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Mandlenkosi Aloysius Isaac Zwane (1932 - 1980)

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

Mandlenkosi Aloysius Isaac Zwane (1932 - 1980) Awarded for:
His caring ministry to both South African and Mozambican refugees; his developmental strategies to pull communities out of poverty; his support for the struggle against apartheid; and the struggle to rid churches in Swaziland of their imperial trappings and colonial tendencies.

Profile of Mandlenkosi Aloysius Isaac Zwane

Mandlenkosi Aloysius Isaac Zwane was born on 4 April 1932 in Swaziland. He received his primary education first in an Anglican school at Esigangeni and later in Sandla Township. He then attended Matsapa High School and later finished at Salesian High School at Manzini. Between the two schools, financial difficulties meant that he had to leave school and look for work in Johannesburg. Here, for the first time, he experienced the palpable impact of racial polarisation. At Salesian High School Zwane joined the Catholic Church and priesthood. Part of his training for the priesthood was done at Pevensy in Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and later at Hammanskraal, outside Pretoria.

Zwane studied philosophy and theology at St Peter’s Seminary and was ordained priest of Manzini in 1964. He was appointed Bishop of Manzini in January 1976, after which he was ordained Bishop of Manzini in May 1976. He focused his ministry on lay ministry, social development, communication and refugee issues.

Zwane was much concerned with poverty eradication. He was so impressed by the community extension programme facilitated by Prof Stan Sangweni of Swaziland that he requested that the initiative be extended to his church. He realised that he needed skills and so he requested permission from his church to attend a course in community extension. Arrangements were made with the Cody International Institute Antigonish in Nova Scotia in Canada for one year between 1969 and 1970. The course focused on how to organise communities to lift themselves out of poverty.

On his return, Zwane did remarkably well, getting people to see that religion and the material well-being of the people are not mutually exclusive.

In 1973, after realising that the Swaziland Council of Churches was not taking the needs of the black people seriously, Zwane met with other church groups and co-founded the Council of Swaziland Churches (CSC) on the 13 November, 1976. His main concern was to get rid of the trappings of an imperial church and provide capable and available black priests with responsible positions in the church.

After the Soweto Uprising of June 16, there was an influx of children from South Africa into Swaziland. The girls were taken to Thokoza Anglican Church in Mbabane while the boys were taken in by Zwane. Others were, however, housed in people’s homes.

Under the leadership of Zwane as chairperson of the CSC, clean water was provided to communities while other programmes dealt with refugees and scholarships.

Support for refugees was not only spiritual and material but it included assisting them to go to other countries. Zwane also built schools for adult learners and, as first Bishop of the Catholic Church in Swaziland he could liaise with the King regarding the refugees from South Africa and Mozambique.

He was also a writer and secretary general of the Council of Bishops. His writings focused on issues such as human development, freedom and human rights. Among his writings, in the essay Black Catholics of 1982, Zwane issued a series of challenges to the church to live up to its mission of striving for the truth in the face of hostilities.

The honour and dignity of being a bishop did not take away any of Mandlenkosi Bishop Aloysius Isaac Zwane’s personal qualities such as his simplicity and closeness to those who assisted him. To everybody he was always known as ‘Mandla’ and never as ‘His Lordship’ or ‘Bishop’. It was this modesty that made him mix so easily with all types of people, old and young, the learned and illiterate, the saint and sinner.

Mandlenkosi Zwane died in a car accident in 1980.