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Andreas Ngidi
Andreas Ngidi as a young priest [1*]

Four first black priests: Ngidi, Mncadi, Mbhele, Mnganga

Four first black priests: Ngidi, Mncadi, Mbhele, and Mnganga (seated) [2*]

Ngidi and Mariannhill colleague

Ngidi and Mariannhill colleague [3*]

Ngidi, Andreas Mdontswa
1881 to 1951
Roman Catholic Church
South Africa

Andreas Mdontswa Ngidi was the third black Catholic priest in South Africa.

Ngidi was born in the year 1881, not even a decade after the 1879 Zulu War and soon after the capture of King Cetshwayo of Impande. His father, Mbhemiwegudu Ngidi, had three wives, the third of whom was Nomakholwa Ndlovu. She had two sons, Mdontswa and Mbhelekwana. Mbhemi's early career was that of an ox-wagon driver working on the route between Durban and Johannesburg [1], and it is believed he was very strong. Ngidi said:
It is said that he was so strong, that down Donlsamfana mountain (near Inchanga Railway Station)-finding it impossible to stop the wagon-he would take off the hind wheel with one hand, and get the team down safely. Once more it is said that some German settlers near Botha's Hill got into trouble with him, their oxen having trespassed on his mealie field. Mbhemi would go out single-handed to fight it out, when old Mabuyabuya, his father, would call out to his other sons to hold their brother back and not cause more damage and bloodshed. [2]
In 1886, Mbhemi took his third wife, Ma Ndlovu, and her two children away from his Denge Kraal to Donkvlei between the Inkonzo and Umzimkulu Rivers, under the Mondi Mountains, on the main road from Durban to Kokstad in Griqualand East, Cape Colony. He then left for Pondoland, selling medicine for many years. Ma Ndlovu had to stay with her relatives near Inondi Store at Manzomphofu until her two boys had grown up. She helped her brother, Nkotheni ka Cimbi Ndlovu, looking after his cattle, horses, and goats along the slopes of Mondi Mountains. The encroachment of the European settlers into Natal adversely affected the Ngidi family.

Ngidi's uncle, Nkotheni, had remained under Chief Mqandane Mlaba, or Ximba, who was chief of the whole of the Cekwane Valley since 1886. But the time had come when the Africans were to give up their beautiful land in favor of European occupation. So Ngidi's uncle had to leave his place on the Manzimpofu Spruit. It was on these beautiful meadows that one day Ngidi had seen the Trappist Fathers and Precious Blood Sisters passing to their newly founded Centocow Mission on the south side of the Umzimkulu River. He had a chance to speak to the kind-hearted missionaries and was deeply impressed by their kindness even towards African herd-boys. His soul lingered often to ruminate on these loving missionaries for many years after. [3] The positive interaction that Ngidi experienced with the missionaries made him determined to learn more about them and to be educated by them.

In 1890, some Zulu people were moved from Umzimkulu Valley to Camperdown and the Emahlathini District in Zululand. This was because Chief Mqundane of the Mlaba, or Ximba, clan had taken part in the Zulu war of 1879, and his people were to claim their share of the spoils of war in Zululand. However, Ngidi's uncle, who had taken part in the war against the British armed forces in Zululand, rebelled against Chief Mqundane and did not follow him, but remained defiantly near Camperdown. He named his daughter Nomambuka, meaning "the daughter of rebellion," thus openly cutting off all ties and allegiance to his chief.

Ngidi's mother left with Chief Mqundane and her younger son. Ngidi was left with his uncle, Nkotheni, near Camperdown. His uncle later moved to Nsikhuzane Stream, and Ngidi moved with him to the farm district between Richmond and Thornville Junction railway station. He helped his uncle, herding cattle and goats and ploughing the fields. Like his father, he enjoyed traveling, and he went to visit his mother and brother at Ekuphindeleni, near Pietermaritzburg. From there he had visited Maritzburg as a carrier of medicine bags for Nyawane, Mqundane's brother, a renowned medicine man, who also had divining bones which his young carrier used to mix, shake, and throw on the floor to divine all events, happenings, and diseases to be cured by the physician and his master. Naturally, Ngidi, whose father was also a great inyanga (traditional healer), was right in his element. [4] During these visits to Pietermaritzburg Ngidi attended evening school where he learned Wesleyan prayers from the schoolmaster, who was also the local Wesleyan preacher.

