Thomas Zameya L. Ndlovu was born in the Maphiphi area under Chief Mnikwa Dlamini, across the northern border of Swaziland, in the Republic of South Africa. He never had a formal education. While working at a mine a friend gave him some basic education after work. He was saved in a mine compound in 1929 and was entirely sanctified in 1931 .
His grandmother and mother were early converts in the Church of the Nazarene. While working in South Africa for a sheep farmer in 1943, God spoke to him and called him to the ministry. His parents reluctantly permitted him to go to Bible College at Siteki the following year.
His wife, Mrs. Ellah (Ginindza) Ndlovu (1909-1991), had felt a call to the ministry before marrying him. She was a strong preacher and a great leader among the amajoyini (an organization in the church devoted to home visitation and personal evangelism). She often preached in churches at various times and held many revival meetings in the schools in Swaziland. She was a great favourite of the young people. When she became warmed up while preaching Ellah would sometimes throw off her coat and then later her jacket or sweater as well. They were blessed with eight children, six boys and two girls.
Their first pastorate was at Malandzela. There were only eight elderly ladies, no parsonage and practically no money. He would go to the top of a nearby hill and sing loudly, “Ninethuba lokulizwa izwi layo” (You have the opportunity of hearing His Word). This attracted many people to church where they found the Lord. When the Ndlovus left Malandzela three years later a chief of that area had been converted and there were sixty-one members. The Ndlovus then went to Ensingweni. Ndlovu stressed tithing and it soon became the first self-supporting church in Swaziland.
In 1955 Ndlovu became pastor of the Endzingeni church and leader of the zone of eighteen churches. In 1959 they went to minister at the Manzini Church. He was ordained in 1961 by General Superintendent G. B. Williamson.
In 1964 he resigned the pastorate and followed God’s call to become a successful full-time evangelist. He was the first full-time Nazarene evangelist in Swaziland. God used him greatly in this work. He used humour to gain and keep the attention of his congregation. He was widely known for his visual aid on Khebeshe (One who cheats God on tithes). He was also called Sono siyanuka (Sin stinks) and Gubhela kwesakhe. In evangelism he traveled all over Swaziland and Southern Africa. He also preached on the radio and often spoke in national services.
Ndlovu had the opportunity to be Chief Mnikwa’s representative for people living in Mbabane and he had been a member of Parliament. He was loved by people of all ages and was able to accept people from all walks of life. He was a great friend of his children. His messages and jokes remain alive among them.
For twenty-two years Ellah very successfully pastored the congregation at Mbabane, Swaziland’s capital. After Ndlovu retired they continued to pastor the Lavonne Church. After Ellah passed away Rev. Ndlovu resided in the Corporation Township at Mbabane. Their daughter, Pauline, married Rev. Samuel E. Dlamini, who pioneered the work of the church in southern Swaziland.
Paul S. Dayhoff
Thomas Ndlovu, letter to the editor, Umphaphamisi (The Herald), Swazi-Zulu magazine of the Church of the Nazarene for Swaziland and South Africa, (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Nazarene Publishing House, November-December 1960), 5, 9.
Rev. Betty Cummings, story (University Park, Iowa, 26 August 1999).
Obituary of Rev. Ndlovu.
Thomas Ndlovu, letter in Umphaphamisi (April-June 1959), 10; Cariot Shongwe, notes from interview with Thomas Ndlovu (1993); Trans African, (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Africa Nazarene Publications, May-June 1991), 14; Cariot Shongwe, letter (Mbabane, 11 September 1995).
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.