Robert Sobukwe -The shaping of an Africanist – Healdtown Mission Institute

The father of the Pan-Africanist philosophy in South Africa,and an ardent student and scholar,Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe.

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe was born on 5 December 1924 in Graff-Reinet, known as The Gem of the Karoo, in the south-east of South Africa.Sobukwe was the youngest child.As was normal at the time,he was given an English name, Robert, as well as a Xhosa name, Mangaliso – meaning “it is wonderful”.His brothers who survived were Ernest, born in 1914,and Charles, born in 1922.His sister was Eleanor.

His father,Hubert, worked for the local municipality as a maintenance officer,keeping open the furrows that supplied the town`s water.His mother, Angelinah, as well as looking after the house, worked for a number of years as a cook at the town hospital and then did domestic work for a white family.Together they earned enough to make sure that the family did not go short for food.The children were given new clothes as Christmas gifts,to be used as Sunday best,and the previous Sunday best was brought into everyday school use.

An aerial photograph of Graff-Reinet,Robert Sobukwe`s birthplace,Northern Cape.

Thus far it is a picture of a hard and simple life which could be repeated ten thousand fold throughout South Africa.An extra ingridient,however,was the emphasis placed in the home on education.Angelinah had never been to school, and her thumbprint served as her signature.Hubert had completed seven years of schooling.He had wanted to continue,but his mother was dead and a sister who was bringing him up refused to send him to school.She feared that,if he was educated,he would ignore her and the family.Hubert`s dissapointment lived with him,and it drove him to encourage his children.According to his son Ernest he had made a vow – should God give him children, he would educate them all.He determinedly fulfilled that pledge in his lifetime.

When sister Eleanor finished her eighth year of schooling she did not want to continue and went out to work.But Ernest complteted his schooling,qualified as a teacher,went on to train as a minister,and eventually was ordained a bishop in the Anglican Church.Charles also qualified as a teacher.So too did Robert,who in due course went on to complete several university degrees.

The initial stimulus for education came from books in the house.Angelinah brought books given by the young son and daughter of the white family she worked for,and Hubert brought books discarded by the town`s library.Hubert read the books and passed them onto his children.

The local Methodist church,which doubled as a school during the week,is where Sobukwe attended his first years of school.

In addition to the emphasis on reading,there was a strong religious spirit in the Sobukwe household.The family was Methodist and Hubert was a highly respected member of the location`s congregation – so much that,during his lifetime,the street in which he lived was named after him.It is still Sobukwe Street.Regular church attendance on Sunday was obligatory for the children.After the service,each child was required to repeat the text and outline the sermon.”If you didn`t know it,Daddy gave it to you”, according to Ernest,meaning that there was an immedeate infliction of Hubert`s sjambok(rawhide whip) on the backside.”He was a loving,but stern father.”Angelinah,on the other hand,was a gentle person who merely scolded the children.

Formal schooling was provided by a Methodist mission in the location,at the foot of a hill on the main road.It was actually the church in which the Sunday church services were conducted.The pews were used as desks.About a hundred children,divided into four classes,were taught at the same time.Reflecting the location`s were blacks and coloureds.The Methodist school went as far as the six grade.By then the odds were that many children would have dropped out because of the poverty of their parents.

Those who were perservering switched,for the next two years,to the Anglican school in the town where the were proper classrooms and desks.Sobukwe,then 11,was clearly a suitable candidate fo the Anglican school even though,as he said many years later,his standard of English was “not good”. Sobukwe and his brother Charles were in the same class and were the only ones to pass out of thirteen pupils.This was the limit of education provided in Graff-Reinet for blacks and coloureds.Any further schooling that was wanted had to be sought elsewhere.

The Sobukwe family`s Methodist adherence made it natural for him to be sent to Healdtown Mission Institute,even though it was some 225 kilometres from home.Healdtown was then a major instituition in black education,one of the several schools in the Eastern Cape established by British missionaries in the nineteenth century.They provided a liberal and Christian education founded on English grammar and literature which profoundly influenced generations of students.


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The famous Bell Tower at the entrance to Healdtown Mission Institute.

In January 1940,Sobukwe arrived at Healdtown for the start of the new academic year.It was still in the “great days” of black education,as the Reverend Stanley Pitts,who was Principal from 1950,puts it.

Healdtown was a co-educational academic instituition sited on a hill looking out over a large and fertile valley.It embraced a wide range of schooling,starting with the beginners in lower primary and extending to the end-of-schooling matriculation.It also provided teacher training,specialist physical educational education training and courses in domestic science.It was,in its time,the biggest black and Methodist educational centre throughout Southern Africa, with 1 400 students,most of whom,like Sobukwe,were boarders.The majority of the staff came from Britain and were not ministers but trained teachers.