Later, Ngidi returned to his uncle's kraal; his uncle was at this time working for Indians for a wage of five shillings a month. As Ngidi received scant food and was made to work hard at his uncle's kraal, he decided to run away and look for a job that would provide better remuneration. Near Thornville railway junction, he came across a man called Gong, whose European overseer, Mr. Williams, was looking for a young boy to babysit. In those days it was not easy for girls to babysit European children. Ngidi got the job and stayed with the family for eight months. The family moved from farm to farm and sometimes even went to Maritzburg. This "offered [Ngidi] an occasion to attend night school in the city. He was very eager to learn reading and writing." [5]

At the age of eleven, the urge to become a Christian increased. At this time, Ngidi had worked for Mr. Williams for eight months and he was paid seven shillings per month. It was the custom in those days that if you wanted to terminate your employment, you simply asked your master to increase your pay. One day he saw an ox-wagon passing on its way to Umzimkulu and, wanting to use it as a means to reach Centocow, Ngidi asked for a pay raise. Mr. Williams set him free. Ngidi travelled with a middle-aged woman who had relatives in Richmond. When they reached Inondi store, the owner recognized him and wanted to hire him as a cook. As Ngidi knew that Centocow was nearby, he consented. In the space of a month, he saw all his old friends and prepared to start school and abandon his job as a cook.

His Schooling

So it came about that Ngidi was admitted to the mission boarding school at the beginning of October 1892. He offered himself for the baptism classes, and two years later, on March 19, 1894, he was baptized, choosing the name of Andreas. From then onwards he decided to live "a good life." As he said himself, things became easier for him. "Even learning seemed easy after baptism as if the waters of salvation had washed even the brain in the black head of the African boy." [6] Bede Gramsch arrived from Lourdes and took charge of the boarding house. He saw that Ngidi was very clever and believed he had the potential to become a priest. "Andrew Ngidi who has never attached any love for any place or familiarity with home surrounding agreed on the moment to try his best in following this ideal." [7] In 1896, three more boys came forward to offer themselves for training for the priesthood. This resulted in letters being sent to Rome to apply for permission to train the four boys. Andreas Ngidi's lifestyle offers us some perspective on the early Kholwa (or converts). [8]

The Kholwa fell into three categories: those who converted for future material gain, those who were pushed out of their homes by family and turbulent events and therefore needed land, and those who were outcasts. To some extent, the circumstances of Ngidi's life-including his abandonment by his father and being left with an uncaring uncle by his mother-meant he could be included in the both the first and second category. For him this was an opportunity, possibly one which offered material gain. In addition, Ngidi wanted to become a Christian and acquire an education.

During the Griqua rebellion, which broke out near Kokstad, Ngidi was sent by Bede Gramsch to the Lourdes Mission with letters stating that the Lourdes school children should be sent to Centocow. In 1897, the rinderpest, a deadly cattle sickness, broke out, and then swarms of locusts devastated the mission lands and fields. [9] At times school children were asked to drive away the swarms. Ngidi used to go out with the superior of Centocow to pray and to spray disinfectant on the cattle in the fields. Meanwhile, the application letters which had been sent to Rome for the four boys to be trained as priests came back. Although they were all accepted, two of the boys then withdrew; this left Ngidi and Julius Mbhele as the only candidates for the priesthood.

A particular incident that encouraged Ngidi's vocation as a priest is related as follows:
In the meantime, in 1898 the first African South African priest, Dr. Edward Mueller, had arrived in Durban and visited some of the mission stations and in Centocow Andrew saw him celebrating Holy Mass and he served mass. All that went to confirm his vocation and gave him more courage. If this African went to Rome and came back as a priest, why not I? Of all the Mariannhill Mission stations only Lourdes in Griqualand East answered the call and Julius Mkomazi-our Rev. Dr. Julius Mbhele-became available to go with Ngidi overseas. [10]
Ngidi was in grade eight at this time and, as the time to leave for overseas drew closer, he worked hard and reviewed his Latin lessons. He also practiced his English with the colored students from Kokstad.

