Minister Zweli Mkhize: Memorial of Reverend Dr Khoza Elliot Mgojo

1 Dec 2018

Address by Minister Zweli Mkhize of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs at the Memorial of Rev. Dr Khoza Elliot Mgojo at Mvubukazi Mission, Umzimkhulu, KZN.

The MEC of Human Settlements and Public Works and MEC champion of Harry Gwala region, Mr Ravi Pillay
Members of the Mgojo family present
Mayor of the Harry Gwala District Municipality, Cllr. Mluleki Ndobe
Deputy District Municipality Mayor Cllr Ntuseng Maphasa Duma
Mayors of Umzimkhulu, Ubuhlebezwe, Greater Kokstad Local Municipalities   
Acting Mayor of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma Local Municipality
Chairperson of the House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi PDH Chiliza
District Chairperson of SA Council of Churches, Bishop A Mncwengi
Councillors
Leadership of the Emvubukazi Methodist Church
Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for inviting me to be part of these two important occasions, the Aids Day event and the memorial lecture of Dr Khoza Elliot Mvuyise Mgojo today.

On September 11 2012 we bade a final farewell to one of the illustrious sons of this province, Rev Dr Khoza Mgojo, who over many years, had led a very meaningful and influential life, which changed lives and continues to inspire the nation even today.

Rev Mgojo had succumbed to illness on 02 September 2012, and I also had the honour to pay tribute to him, in my capacity then as Premier of KwaZulu-Natal.

I indicated that I was fortunate to have grown in Pietermaritzburg, under his influence and guidance, underscoring his character as a man of great stature, who made valuable contribution to the community and the whole country.

He influenced the broader society; the church, education, politics and the freedom struggle among others, particularly during his time at the Edendale Lay Ecumenical Centre in Pietermaritzburg, and other places.

Today, the 1st of December is also World Aids Day and it is thoughtful for the District Municipality to have arranged a local AIDS Day event to continue to spread the message and intensify the campaign against HIV and AIDS. We have just concluded the World Aids Day event of the region.

It is a great honour indeed to be given the opportunity to pay tribute to Rev Mgojo, a pioneering and transformative leader who left a very rich legacy for this nation.  He was an outstanding scholar, a devout pastor and spiritual leader, humanitarian, political and social activist, a peacemaker and a committed family man – laudable qualities we need to build our still healing and cohering nation.  

When we laid him to rest, we were in one spirit that his name will remain our inspiration, a shining beacon to guide us as we work with our people to overcome the burdens of disease, poverty, unemployment, violence against women and children, and all forms of unjustified intolerance. 

His indomitable pioneering spirit and an enduring quest for excellence set great example for us.

Influence in education. Nowhere was his exceptional talents most manifest than in his education.

He overcame the apartheid constraints not only to study abroad but to manage to graduate his Master of Theology cum laude in Chicago and later completed a PhD in Biblical languages at Harvard University.

He did well, and the international academic stints as visiting professor at Ilif Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado, in the United States, and as visiting lecturer at the Swedish Theological Seminary in Jerusalem is a testament to his international recognition.

Rev Mgojo studied to the highest level even when the incentive was not material gain, and therein lie profound lessons for our young people to persist in pursuing knowledge, to have fortitude and excellence in academic studies.

Education multiplies dividends in the society, changes our economic position, and the social fabric and relations as well. He led by example and taught the young and old that education is a powerful weapon of emancipation, walking in the footsteps of our father Nelson Mandela.

His stature lent him authority and confidence to approach political leaders and municipal councillors to offer advice from time to time when necessary.

Proverbs 22: 29 says that a person who is skilled in their work will serve before kings, not before officials of lower rank.

We have to strive to be the very best that we can in our work, so that we improve not only ourselves but other people in the country as well.  

It is for this reason that even in his retirement, Rev Mgojo continued his good work of building the nation.

He mobilised the alumni of the Indaleni Missionary Institution towards the establishment of an FET College in that area, including many other projects we cannot enumerate here.

When we see the social ills in our country today we think of him and his teachings, and know that he would not have approved.

School learners have become prey for marauding teachers in school grounds who were supposed to safeguard their interests.

Women, children and the old remain in virtual prisons in their homes in some areas because of unrelenting abuse, even despite national initiatives such as the 16 days of activism against violence on women and children.

All these necessitate an honest reflection about how far we have drifted from the teachings of our fathers such as Reverend Khoza Mgojo, former President Mandela and Ms Albertina Sisulu, the latter two whose anniversaries we are celebrating this year.

These liberation stalwarts gave us ample lessons on compassion and service to humanity and on the enduring value of education.

Like Madiba, Rev Mgojo was steeped into communities, leading community projects such as schools, clinics, peace initiatives and many others.

Former President Mandela led campaigns against AIDS, against women and child abuse, against ignorance an illiteracy.

