Daniel Peter Mokoroane Lebakeng was a church leader who used modern means of communication very effectively in his evangelization methods. At first he used the printed word, and in the process wrote a best-seller which up to this day still brings in a handsome amount of royalties. He later went into radio work, where he became well-known for his sermons as well as the parts he played in radio dramas.
Lebakeng, as he was popularly known, was the fifth born in a family of twelve siblings. He grew up on a farm in the district of Frankfort in the Free State province of South Africa. His father was an elder in the local congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church and his mother was a staunch member of the women’s guild as well as an accomplished chorister. One of his brothers, Bethuel, went for training as an evangelist two years earlier than he did.
In 1948 Lebakeng went for a three-year training course at the Stofberg Gedenkskool (Memorial School) to qualify as an evangelist for the Dutch Reformed Church. After completing his course in 1950 he went to serve at Kuruman. After some time there he was assigned to work as an editorial assistant for the church newspaper, Lehlasedi, which was published from Bloemfontein. During this time as an assistant editor he was able to write his bestseller Sekoting sa Dihele (“In the Pit of Hell”), an allegorical novel on life in hell. This book, first published by Morija Book Depot in Lesotho in 1954, has been translated into more than sixteen foreign languages. In 1996 it went through a twelfth reprint edition.
On November 29, 1952 he married Neria Gaokaeloe Matolong. After their wedding, Lebakeng went to Petrus Steyn with his wife for a year’s service then went to serve at Oshoek. They were blessed with five children (three boys and two girls) and one adopted son, most of whom eventually went into the teaching profession. One, Mophethi, followed in his father’s footsteps and went into the ministry in the Dutch reformed church, serving a congregation at Botshabelo.
By about 1953, according to his wife, Lebakeng had a strong desire to be a full minister of religion. He confided in his superior at the Lehlasedi newspaper, Rev. Odendaal, who tried to convince him that by working there he was also involved in a form of church ministry. However, Lebakeng felt that he had to seek training to become a minister at his alma mater, Stofberg Gedenkskool, in Viljoensdrift in the Heilbron District and he went to live there with his wife from 1956 to 1961. However before they finished their course, the whole school had to relocate to Qwaqwa as a result of the new Group Areas Act which decreed that Stofberg was situated in a white area.
Lebakeng served in Virginia, Sasolburg, Lindley, Theunissen and Bloemfontein. His wife states that Lebakeng’s greatest gift was that of evangelizing, and bringing people closer to Christ. “From his early days as an evangelist riding his bicycle as he travelled through his parish in Kuruman, through his writings and his radio work, my husband was fired by a strong desire to convert people to Christ,” she said.
According to Mrs. Lebakeng, what really saddened him was the split in the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa, more popularly known by its Afrikaans acronym, NGKA (Nederlaandse Gereformeerde Kerk in Afrika). He remained loyal to the NGKA and refused to join the new Uniting Reformed Church of Southern Africa. He experienced a lot of pain at the trauma of congregations which were being split between the two factions.
Lebakeng retired from the ministry in May 1997. He was then able to take part in many radio dramas and radio series. He mostly played the part of a minister or a concerned parent. He was also well known for the sermons he presented over the radio. Lebakeng was gifted with a radiophonic voice which carried well over the airwaves. Through the means of the Sesotho service of the South African Broadcasting Service he was able to reach most of the people within its area of coverage. This area included all of the Free State, Gauteng, parts of the Eastern Cape and the northwest region.
In my personal contact with him, he struck me as a gifted raconteur as he told me his experiences as a minister of religion throughout the Free State. He was very humorous and a joy to interview.
On December 1, 2003, Lebakeng died in a road accident on his way from Theunissen to Bloemfontein.
Rev. D. P. Lebakeng, interview by author, Bloemfontein, October 20, 2002.
Mrs. Neria Lebakeng and Miss Lisemelo Lebakeng, interview by author at Bloemfontein, September 4, 2004.
Mophethi Lebakeng, telephone interview by author, September 9, 2004.
Mr. Rantsho Rantsho of Morija Booksellers in Maseru, telephone interview by author, September 10, 2004.
This story, submitted in January 2004, was written by Fr. Abraham Mojalefa Lieta of the School of Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, while researching the role of the African clergy in the Anglican diocese of Bloemfontein (1884-1963). Dr. Philippe Denis, professor of the History of Christianity at the University of KwaZulu-Natal is the DACB liaison coordinator and writing supervisor.