Five Signatories of the Black Priests' Manifesto: (from left to right) Louwfant, Mabona, Mkhatshwa, Moetopele, Mokoka [1*]
Mkhatshwa, Smangaliso Patrick
Reverend Smangaliso Patrick Mkhatshwa is one of the generation of religious activists, along with Beyers NAUDÉ, Desmond TUTU and Frank CHIKANE, who brought the churches into the antiapartheid movement in South Africa.
After seminary studies at St. Peter's Seminary (during its period of integration), Mkhatshwa was ordained a Catholic priest and spent five years in parish work. In 1970 he began working for the South African Catholic Bishops' Conference, but after a year he was sent to Belgium, where he took philosophy and theology degrees at Louvain University.
Returning to the Bishops' Conference in 1973, Mkhatshwa headed a number of offices, including Justice and Peace, Ecumenism, and finally, in 1981, general secretary. His appointment was a major commitment on the part of the Catholic bishops, because by 1981 Mkhatshwa was a leading exponent of South African liberation theology. By 1974 he had already organized the Black Renaissance Convention, a dialogue of African, Coloured and Indian leaders. After the Soweto riots, he was imprisoned for four months. Upon his release he was placed under a five-year banning order, which forbade him to receive guests or to enter any black township or educational institution. Beginning in 1977, he was imprisoned for another five months during the government crackdown on African community organizations; after attending a prayer meeting at the University of Fort Hare he served five months more in the Ciskei Homeland in 1983 and in 1984. The Ciskei court denied him visits, mail, and exercise during his confinement.
His keynote address to the National Education Crisis Conference at the University of the Witswatersrand in 1985 was a major influence on the freedom movement's acceptance of student participation. The following year, he was a member of the delegation of South African church leaders that met with the exiled leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) in Lusaka, Zambia.
In 1986, Mkhatshwa was arrested under emergency regulations, along with Zwelakhe SISULU, Sister Bernard NCUBE, and others. During this imprisonment he was tortured for 30 hours by members of the South African military, and upon release he sued and won R25,000 (US$10,000). It was the first time the government had been forced to pay compensation to a South African political prisoner. Shortly thereafter, he was received by Pope John Paul II in Rome in a demonstration of solidarity by the Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and by Tübingen University in Germany.
Mkhatshwa left the Catholic Secretariat in 1988 and became general secretary of the Institute for Contextual Theology, a leading research center. In the 1994 elections he was elected to the South African parliament as an ANC member of the House of Representatives.
Norbert C. Brockman
Gastrow, Shelagh (ed.). Who's Who in South African Politics. 3rd. edition. New York: Hans Zell, 1990.
[1*] Five Signatories of the Black Priests' Manifesto: (from left to right) Louwfant, Mabona, Mkhatshwa, Moetopele, Mokoka.
Photo from Magrath private file: Southern African Dominican Archives, Springs.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from An African Biographical Dictionary, copyright © 1994, edited by Norbert C. Brockman, Santa Barbara, California. All rights reserved.