His Departure for Rome

Andreas Ngidi and Julius Mbhele left for Rome on September 22, 1899, just two days before the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War. They stayed there for eight years and were quite successful. Ngidi says of his academic prowess, "In fact, the younger African passed these examinations with greatest honors, getting 'Excellent' in the Classics, Latin, and Greek, having always topped his classes in all subjects. A rare fact! Of course, Greek students could not be beaten in their own Greek language." [11]

Ngidi and Mbhele both received doctorates in philosophy and, in addition, Ngidi completed a doctorate in theology. Soon, the fulfilment of their most ardent desire arrived: the day of their ordination to the priesthood in the Lateran Basilica by Cardinal Respighi, the vicar of Rome, on May 25, 1907. Both said their first masses the next day, "the Rev. Julius Mbhele, being the dean of the class, in the chapel of the Propaganda College; while Father Andrew Ngidi chose to celebrate his first mass in the German national church, Del Anima, for he had great love and gratitude for the German missionaries in his country…. Shortly before, their group had been received by the Holy Father Pope Pius X." [12]

Before returning to South Africa, they visited Switzerland, Germany, Holland, and England, arriving home in 1907. [13] After their return, the two priests were assigned to different missions in the vicariate of Natal. Ngidi worked at Keilands, Lourdes, and Cassino Mission Stations. [14]

While working at Maria Telgte Mission, Ngidi experienced some trouble with his rector, Albert Schwieger. The rector spied on him, sneaking into Ngidi's room and stealing the material he was writing, to see whether it was contrary to the missionaries' beliefs. Ngidi had written some notes on what he thought the situation could be after the white man was defeated. After reading these the rector was scandalized. Ngidi wrote to the bishops about his grievances concerning the rector, saying:
If the Rev. Gentleman with whom I am at issue has made all the experiences I have made here in South Africa, the land of my birth and my all, he would not so easily take scandal at what I have written, or so lightly judge me as lost and the like. Has the said Rev. Gentleman once been showed the kitchen for a room for the night and for meals; has he even been obliged to sleep a sleepless night in a cow-stable at a farmer's house? Has he ever been asked to take meals in the kitchen by a Catholic family; has he ever been in company with a European minister, shown a native teacher's hut by the Protestant minister and so parted company with his fellow ministers? Has he been abandoned, in the train compartment, with the remark, "We don't travel with niggers," by a number of ministers of the same Catholic church; has he ever been asked by a superior of his to go and baptize a European child at a "farm" and there left as a boy to be asked by a native girl to come and eat in the kitchen (which, of course I refused, as I did in all other cases)? [15]
Ngidi later moved to Zululand and worked at Nongoma, Eshowe, Emoyeni Holy Cross Mission, Nquthu, Qudeni, and Nkandla. [16]


Ngidi was very ardent in preaching the gospel to the people. On several instances he was called upon to lead evangelism campaigns for the people. [17] This can be seen clearly in a letter from Bishop Jules Cenez OMI, vicar apostolic of Basutoland, "I have just found your letter today....With pleasure I give you faculties to come to visit tese [sic] poor souls in Basutoland, to hear their confessions, to baptize teir [sic] children and to teach them. I shall always be grateful for all the good you will do to them and for the help you will thus give us. I have been desirous for a long time to send something there." [18]

Apparently, the vicar was experiencing some manpower problems in his diocese so he called upon Ngidi to help him. Andreas Ngidi and Thomas Pierce [19], both diocesan priests, were planning to form a religious order [20] specifically for missions [21] to non-Catholics. On the point of non-Catholics, Pierce thought that "the mission to non-Catholics is the surest, and often the only means of reclaiming bad Catholics." [22] Ngidi was very enthusiastic in giving missions, as Pierce confirms: "It gave me great pleasure to hear that you have been giving missions again, this time in Swaziland. And it is a most encouraging thing to find that your services are in demand over a large territory in the country." [23]