Traditionally,the teaching staff was white,but by the 1940`s,Healdtown began employing blacks,most of whom were from its teacher training school.Already in 1936 a black Methodist minister,the Reverend Seth Mokitimi,had been appointed housemaster and chaplain.By the 1950`s a 50/50 ratio had been reached in the staff racial composition.The students,however,were always all black.

The Sobukwe family`s shortage of money meant also that career aspirations were limited.Sobukwe enrolled for the NPL,the “Native Primary Lower”, a three-year course which would enable him to qualify as a primary school teacher.”Native” was the name then used for blacks,and as the name indicates,the course was designed to prepare blacks to teach in black schools.

As a newcomer,Sobukwe went into a wooden-floor dormitory of forty beds,twenty lined up along each side and with a small locker in between each one.He kept his clothes in a suitcase stored in a nearby boxroom.He could have access to it every morning,but he kept his jacket on the wall.Greater privacy came with succeeding years – a ten-bed dormitory in the second year,and sharing with four or five others in the third year,until he finally attained the status of a single room.Like other students he was provided with a bed frame and a brightly coloured mattress cover which the students filled with straw for better comfort.He brought his own sheets and blankets from home.

It was at the start of Sobukwe`s second year that one of the enduring friendships of his life began – with Dennis Siwisa,who also trained as a teacher,later becoming a journalist.In the next excerpt,Siwisa recalls many of the details to do with black schooling and Sobukwe`s existence at Healdtown.

“First bell was at 6:00 am,but Sobukwe usually slept through it,waking for the second bell at 6:30 am.He would wash his face and,at the third bell at 6:40,go to the dining hall for breakfast,to sit on a wooden bench without a back at a long wooden table.On the wooden-panelled walls were photographs of past Healdtown teachers and of George VI,the then reigning King of England,and of colonial South Africa.

It could have hardly been a plainer meal – a mug of hot to lukewarm water and sugar,plus a big dry piece of bread called umqenya in Xhosa.Anyone who wanted butter and who had money could buy it and store it.After breakfast Sobukwe went back to the dormitory to wash properly.There was no hot water,except for the occasional bucket he was able to weedle from the “aunties” who worked in the kitchen.Otherwise in the cold of winter,showers were usually confined to one or two a week after playing sport.”It was a tough life,but we enjoyed it”,Siwisa remembers.

Healdtown students gathered at morning assembly in front of the dining hall building.

School began at 8:30 am,but was preceeded by “observation” – the custom for the boys to stand outside and watch the girls come from their seperated dormitories.Classes went through until 12:45 pm with a short break in-between,and then it was back to the dining hall for lunch.Tuesdays,Thursdays and Sundays were the days for meat,beans and samp – porridge made from coarsely ground maize(corn);on other days only samp and beans.

Fruit was unkown,but occasionally there were vegetables,grown in the gardens.At 2pm,Sobukwe resumed classes for another three hours,with either lessons or teaching practice.Then an hour`s relaxation,playing tennis or basking in the sun,ot walking to the nearby ravine – before supper which was a repetition of breakfast – bread and sugar-water.From 7pm there were two hours of study in his dormitory with lights out at 9:30 pm.

It wasn`t unrelieved academic toil.Wednesdays afternoons were set aside for sport and Sobukwe made full use of this.He was a good tennis player,having learnt the game back home.He played rugby,at fullback,for his Healdtown house team – Hornabrook,named after an early governer of the instituition – and is said to have been a good tackler.Friday afternoons were usually free and were used for relaxing.Saturdays meant competitive sport against others schools,with teams visiting,or Healdtown teams travelling to away games on the back of an open truck.

If not involved in sport,Saturday was the one day on which Sobukwe could ask for permission to walk the 11 kilometres to the village of Fort Beautfort.The attractions and facilities there were extremely limited,and consisting in the main of Cooper`s grocery-cum-drapery store and fish and chips shop.This was the chance to supplement Healdtown`s sparse diet and the few weets available at the small shop in the instituition,by buying fish or returning with fruit or the great luxury of tea.Once a month,Saturday night was “Bioscope”(movie) night,and occasionally a local music troupe came to give a concert.These events were held in the boys` dining hall.The girls were also admitted and this was a chance for couples to sit together,as Sobukwe did when at one time he had a girlfriend.

Saturday was also the day to catch up on chores such as washing shirts,at least for those who had more than the regular khakhi and white,which were the only  laundry accepeted.Sobukwe was already set on his lifelong pattern of dressing neatly and quitely.He did not care much for clothing and would say that he was not a “snob”.At this stage he favoured long khakhi trousers for everyday wear when no uniform was required.

