“What will I be remembered for?” Have you ever taken sometime to ask yourself this question?
Not many people do actually. But the truth is, people are always remembered. Some, for the good they have done and others, for the evil they lived.
That explains why Dorothy Height made this honest wish, “I want to be remembered as someone who used herself and anything she could touch to work for justice and freedom…… I want to be remembered as one who tried.”
Winston Hugh Njongonkulu Ndungane is celebrated not just as one who has tried, but as one who has beautified the face of Africa. A veteran of extraordinary repute who continues to give himself for the good of his people.
Born 2 April 1941 in Kokstad, South Africa, Winston Ndungane completed his primary and secondary education at the Lovedale High School, Alice, Eastern Cape.
His undying love for his brethren and detest for apartheid in its entire form drove him to raise a cry against inhumanity. In March 1960 he was involved in anti- Pass Law demonstrations while a student at the University of Cape Town. An action he was sure would earn him a hard time in the hands of his adversaries. And surely just like he foresaw, he was arrested for his anti-apartheid activities. From August 1963 he served a three-year sentence on Robben Island as a political prisoner. And on his release, he was served with a two year banning order.
Ndungane’s attitude towards anti-apartheid activity was shared by several of his schoolmates at Lovedale High School in Alice, a town in the Western Cape. One was Thabo Mbeki, who would one day be widely favored as successor to President Nelson Mandela.
After his release in 1966, he spent a short time back at the University of Cape Town, before taking up a job in a construction company. In 1971 he began to train for the ministry at St. Peter’s College in Alice, near Grahamstown. And in 1973 he was finally ordained as a deacon in St. George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, following up a year later with ordination as a priest.
In 1975 Ndungane left South Africa for King’s College at the University of London. Where he earned first a Bachelor of Divinity degree, then a Master of Divinity, concurrently working as a curate in London, first at St. Mark’s, in Mitcham, St. Peter’s in Hammersmith, and St. Mary the Virgin in Primrose Hill. Yet in his voyage, he never lost sight of the one thing that mattered most to him; the well-being of his people.
By the time he returned to South Africa in 1980, the superiority of South Africa’s apartheid-bound government had been gnarled. He was then made the Rector of St. Nicholas Parish Church in Elsies River, Cape.
In 1981, he was appointed Provincial Liaison Officer for the Church of the Province of South Africa, an independent church with 17 dioceses in South Africa, which was originally formed partly by British Anglican missionaries, and partly by British Anglican emigrants to South Africa, which by the early 1870s became the autonomous Church of the Province of South Africa.
The following year, as the country began to wiggle in intense pain in the grip of the violence that was ordained to break the superiority of apartheid, His grace, Archbishop Ndunage assumed the Principalship of St. Bede’s Theological College, Umtata, in the independent Bantustan Transkei, a position he held until 1987, when a new post as Provincial Canon and Chief Executive Officer of the CPSA gave him responsibility for administration and synodical government.
June 4, 1996 marked a new era for Ndungane when he was elected to fill the position as head of South Africa’s Anglican Church. A positioned formerly occupied by the well-known Bishop Tutu.
Ndungane was formally ordained in September 1996.
Losing no time to make his presence felt, he made an unbiased plea at the Southwalk Cathedral in England on April 25, 1997, to the wealthy countries of the world to pardon the debt of developing nations generally and South Africa in particular, since these had mostly been developed during the years of colonial rule.
Archbishop Winston Hugh Njongonkulu Ndungane’s ministry will be remembered for being the voice of the poorest of the poor, the ostracized and the despised, the neglected, dispirited and totally rejected. His humility, resilience and mission of compassion has served as a beacon to many, especially those who find themselves on the receiving end of racism, bigotry, and discrimination.