Ngidi wanted as many people as possible to be converted. He was particularly impressed with the work of Bishop Spreiter of Eshowe. By 1926, Ngidi had left the diocese of Mariannhill and joined the Zululand vicariate. He worked in the diocese for several years and enjoyed considerable success, so much so that in 1937 Ngidi wrote to the bishop about the great success this diocese was enjoying:
I deem it will console and encourage your Lordship to hear the appreciation of the achievement of the Benedictine Order, under your Lordship's wise and able guidance, for one who for eleven years has himself, though quite unworthy, been associated with the same Christian endeavor. From the year 1922 to the present 1937, the progress of the Eshowe Vicariate has with leaps and bounds overtaken and surpassed older missionary bodies in the mission field, both Catholic and Protestant. One hears now from one end of Zululand to the other that Catholic or Benedictine missions are springing up like mushrooms all over the land, and it is indeed true: Inkamana, Entabeni, Mbongolwane, Cassino, Gonzaga, Nongoma, and Fatima with their numerous outstations. Schools are really record breaking in the annals of missionary activity. [24]
When the four black priests were ordained, the Catholic Church and other churches did not have a strong missionary spirit-and, in fact, the Mariannhill and Eshowe dioceses were exceptions. These two dioceses were therefore aligning themselves according to the main focuses of the church: to evangelize people and spread the gospel as far as possible. This same missionary spirit is clearly evident in Ngidi. He went further by trying to join Thomas Pierce who wanted to form a religious order mainly dedicated to mission work. In spite of his successes, however, there were still some problems, especially with his bishop.

In this case we see a challenge to the hierarchy of the church: even though other people liked Ngidi to present missions, the bishop saw this as a threat to his authority and, in October 1933, he refused to give him permission to do so. Ngidi was invited by Father Muldoon OMI to preach a mission to the native teachers, catechists, and Catholics in general in Johannesburg. However, Bishop Thomas Spreiter refused to let him go. Among the reasons he gave was that, "Father Andreas is now on a new mission and engaged with a lot of work." [25] But more pertinent is the reply he gave to the priest-in-charge, Muldoon:
In my opinion it would be a blessing to have...missions...to native teachers...But the case is, to have priests for such a work. Father Andreas Ngidi, some years ago, has given so far as I can remember, a mission in Pietersburg. The trouble was-that is quite privately-the result may perhaps been good for the audience-but not for himself. Therefore I stopped it to send him outside. Could I help on, I would do it with the greatest pleasure. I have here another native priest, Father Julius Mbhele. The case is the same and besides that he has absolutely no voice. Therefore, please excuse me. [26]
From the above letter the suggested conclusions are that the bishop wanted to stop Ngidi from preaching these missions because he thought that Ngidi would take too much pride from his pastoral success. The bishop went further and alleged that the results for both Ngidi and Mbhele were not good for them. To prevent Ngidi from becoming independent and successful, he forbade him to preach missions. There might be other reasons which caused the bishop to refuse, but the second letter is indicative of the attitudes that existed. When Ngidi preached the missions he became a threat, possibly to the bishop, and took much pride in his success.

The Catholic African Union (CAU)

Ngidi also worked with the Catholic Africa Union, which empowered black people through self-help projects so that they could be self-reliant. He asked people to be involved in projects which were going to help the priests and the people. For example, a person (not identified in the letter) wrote to him saying: "Father, I am contemplating about the task you have loaded upon me. I mean that of starting an 'Association for Mass Stipend.'" [27]

The association was supposed to consist of ten men each contributing not less than £6-0-0 (equivalent to $778). To enhance this project, a newspaper was supposed to be started; the editor was to be Mndaweni. M. R. R. Dhlomo, editor of the Bantu World, was supposed to assist with journalistic skills. [28]