Sunday,because of the church service, was the day for smart and obligatory wear – grey trousers,white shirt,Healdtown`s red and yellow striped tie and blazer complete with the school badge on the pocket – an eagle with the Latin motto “Alis velut aquilarum”(They shall rise with wings as of eagles).Naturally,it was a day of rest,but only after the obligatory srvice,a Scripture class in the morning and holy communion once a month.Indeed Healdtown`s Christian basis was constantly evident – prayers were said before supper each day and the chaplain read from scripture, and grace was said before all meals.Sobukwe was “a willing church-goer,but he was not a zealot,”Siwisa states.

Robert Sobukwe`s principal and mentor Goerge Caley,middle row third from left,with group captains and prefects.During his last year Sobukwe was elected to the Head Boy position.

His overiding memory of Sobukwe in those Healdtown days is of a “happy,contended person.”He was not given to speaking about his future hopes.He spoke to his friends about sport and girls.He was known to his fellow students for his “brilliance and for his command of the English language.”He invariably carried a library book with him and went through two or three novels a week.His early Healdtown addictions were the Scarlet Pimpernel novels by Baroness Orczy,and The Saint stories by Leslie Charteris.He devoured all he could find until his tastes widened.

Many years later,Sobukwe himself would say: “I was introduced to English literature at a very early age by my eldest brothers who had a good library.I was fortunate in the teachers I had.There was a Mrs Scott who encouraged my reading.It was a love for literature,especially poetry and drama.”

Sobukwe`s academic interest was drawing increasing interest from his teachers.Not only Mrs Scott,but also from Hamish Noble,a carpentry teacher who was an assistant boarding school headmaster,and the principal and his wife,George and Helen Caley.

Once Sobukwe had completed his three-year teacher training at the end of 1942, he was encouraged by the staff not to go off and start earning a living,such as it would be as a newly-qualified teacher,but to continue his schooling.So promising was he that he was allowed to prepare for the Junior Ceritificate public examination – the halfway stage towards completing high school – in one year instead of the two,sometimes three,as normally required.The perission of the education authorities was neccesary for this.But as the Caleys explained,”he was such a clever boy.”

The athletics team in the early 1940`s.Sobukwe excelled in rugby and tennis,having learnt both sports back home in Graff-Reinet.

In the June 1943 mid-year internal examinations Sobukwe topped the class.But in August,some four months before the final examination,he began to cough up blood.He was found to have the widespread and dreaded disease tuberculosis.His father came to Healdtown to fetch him.”We had a difficult time persuading him not to take Robert home to die,but that he should go to hospital,”say the Caleys.It was,however,not easy to get him a hospital bed.Facilities were limited,especually for blacks.Mr Caley took up the matter and succeeded in getting Sobukwe to what was then the McVicar Hospital for tuberculosis in the nearby small town of Alice.

The next year,early in 1944,Sobukwe had recovered from the TB and repeated his classes.The Caleys,however,say that he did not write the examinations and was promoted to the next class despite this.Mr Caley says he wrote to the Department of Education that this was “an exceptional case.”Later in the year,only nine months after leaving the hospital,Sobukwe was so well-recovered that he was able to win the Eastern Cape tennis singles chamionship – a competition for blacks.

Now,with two years of schooling still to go,he was assured of the bursaries Headltown gave to outstanding students.In addition,the Caleys sponsored him,giving him books and pocket money,taking him to the staton at Fort Beautfort so that he could go home in the June and December long holidays,and sometimes buying a rail ticket for him.In the aftermath of his TB,they paid for patient medication – cod liver oil, Metatone tonic and Angiers emulsion to be rubbed on his chest.

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Robert Sobukwe as he appears in the book HEALDTOWN – UNDER THE EAGLES WINGS,based on the school`s heritage and impact on South African society.

He was a “group captain” – a senior prefect – and in his last year was appointed Head Boy.He was zealous in his duties.Siwisa recalls that the toilets were outside,about ten metres from the dormitories,and that the boys would sometimes not bother to go all the way, but would urinate in the open.This was viewed as a serious offence in Healdtown`s disciplinary system.Some boys were punished for it and one of them accused Sobukwe of lying on a roof to catch them in the act.The accusation was carried over a year later to university when he was called a “sellout” because of it.He stoudly defended himself,saying he would act in the same way again if he had to track down offenders.

But his academic prowess became the dorminant fact about him.His reputation was so strongly established that the Reverend Stanley Pitts,who became Healdtown`s Governor four years after Sobukwe had left,notes that he was the “brightest student we ever had.”The Caleys,speaking in 1981 when they were old and frail,still spoke of him with glowing admiration – Mr Caley`s constant phrase was that “he was so clever”;Mrs Caley said “his command of English was exceptional”.Together they remembered the farewell end-of-year speech as Headltown`s Head Boy in 1946.”It was a most remarkable speech,it was a wonderful speech,it was all about co-operation between whites and blacks”they said.

