John Mayiwane Mazivila/Mazibuko was born a twin into a traditional Shangaan home near Manjacaze in Mozambique. The birth of twins was a serious portent of evil according to traditional belief. The custom was to always dispose of the one born second. He was the second-born but for some unknown reason was allowed to live. As children, he and his sister were not recognized as true family members. They were not helped when sick as they were not considered worth saving. His parents worshipped only the ancestral spirits and Mayiwane was demon possessed as a boy. His father was a traditional doctor and hoped that his son would become a great doctor.
As a herd boy in the valley below the Njatigue Mission in Mozambique, Mayiwane would attend Sunday afternoon services held for the boys by men from the church. His father forbade him to attend but sometimes he would slip in anyway. One Sunday morning when he was in his teens and training as a traditional doctor, Christians visited his home. They sang, testified and prayed. He followed them to other homes, then on to the church and sat fearfully trembling at the back. The following Sunday he returned but the demons attacked and troubled him greatly. On the third Sunday Pastor Mondlane preached from Mark 5:l-20 on the healing of the demoniac.
Mayiwane threw himself onto the altar. Not knowing how to pray, he fell on his face and cried to Jesus, confessed his sins and was forgiven. He felt peace and joy and asked for his hair to be cut short. It was terribly filthy, having never been cut or washed before. He went home to bring in all of his demon things. He was very happy but was afraid to tell his father.
His mother warned him and indeed his father was very angry and hit him until he fled into the bush where he stayed for three days. His mother pled with his father. Eventually he angrily gave his son all of his demon paraphernalia. They were burned after the service the following Sunday. That day in March 1913 the demons were expelled and never returned.
At the mission school he learned to read and write and he studied the catechism. Working on the Rand gold mines (Johannesburg), he joined a different mission. When baptized he took the name John.
John Mazivila married Miss Martha (Marita) Phethene Mathabala (-1994). She was a polite, humble and kind person. She was very active in visiting homesteads and praying for those in physical, material and spiritual need, and was quick to see when anyone was suffering. After the services on Sundays and Wednesdays she would have in her bag something to give one of her neighbours. Martha was soft spoken but her voice would rise as she cried and prayed earnestly for young people who had gone astray.
At home in 1924 John returned to Njatigue that had now become a Nazarene mission. The leaders accepted his letter of commendation with some misgivings. A few weeks later however he made full confession of his sins and truly repented. His life was transformed and he was fired with a holy zeal for the salvation of souls lost in sin. He and Marita were workers there during the great holiness revivals of 1925 to 1928.
He was appointed as pastor when the missionary, Rev. Charles Jenkins, had to be away for three months and he did very well. A girl ran away from the mission and the missionary wife, Mrs. Pearl Jenkins, accompanied Mazivila at night to bring her back. While praying with this girl Mazivila heard God calling him to the ministry. In 1939 he was ordained by General Superintendent J. G. Morrison.
His ministry was distinguished by loyalty and faithfulness. In times of stress and testing he discouraged others from rebellion. He prayed much and always with a deep concern for his people and was especially successful in helping seekers praying at the altar. He was a preacher of power and deep spiritual understanding, a man of deep piety and fervent enthusiasm in the work of the Lord. The missionary working with him, Charles Jenkins, testified, “He is a real African shepherd signally anointed to preach the gospel. The Bible is his one book.”
In 1950 John Mazivila began a twenty-two year ministry in Swaziland. There he used the surname, Mazibuko, the Swazi equivalent of his Shangaan family name, Mazivila. John Mazibuko became a district leader in 1954. He continued to also pastor the Siteki Church and teach in the Bible College. In 1961 he became full-time district leader.
He was a very effective holiness evangelist and was especially able to greatly help people troubled with ancestral spirit and demon worship. His students and fellow pastors received invaluable help as he taught and preached with authority. Many times he was called to hold campaigns in Gazaland, the Johannesburg area, the Northern Province, Natal and throughout Swaziland. In this work he ministered to people of many different ethnic and language groups.
In 1967 he published a booklet in Zulu, Kristu noma Ubuthakathi (Christ or Sorcery). In it he explains the ancient religion of Africa which is based on the belief that the dead ancestors hold divine power over their living descendants. It is thought that all good comes from them when they are happy and all evil is the result of their being angry. Hence animal sacrifices and rituals are carried out by the traditional doctors and heads of families to insure that the Amadlozi (Ancestral Spirits) are always remembered and kept appeased.
Retirement came in 1970. When Mazibuko was on his death bed, Rev. Leonard Sibandze reported: “While he was suffering in hospital, we could see he was blessed greatly. He smiled when he could not speak and it showed in his eyes that he was going with great joy.” He admonished his visitors to preach holiness and continued, “Stop praying for me. Thank the believers for their prayers, but now I want to go. Persevere in God’s work. I will watch for you at the gate.”
His favorite hymn, “Close to Thee,” was sung during his funeral service at Siteki. Some of the tributes to Rev. John Mazibuko were: “We are grateful that he desired to work here among us. His work in Swaziland remains in those that have found the Lord through his words and his life” (Rev. Ephraim Shongwe). Rev. Enoch Litswele remembered him especially because of his stress on self-support and his preaching on sanctification that reached deeply into people’s hearts. Leonard Sibandze reported that he once heard him say, “I received Christ as a young man. Today I am not sorry to be in this way, the way of light and purity.” Sibandze continued, “His way was pure to the end of his days.”
Martha suffered a stroke in 1991. Unable to walk she would witness and speak about heaven to everyone who came to visit her. She died peacefully in her bed on Tuesday, February 12th, 1994.
Paul S. Dayhoff
Mary Cooper, report (3 August 1992).
John Mazibuko, Kristu noma ubuthakathi (Christ or Sorcery), (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Shirley Press, 1967), 34-36.
Amy N. Hinshaw, Native Torch Bearers, (Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 1934), 126-129.
Mr. Lodrick Gama, notes (Siteki 2 March 1992).
L. Sibandze, Umphaphamisi (The Herald), Swazi-Zulu magazine of the Church of the Nazarene for Swaziland and South Africa, (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Nazarene Publishing House, January-March 1973), 2, 6; Mutwalisi, (January-March 1974), 10.
Mrs. Linda Ndlovu (granddaughter of John and Martha Mazivila), report (Siteki, 2 August 1998).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Living Stones In Africa: Pioneers of the Church of the Nazarene, revised edition, copyright © 1999, by Paul S. Dayhoff. All rights reserved.