The Catholic African Union (CAU) was started by Bernard Huss, a priest from Mariannhill, who was very concerned about the betterment of Catholics. As Stuart Bate states:
The vision of the Trappists…was to establish Christian rural settlements around the mission where the local people were attracted to the Christian lifestyle through the advantages it offered: "better homes, better fields, better hearts" was the way this vision was articulated by Father Bernard Huss. Often this vision was linked with the idea of eventually providing the tenant farmers with some kind of freehold, something which was to be continually thwarted by the political authorities. Sometimes farms were acquired just for the sake of providing tenant farmers with land to work or even with the aim of giving them freehold in the hope that being close to the mission they would use the mission facilities of worship and education. [29]
The formation of the CAU was influenced by the founding of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) in 1919. It is usually suggested that the Catholic organization was formed in response to the ICU or to protect the Catholic faith because the ICU was aligned with communism. [30] The ICU was involved in the mobilization of the largely illiterate and politically unsophisticated African rural people and was led by Clement Kadalie, a young Nyasalander. The main thrust of the ICU was to fight for the rights of the workers so that they were given a better deal. The CAU offered itself as an alternative. It wanted to improve the lives of the people because, by the early 1920s, drought, cattle fever, and crop failure had led to rampant poverty in the already overcrowded reserves. [31] It was more than a response to communism, as was pointed out by Lydia Broukaert, in her honors thesis "Better Homes, Better Fields, Better Hearts: The Catholic African Union, 1927-1939." She argues that, even though the leaders of the ICU professed to be anti-Christian and antimissionary and the upheavals in Natal were quickly blamed on them, the church's response in creating the CAU was an inherent cognition of the real grievances of Africans in the countryside of Natal and the changes that took place. The organization captured the support of the African Catholics who worked on the land of mission stations and of mainly Catholic teachers, who were born and educated at Catholic missions. [32]

The CAU meetings dealt with saving, cooperatives, farming, elementary bookkeeping, accounting, and business methods. From such meetings emerged practical organizations like the Farmers' Unions, Savings Banks, and Thrift Associations. Every year, industrial and agricultural shows were held that provided important incentives for better home industries and farming practices. In 1926, the People's Bank was founded in Transkei, followed by the establishment of branches elsewhere. Among these was the Mariannhill branch, which operated until 1979. [34]

The CAU promoted the Catholic social principles promulgated by Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XI. [35] In keeping up the spirit of CAU, Ngidi was heavily involved in training Africans for leadership positions and also in helping Africans uplift themselves economically. [36] A nondenominational savings scheme organization, which involved other churches, was formed and run by the CAU. Ngidi was asked to be an honorary advisor to the board of directors of this scheme.

When Ngidi joined the Zululand Diocese he became widely known, resulting in people often coming to him for advice and input. As Bishop Dominic Khumalo noted, "he was a well read man." [37] An example of his popularity and counsel is the 1944 meeting of the Catholics Teachers Federation in Zululand, [38] at which B. W. Vilakazi asked Ngidi to give a talk on "The place of Catholic teachers in South Africa." [39]

That Ngidi was an active participant in political and social reforms is reflected in his trying to establish an association for mass stipends, helping train Africans for leadership positions within the CAU, and giving advice to people in leadership positions.

The Zulu Cultural Society

Ngidi was fluent, and sometimes referred to as an expert, in Zulu. For example, in 1939, the publisher Shuter and Shooter wrote to him saying that his name had been forwarded to them by a Mr. A. Kubone of the Government Native School at Howick. Apparently, they had "…difficulty in finding people who are sufficiently conversant with the Zulu language and, of course, the new orthography, to check manuscripts before they go to the printers." [40]

Selly Ngcobo from Natal University College asked Ngidi about the Zulu tradition on issues pertaining to food. Ngcobo was doing research on what foods are allowed to be eaten in accordance with Zulu custom. Ngcobo wrote, "I should be very glad indeed if you could perhaps in a separate paper give me a fairly comprehensive report on taboos and prohibitions connected with food (among the Zulu [people])." [41]

In addition to his expertise in terms of the Zulu language, Ngidi also had an extensive knowledge of Zulu traditions and culture. Once, a young priest named Dominic Khumalo asked Ngidi about some Zulu customs. He recalls that Ngidi was a short, jovial man. Khumalo asked him about the occasion in the Zulu marriage and about when it is considered official. Ngidi said, "The couple assemble...the elders ask them, 'Do you want to be married?' And the couple say, 'Yes.'...… Later, the government put police officers, and they would ask the couple whether they wanted to get married. If they said yes, then there was another big dance which demonstrated that the marriage was now official." Khumalo further inquired, "Suppose the second part was not performed, after the whole day of feasting, will the marriage be valid or not?" Ngidi replied, "It [marriage] will not be there." [42]