As expected,he obtained a first-class pass entitling him to go onto university.His subjects were English Higher,Physiology and Hygiene,Zoology,Geography,History and Xhosa.

The mission schoolboy- Nelson Mandela and missionary education

Nelson Mandela,top centre,in 1937,as a first-year student at Healdtown Mission Institute.

“At a time when the government took no interest whatsoever in our education,it was the church-founded schools who educated us,and conscientised us to the unjust realities of South African society”  – Nelson Mandela

When a young Thembu royal first attended school at the ripe age of 15,little did anyone know that he would go on to change his country,and the world. Upon the realization that his days were numbered, Chief Mphakanyiswa Gadla solicited his cousin, Chief Jongintaba Dalinyebo,to look after his only son.Since both chiefs of the Thembu Royal House were committed Methodists,it was inevitable that the boy would be sent to Chief Dalinyebo`s alma mater.


Students going through their exercises at Clarkebury Mission School.

Clarkebury had been founded by Methodist missionaries,along with the invading British settlers,during the Frontier wars of the early 1800`s.In its heyday it was the leading educational institute in the whole of Tembuland. Like most missionary schools,Clarkebury went into a terminal decline when the National Party introduced its Bantu education policy, and withdrew funding for church schools in 1950 When Nelson Mandela first arrived at Clarkebury in 1934 his self-confidence suffered some beating.This was because he found it uneasy to walk in the first pair of shoes he`d ever owned.The second reason for his uneasy beginings was because for the first time after the royal treatment home he`d become accustomed to at his uncle Chief Dalinyebo`s great place,at Clarkebury he was treated like any other student.There were other boys with greater royal lineages.Mandela arrived at Clarkebury alongside Chief Dalinyebo`s son,Justice.Both boys stayed in the double-story boys hostel,a large building which dominated the entire the school campus.

By his own admission he had a lot of catching up to do.Most of his classmates could outrun him on the sports field,and could out-do him in class.

The Reverend Cecil C Harris,was a tough disciplinarian who ran Clarkebury like a military instituition. Mandela got to know him and his family intimately.As the first white family that Mandela was becoming familiar with,he spent hours tending to Rev Harris` garden.He also reveled under the fact that Chief Dalinyebo had made a special request to Rev Harris to take his young nephew under his wing.Mandela would later state that he had admired the Rev Harris and the manner in which he administered Clarkebury, “with an iron hand and an abiding sense of fairness”, he stated.


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The famous Bell-Tower at the entrance to Healdtown Mission School.

Mandela spent two years as a student at Healdtown,from 1938-9.During his time at Healdtown,this elite Methodist institute epitomized an exclusive black academic instituition.He describes it so in his memoir – LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, “Located at the end of a winding road overlooking a verdant valley,Healdtown was far more beautiful and impressive than Clarkebury. It was,at the time,the largest African school south of the equator,with more than a thousand learners,both male and female.Its gracefully ivory colonial buildings and tree-shaded courtyards gave it a feeling of a privileged academic oasis,which is exactly what it was.”

Even if some students did not excel,Healdtown`s founding fathers seemed intent on ensuring that all who studied there should hold their sights high.The school motto,”Alis velut aquilarum”,Latin for “They`ll soar as if with the wings of eagles” was represented on the school emblem, by an airborne eagle.

Intending to further his education and gain skills  needed to become a privy councillor for the Thembu royal house,Mandela began his secondary education at Healdtown in 1936. Healdtown`s headmaster during Mandela`s time was the Rev Dr Arthur Wellington.The Rev Wellington was a staunch English patriot who liked to boast about his links to the Duke of Wellington,the British Army general who had defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.

The British world view permeated Healdtown,and an English education model provided the basis for all teaching.”Lapsing into one`s home language was a punishable offence.Walking in the grounds at Healdtown one had to communicate in English only” states anti-apartheid stalwart and Rivonia Treason trialist Raymond Mhlaba.

Sundays at Healdtown provided a vivid display of how comfortably the imperialist and missionary traditions co-existed.On the way to Sunday service,the boys and girls assembled under a Union Jack in the school yard, and accompanied by a brass band, sang the British national anthem God Save The Queen.

Thereafter they would sing the hymn “Nkosi Sikeleli Africa”. It was during these weekly parades that the soon to be an anthem  was first sung.The song was composed in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, an Eastern Cape-born clergyman and teacher who was educated at the nearby Lovedale Institute.It was sung in 1912 at the first meeting of the South African Native National Congress, the forerunner of the African National Congress(ANC).The song became a pan-African liberation anthem and was later adopted as the national anthem of five Southern African countries,including Zambia,Tanzania, Namibia and Zimbabwe at independence. Zimbabwe and Namibia have since adopted new national anthems. The song is currently the national anthem of Tanzania, and, since 1994, a portion of the national anthem of South Africa.

