Ben H. Khoza was born in the village of Edinburgh in the Eastern Transvaal Lowveld, Limpopo Province, the son of Samuel Shimuhlu Khoza and N’wmadubula Shitsalala Maria Chawane. He received his primary school education at the local Nazarene School and in 1963 he attended Maripi High School (now Orhovelani High) at Thulamahashe. During the first year or two he used to either walk or cycle to and from school - a distance of some eight miles. He later became a boarder at school.
A talented, diligent and dedicated student, Ben represented his school in athletics, excelling in the 100m and 200m hurdles. Articulate and persuasive, Ben also represented his school in debate. His exceptional talent was in his velvet voice, which was as soothing in speech as it was delightfully entertaining in singing. Ben, together with colleagues Donald Mahlangu, Johannes Mtonga and Zebulon Mapbosa, founded the first Orhovelani King’s Messengers Quartette, which pleased audiences for several years. One of his favorite songs as a King’s Messenger was “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” Imbued with leadership qualities, Ben was elected head prefect during his final matric year. His contemporaries remember him for his disciplined approach to his role as prefect.
Upon completion of his matric, Ben enrolled in the Nazarene Bible College at Arthurseat to study theology. This is where he met his wife, Hannah Mkhabela, daughter of the pioneer church leader, Rev. Ezrom Mkhabela.
On February 1, 1972, he secured employment with the post office at Acornhoek. In 1979, he was transferred to the Letaba Post Office near Tzaneen where he was promoted to the position of postmaster. He returned to Acornhoek to head up the branch as postmaster and was then transferred to a large post office at Nelspruit in 1986. By 1998, Ben was promoted to the position of area manager, based in Witbank, Mpumalanga Province. From this base he supervised post offices in Dennilton and Groblersdal in the former KwaNdebele area. The Khozas retired at Thulamahashe in September, 2003.
Along with his career with the post office, Ben served faithfully as a lay leader in the Church of the Nazarene wherever he worked. While he was postmaster at Letaba, Ben attended the Nkowankowa Church in the early 1980s. He encouraged and helped the church to become self-supporting under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Idah Ntimane. One year at the district camp meeting he spoke on the biblical concept of self-support and giving of tithes and offerings.
In 1993, he represented the Church in South Africa as a delegate to the General Assembly in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. His fervent desire and prayer for the church to succeed in effective evangelism is reflected in the following poem which he wrote in 1970:
Xirilo Xa Vuxa-Bya-Transvaal (The Lament of the Eastern Transvaal)
Banani nkosi n’we tintshava ta Muhuluhulu,
Na n’wina swinambyana ni mikova rilani.
Ntumbuluku hinkwawo a wu ve nkosini,
Wu rilela xifundza wa rikwembe, mafelwa.
Swikoxani, tshikani ku ba mikulungwani,
Swikhalabyani, tshikani ku ba miloti,
Na n’wina vana, tshikani ku khana,
Hikuva tiko hinkwaro re le xirilweni.
Tiko re le hansi ka vukarhi bya Xikwembu,
Ku pfumaleka mulanguteri, mutsundzuxi,
Wa ku tshinya, ni ku va tsundzuxa,
Leswaku nyimpi ya vukarhi y’e henhla ka vo’.
Xikwembu Xi n’wi lavile exikarhi ka vona,
Kambe Xi n’wi pfumarile, loyi a nga pfunaka,
Ku sivela vanhu ekhombyeni leri ra ku fa,
Kutani khombo ri le henhla ka hinkwavo.
Kambe makwerhu wa pfumela leswaku va fa,
Ba nga pfuniwanga eka nandzu wa vona?
Ku fa ka vo’ ku ta laviwa enhlokweni ya ku
Hi siku Hosi yi ta ka avanyisa misava.
Vona leswaku u nga tikokeli lumba ro biwa,
Hi ku nga hlamuli ku vitana ka Hosi ya ku
Hikuva hi wena la vitaniweke sweswi ku famba
U va byela etikweni leri ra ka Ramabulani.
Loko u pfumela, mikateko ya tilo yi chululelwe
Wena ni va xifundza, ni va matiko mambe
Pfuka hi famba ri xile, ku vonakala ku kona.
Pfumela u ta hanyisa wena ni vamakwenu.
(Explanatory Note: This is written in archaic and traditional Tsonga/Shangaan praise language. It laments the spiritual darkness in which the people of the Eastern Lowveld of Limpopo Province live subject to the wrath of God.
Where is the person who will agree to rebuke them and warn them of the danger they are in? God is seeking that person who will help them and shelter them from the danger that threatens them all.
You, our brother, who believes that they are dying, do not help them in their guilt. Their death will be on your head on that day when the Lord judges all the earth. Do not deny that it is you who is called to minister to this land.
If you respond, the blessings of heaven will be poured out upon you, your community and the entire country;. Arise and go while it is still morning and it is still light! Say “yes” and you will live along with your family.
The poem is a clarion call to all the people living to the East of the Northern Drakensburg Mountains to repent and surrender their lives to the Lord.
- The Editor)
Hannah passed away on January 12, 2005. Shortly after that on March 27, 2005 Ben also passed away. Ben and Hannah had five children: Dorothy, Sithembiso, Howard, Suzan and Teddy. At their father’s funeral their children gave the following tribute: “Ben lives on in our hearts and minds. His legacy will linger on for generations to come.”
Paul S. Dayhoff
1.Isibani/Lebone, (The Lamp of Holiness), Combined Swazi/Zulu and Sotho Magazine of the Church of the Nazarene in South Africa (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Nazarene Publishing House,January-March 1971),14. 2.From the obituary in the funeral service programme of Ben H. Khoza.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Standing Stones of Africa: Pillars of the Faith in the Church of the Nazarene, unpublished, copyright pending, 2004, by Paul S. Dayhoff. All rights reserved.