community to become responsible citizens. Many of these men became model fathers, husbands, community leaders, and role models in their community.