In his second year at Healdtown Mandela took an interest in the two sports that he would hold dear to him for all his life,boxing and running. He also became a prefect.Night duty involved patrolling the front of his hostel,to apprehend fellow boy pupils who,in typical school lads fashion,insisted on reliving themselves from the verandah,instead of visiting the outdoor toilet.

The housemaster in his hostel was the Reverend Seth Mokitimi. He impressed Mandela by standing up to Dr Wellington.This made the impression on Mandela that a black man did not have to defer automatically to a white man, however senior he was.

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Reverend Seth Mokitimi,the boys` housemaster who made a lasting impression on a young Mandela.

According to his own records,Mandela`s most memorable experience at Healdtown was during one morning assembly in the dining hall.At each morning assembly,Dr Wellington always made a grand entrance through Wellington`s door,so-known because no one ever walked through that door except for Dr Wellington.

One morning,however,a black man,draped in leopard skin,and clutching two spears, led the way forward,with Dr Wellington following.He was the famous Xhosa poet S.E.K Mqhayi,whose writing was a major source of inspiration for early African nationalists.

Mandela said that when Mqhayi stood up to speak he was not particularly impressed.He said that apart from his traditional garb he was very much ordinary-looking.However,he said that he could hardly believe his ears when,in the presence of Dr Wellington and other white staff members,Mqhayi spoke of blacks having succumbed to the false gods of the white man for too long.

Xhosa poet S.E.K Mqhayi,whose writing was a major source of inspiration for early African nationalists.

Mqhayi was also renowned for his praise-singing prowess.During this particular peformance he raged against foreign cultural influence,vowing that the forces of African culture would eventually overcome it.This got the audience on their feet,cheering and clapping.

Speaking in Xhosa,he took to the stage and exclaimed,”The assegai stands for what is glorious and true in African history,it is a symbol of the African warrior and artist.The metal wire is an example of Western manufacturing,which is skillful but cold,clever but soulless.What I am talking about is not a piece of bone touching a piece of metal,or even the overlapping of one culture over another.What I am talking about is the clash between what is indigenous and good,and that which is foreign and bad.We cannot allow the foreigners,who do not care about our culture,to rule over us.”

Mandela said that Mqhayi`s performance was like a comet streaking across a night sky,and it made him begin to think about his views on colonial rule.


Originally a British fort in the wars between British settlers and the Xhosas in the 19th century,Fort Hare University College,as the current University of Fort Hare was known then,was founded by Methodist missionaries under the stewardship of Reverend James Stewart.It was begun as a school for missionaries from which at the beginning of the 20th century the university resulted. In accord with its Christian principles, fees were low and heavily subsidized. Several scholarships were also available for indigent students.

With Jongintaba’s backing, Mandela began work on a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree at Fort Hare University College in 1939. As the only black university in the country at the time,Fort Hare was an exclusive black institution situated picturesquely on the banks of the Tyume River in the small town of Alice,in the Eastern Cape. There he studied English, anthropology, politics, native administration and Roman Dutch law in his first year, desiring to become an interpreter or clerk in the government`s Native Affairs Department. Mandela stayed in the Wesley House dormitory, befriending Oliver Tambo and his own kinsman, K.D. Matanzima.

Nelson Mandela and his cousin K D Matanzima,Fort Hare University College – 1940.

Continuing his interest in sport, Mandela took up ballroom dancing, and performed in a drama society play about Abraham Lincoln. As a member of the Students Christian Association, he gave Bible classes in the local community, and became a vocal supporter of the British war effort when the Second World War broke out. Although having friends connected to the African National Congress (ANC) and the anti-imperialist movement, Mandela avoided any involvement. He helped found a first-year students’ House Committee which challenged the dominance of the second-years.

At the end of his first year he became involved in a Students’ Representative Council (SRC) boycott against the quality of food, for which he was temporarily suspended from the university.He left in 1940 without taking a degree.It would take over a half-century to correct the transgression. In 1992,fifty-two years after his unceremonious departure,the University of Fort Hare bestowed an honorary LLD(Law) Degree on its most famous student renegade.


Fifty-two years in the making – Mandela, proudly draped in his Fort Hare University blazer, receives an honorary LLD(Law) Degree from the university in 2002.

The Mandela Opus – The big story of a big man in a big book.


Sello Hatang, Makaziwe Mandela, Graça Machel, George Rautenbach, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu,Ndaba Mandela and Lyndon Barends unveil the Mandela Opus at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.

