Brian Hayward
FARMER-PREACHER: Angus Buchan’s down-to-earth style of evangelising draws in thousands.

MORE than 60000 Eastern Cape men will spend the weekend camped out in Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal, to hear charismatic Christian speaker Angus Buchan hold his seventh and final Mighty Men’s Conference at his farm, Shalom.

Buchan has said the event on his farm would end at its seventh year, but has hinted it will in future be held at stadiums around the country, saying: “Stadiums were not just built for soccer.”

More than 400000 men from around the country, as well as from overseas, are expected to attend this weekend’s event, which has seen six months of careful logistical planning with visitors arriving by car, bus and even by 12-seater aircraft and helicopter.

“It’s been months of intense planning,” said event transport co-ordinator Dougal McLean. “We are having to co-ordinate transport from Durban airport to Shalom. We have also had to liaise with the Civil Aviation Authority for controlled airspace over the farm, for aeroplanes landing on the airstrip on a neighbouring farm and helicopters landing here (at Shalom).”

McLean said last year, when 200000 were expected but as many as 300000 turned up for the weekend, about 50 visitors’ aircraft – jets and helicopters – had touched down.

Already by Tuesday, thousands of visitors had begun arriving to set up camp on the rolling lands dotted with temporary ablutions.

Surrounding the massive central stage are bales of lucerne, circled around it for seating.

A steady flow continued throughout the week.

Buchan, who achieved widespread fame – some say notoriety – following the 2006 film Faith Like Potatoes which was based on his life story, is likely to preach unity after what has been a turbulent past few weeks for the nation with racial divisions at their worst in years following the brutal killing of AWB stalwart Eugene Terre’Blanche, as well as the radical outbursts by ANCYL president Julius Malema.

The humble farmer with a message – his down-to-earth manner is a big drawcard for those who attend his rallies – has been able to easily fill stadiums around the country.

Throngs of visitors stand quietly as he speaks, often controversially, about the importance of men taking up their biblical role as the head of the household and offers messages of hope for the future of the country.

Many of the tens of thousands of Eastern Cape men began their pilgrimage late on Thursday and at the crack of dawn yesterday in 4×4s specially converted for the weekend’s camping, camper vans and buses, to make it in time for the three- day conference which officially started yesterday and ends tomorrow.

“I wanted to go last year, but couldn’t make it, but this time I vowed I wouldn’t miss it,” said Nelson Mandela Bay resident Kurt Brunner, manager of 4×4 Megaworld in Walmer. “To think that 60000 tickets have been sold in the Eastern Cape alone. I reckon more than 400000 will eventually pitch.”

While it being the last conference to be held on Buchan’s farm might have been a drawcard for some, Brunner said, it was the plight of the country that had seen them yearn for a change.

“I think Mr Malema is helping draw the community together. The majority of South Africans are gatvol of division. It’s got to a point where people are realising the solution is not politics, it’s God.”

At St John’s Anglican Church, Walmer, Canon Rob Penrith said the church had again sent a team to the event.

“The previous years have been positive and most of the team who are going have been before and have got a lot out of it.”

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