Solomon Malangabi Ndzimandze was born at Ensangwini (place where dagga/marijuana is cultivated) in the Pigg’s Peak area. His father was Mathathenyane and his mother Lozandla. A hut burned at the time of his birth and they named him Malangabi (Flames). As a boy he ran away from home and found work. For five years after that he was in the army of the Swazi King Mahlokohla and joined the Lisaka Regiment at Lobamba (the Royal Court). There he had to find his own food and it was a period of privation and hardship. He learned tribal customs, to respect authority and to look after himself.
At the age of twenty-six he did not know the gospel and was ready to marry many wives, build a home and become an important person. Once an Anglican preacher had visited his home and made an impression on him. He did not join the police at Pigg’s Peak because he feared the “sorcery” of the whites. Working at Barberton, in the Mpumalanga Region of South Africa for money to buy clothes, he used to spend weekends looking for girls.
A friend persuaded him to visit church and the preacher’s tears, as he spoke, made him feel that what he said was very important. He saw his need and could not sleep that night. In the next meeting he raised his hand and said, “I choose the Lord.” Later working in Pretoria he met a Presbyterian minister. Over the next nine years Ndzimandze matured as a Christian and received training as a worker for the Lord. He was afraid to return to Swaziland lest he lose his faith but he was overjoyed, when he did go in April 1911, to find that missionaries, the Schmelzenbachs, had arrived and lived near his home.
He married Miss Martha Mabilisa (1891-1964), a third generation Anglican. He had heard about this fine Christian girl living near Oshoek and wrote to her before they even met. They arrived at Endzingeni in March 1912. Harmon Schmelzenbach accepted him as the first Swazi minister. For five years the Ndzimandzes worked with Missionary Etta Innis (who became Mrs. Shirley) at Phophonyane (Grace Mission Station) fifteen miles away. Ndzimandze preached with great emotion and was a zealous visitor in the homes of the people. In the evenings he helped teach in the school.
They had twins, a boy and a girl. The boy died three months after birth and the girl became sick. Martha wanted to let her play on the grave of her twin according to Swazi custom. She discussed it with the missionaries and then decided not to do so. This gave her a new vision of the power of Christ.
About this time Ndzimandze sought and found the infilling of the Holy Spirit. During the visit of General Superintendent H. F. Reynolds in 1914 Martha grasped the truth of holiness and was entirely sanctified. God greatly used her testimony about this. In 1921 they went to pastor at Hhelehhele and it became the strongest church in the area.
Ndzimandze did much praying and would pray in the church building each evening from 5:00 until 7:00. One day while praying he began thinking of all those who had been members of his church who had gone back into spiritual darkness. He wrote down all of the names he could think of and wrote letters to all of them expressing his concern that they come back to the Lord.
Martha too knew how to pray and she became a great preacher. She was greatly revered by the church and was referred to as “Our Mother in Israel.” If they ever hurt anyone with their words, they quickly apologized. Kind words were the rule in the home. Ndzimandze was always ready to apologize. Whenever he realized that someone in the congregation felt resentful, Ndzimandze would carefully endeavor to find out where his own fault lay in the problem. Everyone loved him. The other ministers called him Phuphutha (“grope searchingly”), referring to his unceasing efforts to keep a happy understanding between the workers and missionaries. This was a problem during the depression years of the early 1930s when preachers’ subsidies had to be drastically cut.
He had a great sense of humour. He knew that some of the people only came at Christmas time because of the feast at the church. When asking the Lord’s blessing on the food Ndzimandze would pray for a long time and then laugh afterwards saying that he was teasing them with the delicious aromas of the food that was waiting. Ndzimandze loved to preach and had a way of introducing truth through humour. Then when he gave the invitation in his wonderfully persuasive way, people readily responded to the Lord. Under his leadership congregations of people, filled with the Holy Spirit, grew quickly.
Ndzimandze was a generous giver in the church. Once when his Alabaster Box (Offering for mission buildings around the world) was opened it was found to contain the equivalent of one month’s salary.
Traditional doctors in the area once threatened to burn down Ndzimandze’s church with lightning. One Sunday while they were in service lightning did strike the outside wall of the church and went on into the ground. The church did not burn.