At 37kg, 850 pages,over 2000 images,and half a meter square big, the definitive book on Nelson Mandela’s life will ensure that the anti-apartheid icon’s legacy is never forgotten.

Speaking at the launch of the book in Johannesburg, Public Services Minister Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, daughter of the late Walter Sisulu, the anti-apartheid activist and African National Congress leader, said: “I want to pledge to all of you that i will fight to ensure that our history is made a compulsory subject in our schools, so that our children understand who we are, what we went through and where we come from.”

The Official Nelson Mandela Opus features an extended report on Mandela`s education,focusing specifically on his school days at Clarkebury Mission Institute,Healdtown Institute and Fort Hare University College.Unprecedented access to archive material from family and friends, exclusive imagery and work from world renowned photographers and writers, allows Opus to truly honour Nelson Mandela the friend, the father, the husband, the activist, the President. The Opus tells this story in a depth and on a scale that has never been seen before, immortalizing Nelson Mandela’s life.

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Nelson Mandela,top centre, in a group photo taken at Healdtown School in 1938.

Ms Sisulu called for the book to become an essential part of the South African schools curriculum, adding: “I would like the Mandela Opus to be the first book that they learn in schools as a compulsory work. We as South Africans remain eternally grateful to Nelson Mandela.”

Mr Mandela’s grandson Ndaba Mandela said: “We are excited about the Mandela Opus which is another way of taking Tata’s legacy to people all over the world. There can never be enough ways of telling his story.”

The Mandela Opus will feature specially written contributions by international figures such as Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Pope Francis I, Sir Richard Branson and a personal account by long-time friend and fellow Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu on his memories of Mr Mandela, known affectionately as ‘Madiba’.

Former Cape Times editor and author of the book ‘Race’, Ryland Fisher is the editor of the book,and his team, along with photographer Benny Gool,went through more than 20 000 photographs and whittled them down to 2,000.

Karl Fowler, chief executive of Opus Media, said: “It is an absolute privilege and honour to be invited to create an opus on one of the world’s greatest icons, global statesman, and former South African President, Nelson Mandela.

Opus CEO Karl Fowler with Graça Machel at the Nelson Mandela Opus book launch at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.

“Mr Mandela’s story is one that touches the hearts and minds of many generations across the globe and we hope that the official Mandela Opus will make a valuable and unique contribution to his legacy and help educate and inspire people from all cultures around the world.”

In total 10,000 of the books will be published. The Mandela book follows other Opus books on subjects including Formula One, Ferrari, Manchester United, Michael Jackson, Sachin Tendulkar and the Springboks.
Opus Media CEO Karl Fowler said half the material in the book, had not been seen before.“An opus is about telling iconic and great stories, and hopefully telling the stories that have never been told before by using great photography.”

He said the Nelson Mandela Opus was the biggest the company had made and that each book was hand-stitched.

“This story has to be told, it must be told,” Fowler said.

The book will be available for sale from December 2015.

The book will be available for sale from December 2015. For more info visit:

LEST WE FORGET – The case for the documentation of missionary education history in SA

House Boys at Healdtown Mission Institute.

“Most of the missionary schools date back to the 19th century and constitute a rich heritage that waits to be reclaimed. This, together with the history of these schools and the success stories of their alumni, needs to be capitalized on and celebrated as a basis for promoting pride among current learners, who in many instances need role models to lift them above their present circumstances.”  – Archbishop Njongo Ndungane, Executive Director, Historic Schools Restoration Project

A poor education,broken family structures and little hope of the life they wished for themselves and their families are what colonization and apartheid bestowed upon South Africa`s black population in the late nineteenth century,and into the twentieth century.

Nonetheless,there were pockets of excellence which offered black students the kind of education comparable to the best in the country at that time – the education offered by the missionary schools.It was this polished and quality education which offered black students the opportunity to explore and acquire knowledge,and it was this education which empowered them in their struggle against racial injustice in South Africa.

Men and women educated at mission education schools were logically in the forefront of the struggle for freedom in South Africa.They were first to pioneer the call for an equal franchise and racial equality for all of South Africa`s citizens at the turn of the twentieth century.They were the first to realize the abuse of the colonial system,and to take a stand and to reverse the infringements on the human rights of black South Africans.

This is evident in the early religious leadership of Rev John Tengu Jabavu,Rev Tiyo Soga and Rev Charles Palma,and it is embodied in the early scholarship of the political leadership of Nelson Mandela,Robert Sobukwe,Oliver Tambo,Govan Mbeki,Ruth Mompati,Charllotte Maxeke,ZK Matthews,Dr AB Xuma and many of their compatriots.

