Mthanjiswa Mpumlwana 2012


Mthanjiswa Malusi Mpumlwana was born in Qumbu in the Eastern Cape into a home that had very clear and set values and beliefs, which had a profound impact on how he would live his life.

Driving the political agenda through SASO, he failed to focus on his studies at the Natal Medical School in the early seventies, but went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Theology from the Associateship of the Federal Theological Seminary in Pietermaritzburg.

From October 1973 to December 1981, he lived under a series of banning orders and serial detentions without trial, despite which working with Black Consciousness leader, Steve Biko on projects in the community especially in the areas of the economy, education and health.  Assisting communities in eking out an existence under the yoke of Apartheid, he realised the role God plays in the life of the oppressed and performed his duties in the conviction that whatever the cost, they had to be done in the name of justice.

In 1985, he enrolled for an honours degree at the University of Cape Town and went on to further his studies at the Notre Dame University of Indiana.

The killing of the Cradock Four in 1985 deepened his conviction to work tirelessly and fearlessly on emancipatory projects. He was posted in areas like Crossroads, Gugulethu and Uitenhage, allowing him in his ministry to be confronted by poverty, exploitation of the poor, state-sponsored black-on-black internecine conflict, necklace killings and other gruesome aspects of the oppressed; and he incorporated into his pastoral engagement the task of community peace-making – both in Cape Town’s Crossroads conflict and especially in Uitenhage where his collaboration with community leaders yielded celebrated successes.

Bishop Mpumlwana had a burning quest to see a unity movement in South Africa where the banned ANC and PAC as well as the Black Consciousness Movement would work together.  This initiative, of promoting unity among diverse political disquisitions, saw him work with illustrious South Africans like Mapetla Mohapi, Harry Gwala, Robert Sobukwe, Zeph Mothopeng, Griffiths Mxenge and others.  He learned the social engagement method of “See-Judge-Act” and put this to good effect in all the political interventions he undertook.

Apart from currently serving as the Bishop of the Ethiopian Church, he has served as the Africa Director of the WK Kellogg Foundation, Chair of the National Development Agency (NDA), a member of the Advisory Council on National Orders whose task it is to sift through the nominations for awards, and advise the President of the Republic on who best qualifies for recognition, Chair of the CIDA City Campus, a non-profit business school for children from poor families and recently accepted a role in the National  Defense Force Service Commission.

Bishop Mpumlwana is currently the Bishop of the Northern Diocese of the Ethiopian Episcopal Church, giving strategic direction to the mission of the diocese and overseeing the pastoral ministrations of priests and lay leaders.  His mission in the church is to contribute to the making of an all-inclusive African church experience whose spirituality empowers the weak, the poor, women and the young, and engages the social and economic realities of our time for the common good.

He is married to Nandisile Thoko and they have four children and four grandchildren.

In recognition of his religious and political leadership and substantial contribution to democracy and community development, it is an honour for NMMU to confer the degree of Doctor Philosophiae (honoris causa) on Bishop MTHANJISWA MALUSI MPUMLWANA.