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Edwin Arrison
A man who Motivates Change

Background Role Models Arabella Phase 2

Nosy Rosy chats to Edwin Arrison at Arabella
Edwin Arrison is a priest and social entrepreneur by profession, but an activist at heart. He refers to himself as a contemplative activist, drawing his strength from his reflective side. He grew up as a “kaalvoet klonkie” on the Cape Flats in Bonteheuwel and stayed with his aunt and uncle who did not have children of their own. His uncle, Lesley Slinger had a great influence on the young Edwin’s life and his aunt made it clear from the very beginning that he had to be involved in an organisation in the church. “You could not just sit and warm the benches.”
Edwin became an altar server and the beautiful liturgical traditions and the mentorship of Father Bob de Maar resulted in his studying theology.
”It sort of grew on me that I should pursue the possibility of becoming a priest. It was always an experience that I had to test – It is better that you are uncertain - it is best if you go in with a spirit of. “I want to test this.” The church had to decide – thinking about it now, there was always this sense of marriage with the church in my upbringing – the community had to decide, which is the opposite of many people who are somewhat impatient with this kind of guidance from the faith-community and who believe that they do not need to have their calling tested. I was in the very fortunate position that I was eventually selected by Archbishop Tutu and he also ordained me.” The bishop has been a great influence in his life and they continue to be in close contact to this very day. Edwin is already planning to bring Archbishop Tutu’s biographer to Hermanus in September this year as a fundraiser for the Overstrand Learning Academy, of which he is the chairman.
Edwin was the only student at St Paul’s Theological College who in his final year studied Greek. He had a thirst for more knowledge and was motivated by the New Testament as originally written in Greek. He achieved a distinction and uses this particular skill regularly when he translates from Greek to English for his sermons or speeches.
After school he worked at Allied Publishing Company, and then he trained as a church youth worker and worked in an ecumenical action movement called Team.
As president of the Interchurch Youth group he was detained and imprisoned in both 1985 for 66 days and in 1986 for 71 days. In 1985 he was arrested at his mother’s house and taken to Victor Verster prison where he was held with people such as Dullah Omar, Trevor Manuel and Ebrahim Rasool.
“Lots of people in top positions today were in that prison – I think the biggest mistake that the apartheid government made was to keep us in prison on Christmas Day in 1985. My mother and many others who were not political activists became active against apartheid simply because a so-called Christian government kept thousands of us in prison on Christmas Day.”
Edwin explains that families became politically involved in the eighties in a way that the government never predicted. ”Their theory was that if you put these instigators into prison they will cease with their activities - instead they actually mobilised the rest of the population into action.”
Before starting his theological studies, Edwin was invited by the Lutheran Church in Sweden to spend six months in Sweden and he was able to visit other parts of Europe during that time as well – Switzerland, Germany, France and Italy.
While studying theology in Grahamstown, Edwin was offered a scholarship to study in Oxford in 1989 for a year. He was in Oxford when Mandela was released, “Part of me wanted to be here but it was good to witness the reaction of the people in Europe.”
He was ordained as a priest in 1992 and reflects on how his life has intersected with that of Bishop Tutu. He was ordained as deacon by the Bishop in Khayelitsha, thereafter he served as a priest at Mitchells Plain until the elections in 1994.
He arrived in Bredasdorp on 1 May 1994 and remained there until August 1996 whereafter he served as priest at St. Andrews in Hawston until 2003.
In mid 2003 he was asked to be the chaplain of Hope Africa – a social development arm of the church and that evolved into his current position – amongst others, the chairperson of the Arabella Community Trust. (ACT).
It is evident that Edwin is passionate about business projects with a community element to it – his involvement with the Abalone village project, the project around the fishing harbours, and now Arabella, bears witness to this passion.
He is very excited that, as a result of Abalone Village negotiations with the IDC, a Development Agency with a budget of an R18 million grant (not a loan!) by the IDC to the Municipality over the next 5 years, will soon be established in the Overstrand.

Role models
Albert Nolan is a Roman Catholic priest from the Dominican order and his published work Jesus before Christianity has been used by most theological faculties in the country for the past twenty years. He has recently published Jesus Today and Edwin cites Nolan as being the most profound theologian in South Africa and admires him for his humility and deep and profound thought.
Activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu is well known throughout the world and Edwin holds him in the highest regard. “His humour has diffused many a tense situation as he has the gift of saying the strangest and funniest thing at exactly the right moment.” Edwin recalls him saying to PW Botha, “I am your brother,” and we all know how “unbrotherly” he reacted to that!

Arabella Phase 2
When Arabella Phase 2 was not approved - an Arabella Phase 2 action group was formed to lobby for a significant stake for the communities. From this process Edwin emerged as the natural leader. Riaan Gous, Executive Director of Arabella South Africa and Chairman of the Arabella Country Estate Home Owners Association and Edwin were the principal negotiators in the Arabella Phase 2 negotiation process that resulted in the formation of the Arabella Community Trust. (ACT)
One of the people that helped them through this process was attorney Mariki Chin. “She offered her services pro bono, and she was absolutely brilliant,” says Edwin.
Mariki has a strong business background and could assist on several technical issues, thereby speeding up the negotiation process, resulting in the trust receiving 1% of all sales and resales and they managed to procure 5% on the net profit of the entire project.

Family and future
Edwin is married to Desiree and they have two beautiful daughters, Layla and Lara.
“Even though I no longer work full time for the Anglican church, I am still a priest of that denomination and most Sundays I assist in the Caledon parish.” Every alternate Monday he leads the service at the St. Georges cathedral in Cape Town.
Edwin is a keen road-runner but also plans to play golf and he enjoys reading works of fiction and non-fiction and listening to jazz music. A favourite pastime is playing chess with his daughter Layla and having friends over forms a big part of their social life. Edwin enjoys nothing more than sitting around the fire with friends, telling stories and making potjiekos. “We also love eating out and whenever the opportunity arises, Desiree and I will go to the Baxter or Artscape.”
Edwin is studying for his doctorate in ministry through the University of the South in Sewanee in Tenessee. The BBBEE agreement with Arabella is currently taking center stage and once that is concluded, Edwin hopes to become more reflective and to finish writing his doctorate which will focus on strategies the church could pursue to alleviate and eradicate poverty.
A community of monks in Taize in France provides a lifeline for this busy reverend. “Whenever I go through a difficult or complex situation I ask them to keep me in prayer”.

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