It can also be traced to the next generation of struggle heroes and heroines including amongst others,former president Thabo Mbeki,Steve Biko,Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and many of their contemporaries.

A senior class in the 1930`s at Kilnerton Institute,in Pretoria.
A senior class at Kilnerton Institute in Pretoria,1936.

These were all students at South African missionary schools.They also included students from other frontline states who came to South Africa for their education,and went on to lead their respective countries in the struggle against colonialism.

Amongst the leaders who received an education in South Africa,and went on to lead their countries to independence are Sir Seretse Khama,first president of an independent Botswana.Robert Mugabe,first president of Zimbabwe.Julius Nyerere,first president of Tanzania.Kenneth Kaunda,first president of Zambia.Milton Obote,first president of a independent Uganda.Enoch Ndumbuthsena,Zimbabwe`s first Chief Justice.Dr Quett Masire,Botswana`s second president. Herbert Chitepo,leader of Zimbabwe`s African National Union(ZANU), and the country`s first black lawyer.Ntsu Mokhehle,former Prime Minister of Lesotho.

Mission education schools were established in order to evangelize and educate entire communities.Their founders parted ways with the colonial masters by believing in the educability and advancement of the black population.They established the schools in order to create a class of black South Africans which held the same values as them.While this initially alienated them from their communities,it gave them the keys to a wider world through which they could explore and deliberate on the possibilities of a post-colonial reality.

Mission schools were the doorway through which black South Africans were opened to the modern world of the early twentieth century.They provided a platform from an educated class of black South Africans could realize the hypocrisy of the colonial system,and forge a new African nationalism which was ultimately capable of felling British and Afrikaner hegemony in South Africa over a period of a century.

At this point,little documentation exists which stands as a record on these historic centres of African educational excellence in South Africa.The only complete record on one of the schools is HEALDTOWN – UNDER THE EAGLES WINGS,by Trevor Webster,published in 2014.The book is based on the history and heritage of the renowned Fort Beaufort,Eastern Cape high school and teacher training college,Healdtown Mission Institute.

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Students spending a relaxed afternoon on the lawns at Inanda Seminary.

My book aims to record and document the establishment,growth and development of ten of the schools.Some of the schools have been bestowed with the status of national heritage sites,and some are still partly or fully operational as public-funded or private schools.

The schools are:

A.Healdtown College – Eastern Cape

B. Addams College – Kwa-Zulu Natal

C. Wilberforce Community College – Gauteng

D. Inanda Seminary – Kwa-Zulu Natal

E. Kilnerton Training Institute – Gauteng

F. Lovedale College – Eastern Cape

G. Ohlange Secondary School – Kwa-Zulu Natal

H. Glen Cowie College – Limpopo

I. St Francis College – Kwa-Zulu Natal

J. Tiger Kloof- Northern Cape

It is my project`s aim to preserve and revilitize the memory of these schools,and in the process reclaim and uphold their legacy as centres of African intellectual excellence in South Africa,and beyond our borders.


My family and missionary education

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The original stone-building church at the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Mmakau Village.Built in 1918.

As the three wise men who followed the star from the East to find the new-born baby Jesus,on 3 January 1918 some seven men of the Bakgatla-Ba-Mmakau Tribal Authority headed East on a three-day journey to the sprouting,but still one-horse town of Pretoria.Like the three wise men,theirs was a journey in search of salvation,in their case to make a request to the Catholic Church in the city to come and establish a missionary station in their village.Like the three wise men,the village men arrived in Pretoria on the day of the Epiphany,on 6 January 1918.

The seven men tribal council members were Mr B Teeme, Mr D Tseleng, Mr E.M Motsepe, Mr E.L Mokgoko, Mr B Ramaboa, Mr J Nthabu and my great-grandfather Mr A Tseleng.Mmakau Village is a tiny tribal enclave outlined on both sides by the beginnings of the Magaliesburg Mountains,80 kilometers to the north-west of Pretoria.

A few months passed until the church sent a pot-bellied,bespectacled priest by the name of Fr Cammilus De Hovre to the village.A German priest belonging to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate(OMI) congregation of priests,Fr De Hovre began his fortnightly cycling trips to Mmakau from the city,spending three to four days in the village,and under the care of the men`s families before returning to Pretoria.No sooner than the villagers expected,he had begun church services and conversion to Catholicism of those amongst the village men and women who wished to become the first Christians,and custodians of the Catholic faith in Mmakau Village.

By tribal consent he was allocated a piece of land close to the Chief`s great house,and a stone`s throw from the Tseleng homestead,to begin laying the foundation for the first missionary station amongst this off-shoot tribe of the Batswana nation.He christened the station The Most Holy Redeemer Mission,and at its entrance inscribed the decree on the trunk of a mulberry tree, “From Here We Shall Never Move.”