Ngidi did some translating of the Bible and also of the mass book into Zulu. [43] He also published articles on Zulu orthography. Here is an excerpt of a letter Ngidi received: "I got a letter from Rev. M. Kalus for publication in UmAfrika in which he criticizes your articles on orthography. Probably he has sent you also a copy of it. I hope you will not be influenced by his letter, but will finish your articles which are very interesting." [44]

Ngidi was involved in the Zulu Cultural Society (Ibandla likaZulu) which had been formed by the Natal Bantu Teachers Union (NBTU), later changed to the Natal Teachers Union (NATU), and then given complete autonomy. Its aims were to encourage the African in his worthwhile indigenous culture, to stimulate intelligent research on the blending of cultures, and to tell the world who an African was. [45]

The society had 200 members including all the chiefs in Natal and Zululand. It consisted of an executive committee and committees on religion, music, economics, Zulu history, Zulu orthography, and the Natal Code of Native laws. Ngidi served on some of these committees with B. W. Vilakazi from Witwatersrand University. [46] While deeply involved in this society, he also helped other members. For example, Chas Mpanza, a member of the society, once asked him to help with the "Zulu place-names." [47] No one else in the country could assist, as Mpanza explained, "You will understand, Father, that I would not have thought of giving you all this worry if I could find someone else in the country who could give me dependable guidance in this matter." [48]

The South African government also consulted him when it was preparing a collection of native history and customs. [49] The "natives" were going to be paid for writing down this history. A person was supposed to write a detailed history of a tribe, stories of individual people, customs, and praises. The emphasis was that, "the (quarter) information should be obtained only from an old or reliable person and their exact words should be written." [50] All these requests suggest that people relied on Ngidi and also that he must have been a knowledgeable person. History, however, does not seem to acknowledge this aspect of Ngidi's life.

From Ngidi's writings and his involvement in the Zulu Cultural Society, one can suggest that Ngidi was trying to uncover and affirm Zulu culture by contesting the European worldview. Instead of embracing new European cultural elements, he went back to his own culture to find his identity. In this way, he contested the whole process of colonization and civilization, which looked at most of black culture as "barbaric." This might not have been a conscious challenge although, as we shall see later, he complained to the abbot, saying, "If I am not free to commit to writing subject matter for my private study, consideration, reasoning, and also speculation, I fail to understand why I should be allowed to think at all." [51]

His Purchase of Land

In 1910, after the declaration of the Union of South Africa, a committee was selected in Parliament to formulate legislation which would restrict land ownership by Africans and limit the number of Africans who could squat on white-owned land.

With the introduction of the Land Act of 1913 and the amended Act of 1936, both African and European missionaries faced problems with the issue of land. The racial lines used to divide the country meant that Europeans could not buy land in black areas and vice versa. Even though Bishop Fleischer objected to diocesan priests owning land, [52] Ngidi went ahead and bought two plots in Clermont Native Township outside Durban. [53] Some priests used land fruitfully to the advantage of the Catholic Church:
Father Edward Mnganga has not been questioned about his plot at Waschbank. He has been allowed to build a chapel and school there. This is stated in a letter to Father Leyendecker from Andreas Ngidi who was at the Benedictine Mission at Nongoma in Zululand in 1936. See also the Title Deed for Plot 637 and 628, the Clermont Township (Proprietary), Ltd., Cassino, Nqutu via Dundee, August 15, 1924. [54]
Ngidi himself clearly recognized that owning land was an advantage. "In fact, the fathers here [in Zululand] would only be too glad to have native priests buy land where European missionaries are debarred and where schools and chapels could be obtained in accessible regions to Europeans." [55] Indeed, Ngidi used this advantage to the fullest and purchased land. Some other priests used the opportunity to earn a living, too. For example, Fr. Julius Mbhele bought a farm near Ixopo. Since the priests were not very sure of their future, especially in the Mariannhill Diocese, buying property was sometimes used as a safety device for times of trouble.

