Mahewu Nkambule was the greatest traditional doctor, yinkunkela, in the Ngowane area. It was said that he had the power to raise a person from the dead. One day he became sick with pain in his head. People said that he would recover because the ancestors would heal him as always.
Nkambule had heard the Word of God preached. One day a believer visited him and spoke to him about becoming a Christian. Nkambule committed himself to the living God. He sent some children to inform the Nazarene pastor at Ngowane, Pastor Esther Shabangu, that he was now a believer. She went to visit him and found that his faith was genuine. At first he was unable to speak but as they sang a hymn, “I Have a Saviour Who Weeps for Me, the Greatest Friend on Earth,” he began to sing along with them. They read James 5:13-15, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.”
After they had prayed with him he said, “While I was still well I wanted to repent. It is not as if I was repenting just because I am now sick. No! I was really planning to believe.” He confessed his sins and asked God to help him to forsake all of them. He truly confessed wholeheartedly. He continued speaking, “I see before God my sin of drunkenness. I have truly forsaken it. I do not want liquor any more. I do not want the demons any longer. I do not wish for them to be appeased on my behalf (ngishayelwe). I wish to do only one thing and that is to praise and worship God. If the Lord gives me strength I will attend church services.”
His children and everyone in his homestead were greatly shocked. They said, “Oh! But we went to the doctors and they threw the divining bones. They told us that if we appease (asimshayele) the ancestral spirits on his behalf he would recover.” They purchased red and white charms (ihiya) and white beads (ubuhlalu). The doctors had said that it was not possible to discontinue praying (ukumshayela) to the ancestors for Nkambule or the spirits would become angry. So the family determined to carry out the necessary rituals for his healing (sizoshaya thina). However Nkambule told them, “I absolutely forbid to have the appeasement rituals done for me. Do them for someone else, not for me. I only want Christians to kneel and pray for me. I have surrendered myself to God.” The Christians read to him Psalm 51: 1-12 and he told them, “I see light before me; I do not look behind me any more.” On the day set to worship the ancestors on his behalf (ukumshayela), his family tried to exhort him but he drove them away.
Pastor Shabangu said that whenever they visited him he had words of testimony to God. He truly loved the Lord. One day he said, “I want to tell you, Shabangu, before the day that God takes me, that I wish to be buried by the believers. If God takes me it is all right, or if he heals me it is all right.” The believers continued to pray for his recovery but he prayed that God’s will be done. Nkambule’s last words were to his child, “I see the gate! Don’t you see those two open gates?” The child answered, “No, Father, I do not see them.” That was the end. It was the morning of Friday, August 22, 1953.
Pastor Jotham Magagula of Endingeni led the funeral the following day. Teacher L. Sibande, Miss Ludiya Khumalo, and Mrs. Ruth Gama were there along with a great crowd of people. Pastor Shabangu wrote of that service, “It was a very good service; we felt the presence of God. There was great quietness and respect. The people listened to the word of God.”
Paul S. Dayhoff
- Esther Shabangu, “The Death of Mr. Mahewu Nkambule,” Umphaphamisi (The Herald), Swazi-Zulu magazine of the Church of the Nazarene for Swaziland and South Africa, (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Nazarene Publishing House, October-December 1953), 11.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Africa Nazarene Mosaic: Inspiring Accounts of Living Faith, first edition, (Florida, Gauteng, South Africa: Africa Nazarene Publications, 2002), copyright © 2001, by Paul S. Dayhoff. All rights reserved.