Three years down the line a stone-building church – the stones readily collected from the nearby mountains,a rondavel for his residence and a primary school building had been built.It was at this primary school,the De-Wildt Primary School, that my grandparents Mabuse and Jane Tseleng began school,amongst the first group of students in the school.

Across the mountains in the old Lady Selbourne township of Pretoria, lying on the northern outskirts of the city, my paternal grandparents Ishmael and Velezizweni Moloantoa,were making final preparations for my father,his older brother and two of my aunts to make the journey up north,to what is today known as the Limpopo Province, to pursue their education at a variety of missionary schools.My father and his older brother Thapelo attended the Catholic boarding school Pax College in Polokwane,while my aunts Mabel and Meisie were sent to all-girls Glen Cowie Secondary School in Sekhukhuneland,also a Catholic missionary school.

My mother Ceilia followed in her parents` footsteps,and started school at the De-Wildt Primary School.

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A commemorative plague for the seven founder members stands at the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Mmakau Village.My great-grandfather is third on the list.His brother is seventh.

Close to the end of the 1980`s the family made a move to Dube Village,in Soweto,Johannesburg.We were to live with my mother`s uncle,and my grandfather-by-kinship,Arthur Tseleng. It was through my first engagements with grandfather Arthur that my immersion with the history and the heritage of missionary education and its spin-offs on South African society earnestly gained a foothold in me.

Arthur was a son of a roving Anglican Church priest.His childhood had been spent trudging from one place to the other across the country with his clergyman father and mother.Having finally realized that it did not augur well for his development and stability,his parents sent him to Addams College,in Natal,to complete his junior and high school education.

Founded by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the oldest foreign mission society in America, Addams College was a leading education centre for Africans,and also the first education institution for Africans in South Africa to offer mathematics and science as a part of its school syllabus.It was also unmatched in offering post-matriculation courses such as a teaching diploma to its successful final year students. Upon achieving his matriculation, Arthur went on to qualify as a teacher at the teacher`s training college in the school.

Upon his qualification in 1955 he took up his first,and only teaching post as a History and English teacher at Orlando High School in Orlando Township,a township of Soweto.He rose through the ranks to become the school`s deputy headmaster,and started a school library.He subsequently became involved in schools sports and served as the president of the Soweto Schools Sports Association(SSSA) between 1971 and 1975.He retired from teaching in 1976.It was during his retirement years that he related to me tales of his time at Addams College and at Orlando High School.

Our discussions had a good departure point – our own little corner of Soweto . Dube Village was named after an early pioneer of missionary education in South Africa,and amongst the early African educationists – the Reverend John Langalibalele Dube.Amongst his other outstanding milestones was that he was the founding president of the South African Native Council(later to become the African National Congress).Arthur had another factor in common with the Reverend Dube – they were both alumni of Addams College.

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Still standing – The original school building of De-Wildt Primary School.

Three years ago I was requested by the parish council at the Most Holy Redeemer Church in Mmakau Village to conduct research, and compile a booklet about the church`s origins and development over its 93 years of existence.

As I plunged into the research I discovered that not only was the history of the church,the oldest amongst Pretoria`s black Catholic churches unrecorded ,but its role in early education was also unrecognised.This led me to further excavation on the pioneership of the Christian church in education in South Africa in general,and the documentation of this important role.I discovered that the role of Cristian churches,i.e missionary education – through early mission schools such as De-Widlt Primary School,was hardly documented neither in audio,video nor through literature in book form.

I decided to make it my mission to expand the project onto a wider scale, and put together a form of a collective documentation – in book form – about the story and pioneership of missionary education centres in South Africa.It is my hope that through the project the nation,and the world will finally recognise the crucial role of these foundations of black educational excellence in South Africa.

I believe that it is of utmost importance to revitalize their memory and crucial role in the progression of South African society.It is indeed a tribute to missionary education that the first president of a free and democratic South Africa ,Nelson Mandela and many of his peers in the struggle against apartheid, were products of missionary education.

My project`s objectives are to:
– Show the impact of mission education in South Africa.
– Show the role of missionary education in the propagation of ideas such as democracy, equality and human rights in the 19th century, against the backdrop of racial oppression and colonization.
– Cover the development of missionary education and its purpose as a breeding ground for a new type of African leader, and subsequently a new African nationalism whose consequence was the development of the ideological underpinning of a century-long political offensive that would finally lead to the demise of state-sanctioned racial discrimination in South Africa.

I believe that it is our responsibility as the last witnesses of inequality based on race in South Africa to account for the role that missionary education fulfilled in the founding of the modern South African state.I believe that it is important that this memory be reclaimed, restored and reinvigorated for our benefit,and more importantly for the benefit of future generations.