Fundraising for Scholarships

Ngidi helped as many people as he could with education. Since he was influenced by Bernard Huss's philosophy of Catholic upliftment, he carried his responsibility with great commitment. He raised money for people like R. A. Mndaweni [56] and Emmanuel H. A. Made to complete their tertiary education. Some of his friends, like B. W. Vilakazi from Witwatersrand and E. P. Mart Zulu from Johannesburg, also helped out. When Bishop Spreiter died in 1944, Vilakazi and Made-both former students of Inkamana High School-set up a scholarship at the school which was for matric students only. [57] Inkamana High School was the first in the country to have students completing the University Joint Matriculation Board Syllabus. Bishop Khumalo concluded by stating, "I hear afterwards that he helped many people. That is one of the reasons why he had properties and he didn't have much of a salary from the bishops. Today they may but strictly speaking the priest hasn't got a salary. He gets something to help him live. But I heard that Father Ngidi was very interested in the education of young people." [58]

It is clear that, by the late 1940s, Ngidi had done a great deal for the church and his achievements as one of the first black priests were well known. During these last few years of his life he met Dominic Khumalo, Mansuet Biyase, and Nicholas Lamla. These bishops and this priest have provided some valuable insights into his life through interviews. By 1945, Ngidi's health had started to deteriorate; he had developed diabetes and stayed in hospital at Nongoma for almost six months. He died in 1951 and is buried in the cemetery at Inkamana.