Once in 1928 Ndzimandze was thrown from a mule while on the way to an appointment. He was kicked and dragged with one foot held in the stirrup. There was no one to help him and he was left lying unconscious and badly hurt in the bush. He was eventually found and helped. Dr. David Hynd examined him at the Dalangubhe Clinic and took him in his own car to Manzini Hospital. Ndzimandze was coughing up blood. He was in hospital for six months recovering and continued to be unwell until 1934 when he finally recovered fully. However he carried on his work for the Lord in the meantime.
In 1930 their eldest daughter Hosea, a fine Christian girl of eighteen, died of enteric fever. Their son Morris died in 1939 soon after arriving back from training in Natal. He was a fine Christian young man and was thinking of training to become a medical doctor to meet a great need in Swaziland. He had also been considering God’s call to the ministry. The Ndzimandzes’ deep trust in God was very evident through all of these difficulties and bereavements. The day after his son’s funeral, Ndzimandze preached as usual in the services at Bremersdorp (Manzini).
He was ordained in 1939 by General Superintendent J. G. Morrison. The following year, Jimmy, the six-year-old son of missionaries Rev. William, “Masithulele” (let us be still), and Mrs. Margaret Esselstyn, gave his heart to the Lord after hearing Ndzimandze preach at Crown Mines (Johannesburg). Little Jimmy went to be with the Lord six months later.
Rev. Ndzimandze was appointed the leader of the district in 1942 and was elected chairman of the first annual assembly that year.
He had to retire in 1945 when he became blind from diabetes. He became very ill in later life. One day he called the whole family together at his bedside. With great effort he rose slightly in the bed, raised one arm and lifted his Bible. With great emotion he asked his children, “Who will carry this book? The elder sons were quiet but his daughter, Juliet, although still young at the time, took the Bible and replied, “I will carry the book.”
In 1961 Martha needed a home and was given a place at Manzini to assist Missionary Betty Lou Cummings as Matron of the work girls’ hostel (with about one hundred girls) Martha undertook to care for the discipline and personal evangelism. In the hostel courtyard there was a tree. Under it the ground was bare and hard where Martha was often seen sitting with one or more of the girls talking and praying together. Martha also acted as chaplain in the hospital spending much time visiting and praying with the patients. At the request of the missionary Martha kept a record one year of how many were won to the Lord through her ministry and at the end of the year the total was seventy-one.
Paul S. Dayhoff
Juliet Ndzimandze, interview by Beth Merki, tape recording, Manzini, 18 March 1992; Harmon Schmelzenbach III, Schmelzenbach of Africa: The Story of Harmon F. Schmelzenbach, Missionary Pioneer of Swaziland, South Africa, (Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 1971), 38; Dr. Anderson M. Nxumalo, letter (Kwaluseni, 1 January 1996).
S. Ndzimandze, “Testimony,” Umphaphamisi (The Herald) vol. 1, no. 1, Swazi-Zulu magazine of the Church of the Nazarene for Swaziland and South Africa, (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Nazarene Publishing House, January 1918), 4; Lula Schmelzenbach, The Missionary Prospector: A Life Story of Harmon Schmelzenbach Missionary to South Africa, (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1936), 145.
Rev. L. C. Sibandze, “Life of Solomon Malangabi Ndzimandze,” Lebone la Kgalalelo, (The Lamp of Holiness), Pedi/Sotho/Tswana magazine of the Church of the Nazarene in South Africa, (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Nazarene Publishing House, January-March 1978), 8.
Solomon Ndzimandze, letter to the editor, Umphaphamisi, (January 1936), 7-8.
F. Chism, “His Image in Ebony,” The Other Sheep, (Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, January 1941), 19.
Salome Dlamini, interview by Beth Merki, tape recording, Manzini, 19 March 1992; N. N. Kunene, “The Late Morris Ndzimandze, Umphaphamisi, (April-May 1988), 5; Saul Dlamini, “Tribute to Morris Ndzimandze,” Umphaphamisi, (April-July 1939), 6-7.
W. Esselstyn, letter (19 June 1993).
L. C. Sibandze, “Life of Solomon M. Ndzimandze,” (handwritten document), Nazarene Archives, Manzini.
Chuck Gailey, Daughter of Africa: The Story of Juliet Ndzimandze, (Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 1998).
Rev. Betty Cummings, story (University Park, Iowa, 26 August 1999).
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.