To Rev Mgojo the compelling benefit of education was not how much money would it would accrue to him as an individual, but how that education could make a lasting impact in the society, how he could encourage South Africans to take a different view about their life and care for especially the most vulnerable in the society.

He demonstrated that education should not only reveal the wrongs in the society, but should proffer practical solutions to bring change in the society. 

We pay tribute to Baba Mgojo for his tireless contribution in the fight against apartheid and for the liberation of our people from apartheid bondage.  Working together with Reverends Ernest Baartman, Andrew Losaba, F de Waal Mahlasela and others, he formed the Black Methodist Consultation to help locate the Methodist Church of Southern Africa in the liberation struggle, particularly after the 1976 riots, to respond to the post-1976 situation, thereby contributing in the broader church struggle against the apartheid system.

He believed that the church had to be practical and pastoral, and to root out every injustice in our society, hence his emphasis that the church had to support the trade unions in their efforts to improve the conditions of the workers.

He worked with other religious leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rev Frank Chikane, Rev Dr Allan Boesak to fight apartheid brutality on the people, particularly during the tumultuous 1980s.

Through forums such as the KZN Church Leaders Group and the National Church Ecumenical Leaders among others, he fought apartheid and promoted peace in the communities.

In 1990 he was elected president of the South African Council of Churches, itself a precarious undertaking, since his colleague, Rev Frank Chikane, survived an attempt at his life by the apartheid police at the headquarters of the organisation a year before, in 1989.

Also, in 1988 the Council’s building was destroyed in the bomb attack sanctioned by the top leadership of the apartheid regime.

Rev Mgojo ws naturally a prefect casting in the SACC, which focused on theological reflection, fighting for social justice, skills development for the underprivileged, funding community projects, providing bursaries for poor students, assisting families of political prisoners and exiles, and later participating in the drafting of the new democratic constitution for the country.   

From him we learn that a true church must mobilise society against all forms of injustice, including poverty and hunger.

It must not collude with the oppressive system against the poor. His contribution to the church and theology in general will forever be celebrated in our country.  In discipline of theology, he promoted Africanization or indigenisation of the Christian faith, to make it relevant to the local cultural contexts.

He believed that “the task of Africanisation was to free Christianity from the cultural accretions of the west in order to allow the Christian message to acculturate itself in new situations.”

He believed that faith expression of a community has to grow from the experience of that community; it has to be concrete enough to the situation to radically challenge the quality of lives.  

This faith, Rev Mgojo indicated, has to urge the community into concerns wider than its own context.

Bawo Mgojo warned against dressing Christianity “in an African garb without totally stripping off the dress in which it cloaked itself on its way from Europe.”

He believed that the church should work in harmony with indigenous ways of worship and culture, accepting of practices such as polygamy.

He believed that the training of black ministers of religion should be a radical departure from the teachings of missionaries, they must be prepared for the African context and must reflect deep consciousness about African culture.

What we also note is that Rev Mgojo believed that training had to be theoretical and practical so that pastors should be transformative agents in the society, conceptualising and leading community projects as well.

To this extent, we learn that religion has to complement culture and respond to the concrete needs of the communities, not the clergy only.

Rev Mgojo strove for unity in the church and in the broader society.

He was responsible for the unification of the two Methodist Church groups into the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and the united Methodist Church in 1988, after a decade-long impasse and animosity.

He played many other roles in the society. Rev Mgojo was appointed by then president Nelson Mandela as a Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

During the days of political violence in KwaZulu-Natal, he was among the church leaders who formed the Natal Church Leaders’ Group, whose main goal was to bring peace in the province, and he became the first chairperson of this group.

He knew the importance of a peaceful and stable society to the broader agenda of national reconciliation and socio-political transformation that former President Mandela championed.

His greatest success was the ability to galvanise people behind important projects. He worked very closely with the KwaZulu-Natal government under my leadership on issues affecting senior citizens.

In these he remained as resourceful, as he was in his earlier years.

Following the 1976 uprising, there was instability in the Methodist Church. Mgojo was one of the leaders who gathered in Bloemfontein to form the Black Methodist Consultation, which was created by black Methodists to lobby for the transformation of the church from being a white-led church to one that had a black leadership.

The other aim was to locate the Methodist Church in the heart of the struggle against apartheid.

Mgojo became the first general secretary of the consultation, which was the first such church body formed within a major denomination in South Africa to lobby for transformation.

Reverend Mgojo served in many capacities in life, school teacher, vice-principal, pastor, theology seminaries, TRC, Senior Citizen’s Forum and everywhere made a difference.

We all can and should; just like us, he was human, but he was strong-willed, we all should be, so that in the spirit of Thuma Mina, that he, Madiba, and Ma Sisulu demonstrated in all their lives, we can be able to change this country.

We are privileged to have worked with him, to have known him and to have benefitted from his wisdom, kindness and from his leadership.

His legacy is rich and is a well from which we must continue to learn and draw strength.

I Thank you.