George Sombe Mukuka


1. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1, "A. Ngidi, Autobiography of Andreas Ngidi." Full text at this link: www.dacb.org/stories/southafrica/ngidi-autobiography.html
2. Idem.
3. Idem.
4. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1 no. 2, "A. Ngidi, Autobiography of Andreas Ngidi."
5. Idem.
6. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1 no. 5, "A. Ngidi, Autobiography of Andreas Ngidi."
7. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1, "A. Ngidi, Autobiography of Andreas Ngidi."
8. Norman Etherington, "Christianity and African Society in Nineteenth Century Natal," in Natal and Zululand from Earliest Times to 1910: A New History, eds. Andrew Duminy and Bill Guest, (Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1989), 294-295; see also, Norman Etherington, "The Rise of the Kholwa in South-East Africa: African Christian Communities in Natal, Pondoland and Zululand, 1835-1880," (Ph.D. Dissertation, Yale University, 1971).
9. For a full discussion on the epizootia of rinderpest, see Benedict Carton, "Blood from your Sons: African Generational Conflict in Natal and Zululand, South Africa, 1880-1910," (Ph.D. Dissertation, Yale University, 1996), 153-161.
10. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1, "A. Ngidi, Autobiography of Andreas Ngidi."
11. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1 no. 8, "A. Ngidi, Autobiography of Andreas Ngidi."
12. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1 no. 9, "A. Ngidi, Autobiography of Andreas Ngidi."
13. The autobiography ends with their arrival in South Africa. The other information on where they worked and what transpired is from oral interviews and archival material; see also, "Ein freudiges Ereignis," Vergissmeinnicht 63, (1907), 194.
14. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1, "A. Ngidi, Autobiography of Andreas Ngidi."
15. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1, "Andreas Ngidi, Letter to the Abbot," Telgte, April 30, 1917.
16. UmAfrika, August 18, 1951.
17. The Catholic Church defines its mission as spreading the message of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments, and exercising charity.
18. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "Father J. Cenez, Letter to Ngidi," Roma, November 13, 1911.
19. Father Thomas Pierce was a diocesan priest who wanted to form a congregation for missions. He was backed financially in the United States of America by Monsignor A. E. Smith of Baltimore. He needed four other priests to commence his congregation.
20. See Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1, "Letter of Father Pierce to Father Ngidi," Hartebeestpoort Hotel Schoemansville, via Pretoria, September 16, 1930. The letter outlines the details of the congregation and is discussed by the delegate, Bishop O'Leary, and Father Pierce.
21. See The South African Apostolate, Hartebeestpoort Hotel, Schoemansvill, via Pretoria, January 1932 (pamphlet also acknowledged by Bishop O'Leary).
22. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1, "Letter from Pierce to Ngidi," Pretoria, June 19, 1931. Between 1931 and 1934, Father Pierce had preached 29 missions. See also, Southern Cross, January 23, 1935.
23. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1, "Letter from Pierce to Ngidi," Pretoria, September 4, 1931.
24. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1, "Copy of Letter to the Bishop from A. H. Ngidi," The Eshowe Catholic Mission, December 19, 1937.
25. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "Letter to the Native Teachers Council, Johannesburg from Bishop Spreiter," October 12, 1933.
26. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1, "Letter from Bishop Spreiter," October 12, 1933.
27. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "Letter to Ngidi from R. Vilakazi," November 20, 1932.
28. Idem.
29. See Stuart C. Bate, "Points of Contradiction: Money, the Catholic Church and Settler Culture in Southern Africa: 1837-1920. Part 2: The Role of Religious Institutes," Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae 26, no. 1 (2000): 165-188.
30. Joy B. Brain, The Catholic Church in the Transvaal (Johannesburg: Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, 1991), 207.
31. Reader's Digest Illustrated History of South Africa: The Real Story (Cape Town: Reader's Digest Association, 1992), 320.
32. Lydia Brouckaert, "Better Homes, Better Fields, Better Hearts: the Catholic African Union, 1927-1939," (B.A. Hons Thesis, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, 1985), 12-13. Mariannhill Monastery Archives.
33. Brouckaert, "Better Homes, Better Fields, Better Hearts," 40; see also Aldegisa Mary Hermann, History of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill in the Province of Mariannhill, South Africa (Mariannhill: Mariannhyill Mission Press, 1984), 56.
34. Brouckaert, "Better Homes, Better Fields, Better Hearts," 40-64.
35. Hermann, History of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill, 57.
36. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "Letter to Ngidi from Malinga," Waterfall Road, Mayville, Durban, August 29, 1939; see also, UmAfrika, June 28, 1947.
37. Dominic Khumalo, interview by author, March 25, 1997, Pietermaritzburg, tape recording.
38. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "B. W. Vilakazi, Letter to Ngidi," Wits University, Johannesburg, February 3, 1944.
39. Benedict Wallet Bambatha Vilakazi (also referred to as B. W. Vilakazi) was a poet, novelist, scholar, and teacher. In the 1930s he attempted to write Zulu poetry in using prosody and rhyme derived from English verse forms. For a full discussion see, David Attwell, "The Experimental Turn in Black South African Fiction" in South Africa in the Global Imaginary, eds. Leon de Kock, Louise Bethlehem, and Sonja Laden, (Pretoria: UNISA, 2004), 158-159.
40. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "Shuter and Shooter Book and Stationary, Letter to Ngidi," June 13, 1939.
41. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "Selly Ngcobo to Ngidi," Natal University College, Warwick Avenue, Durban.
42. Khumalo. interview.
43. Idem.
44. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "A letter from J. B. Sauter RMM to Ngidi," Mariannhill, Natal, November 21, 1930.
45. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "Letter to the Editor: Reply of the Zulu Cultural Society (Signed 'Confidential for Father Ngidi')," n.d.
46. Idem.
47. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1, "A Letter from Chas. J. Mpanza to Father Ngidi," Pietermaritzburg, Natal, November 7, 1939.
48. Idem.
49. See Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "Letter entitled, 'Collection of the Native History and Customs'," July 20, 1938.
50. Idem.
51. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1, "Ngidi, Letter to Abbot," Telgte, Franklin, April 20, 1917.
52. See Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #1, "Letter to Ngidi from Leyendecker," March 18, 1836.
53. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "Letter to Father Leyendecker from Ngidi," Benedictine Mission Nongoma, Zululand, April 14, 1936; see also, Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "Title Deed for Plot 637/628, The Clermont Township (Proprietary), Ltd," Cassino, Nqutu via Dundee, August 15, 1924.
54. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2 no. 3, "Letter to Father Leyendecker from Ngidi," Benedictine Mission Nongoma, Zululand, April 14, 1936.
55. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2 no. 7, "Letter to Father Leyendecker from Ngidi," Benedictine Mission Nongoma, Zululand, April 14, 1936.
56. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "Letter from Mndaweni to Ngidi," Inchanga High School, February 11, 1949.
57. Inkamana Monastery Archives, Vryheid, Andreas Ngidi: File #2, "A Letter to the Public," (signed by Mart Zulu and B. W. Vilakazi), Johannesburg, April 3, 1944.
58. Khumalo interview.


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This article, received in 2008, was written by Dr. George Sombe Mukuka, a faculty research manager at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, and 2008-2009 DACB Project Luke Fellow.