Archbishop Makhulu honoured for helping SA’s liberation

An archbishop who was brought up in Pimville, Soweto has received one of South Africa’s highest honours from President Cyril Ramaphosa.

No, it wasn’t Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, who grew up in Pimville after his family was forcibly removed from Alexandra north of Johannesburg in the 1970s. It was the retired Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Revd Walter Khotso Makhulu, who lived much of his life in self-imposed exile, and who has been recognised for his contribution to the country’s liberation.

At a ceremony in Pretoria on Thursday, President Ramaphosa conferred on Archbishop Makhulu the “Order of the Companions of OR Tambo” at the annual ceremony during which national honours are conferred on distinguished individuals.

The citation lauded Makhulu “for his courageous contribution to the fight for liberation.” It continued: “He followed his calling and lived the ideals of lending a helping hand to his fellow human beings. He provided refuge, comfort and family to young activists arriving in exile to join the South African liberation struggle.”

After growing up in Pimville, he was one of the young ordinands trained by members of the Community of the Resurrection at St Peter’s Seminary in Johannesburg before the seminary was expelled from the city under apartheid laws.

After serving a parish in Soweto, he moved to Francistown, where in the early 1960s he gave refuge, food and clothing to young activists fleeing South Africa and Namibia, raising enough money to buy a house in which to accommodate them.

After further training at the Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham, he served as a priest in London, where he met and married Rosemary, an English church worker. Prevented from living in South Africa by the Mixed Marriages Act, the Makhulus spent the rest of his ministry in the UK, in Geneva – where he was the secretary responsible for African refugees in the Commission on Inter-Church Aid Refugee and World Service at the World Council of Churches – and in Botswana, where he was Bishop of Botswana and later Archbishop of Central Africa.

In Botswana he continued his ministry to South African refugees at a time when apartheid military forces were launching raids into Botswana and attacking exiles and those who gave them support.

For more than a decade from 1980, he clandestinely funnelled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Norwegian government and churches to institutions and individuals in South Africa with the objective of providing legal, educational, medical and other humanitarian assistance. For this work, the Norwegians called him – in a book on his work – “the Church’s Secret Agent”.

He is a past president of the World Council of Churches and the All Africa Conference of Churches, a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG), and a recipient of France’s Ordre des Palmes Académiques as well as Botswana’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Order of Honour.

He now lives in retirement in London.

9 replies on “Archbishop Makhulu honoured for helping SA’s liberation”

I often think of Walter Makhulu with great fondness because he married My husband Michael and I at St Phillips,Battersea in June 1974.We are still happily married, and I smile at the impression of his strong guidance.
I have not contacted before.

I often think of Walter Makhulu with great fondness because he marries my husband Michael and I at St Phillips,Battersea in June 1974.We are still happily married,and I smile at the impression of his strong guidance.I have not contacted before.

Archbishop Walter is a delightful man of great humility and distinction. It has been my privilege to know him and, before she died, his wife Rosemary. To hear him give the blessing in his own language at the end of a service makes the dismissal to go out and serve the Lord profoundly moving.

All I can say is he’s unforgettable…. A gift to human kind. He touched so many people’s lives in way you cannot imagine and that includes my life too. I am what I am now, all because of his love and kindness. His words even today (31years later) still echo in my mind….. “Umuntu Akalahlwa…. Every life has a purpose, and every life matters in the eyes of God!”… Those words will stay with me for the rest of my life. Thank you My God Father…

Judge Dumsile Faith Dlamini-Dlamini

‘Uncle’ Walter’s wife Rosemary was my father’s cousin. They have been an inspiration to me from a very young age: people who made a difference for the benefit of others, whatever the sacrifice to themselves.

Archbishop Makhulu helped me from Botswana, through Kenya then eventually help me resettle in the United State in 1988.
I called him daddy, he was very very good to me. The last time I talked to him was when I left South Africa again in 1997. I miss him dearly.

An exemplary person he was. I could not have attended the University College London without his help.I was in Botswana when he helped me and I only knew him as our bishop at the Botswana Anglican Catheral next to Princess Marina Hospital. Very sad to hear his wife has passed on. I have not seen him for more than 20 years!!! An example of what a good person does. I will not forget you Bishop Makhulu!!!!!

I met Archbishop Walter Makhulu from 4-8 May 1987 at Pamodzi Hotel, Lusaka, Zambia when he Chaired an anti- Apartheid conference organized by the World Council of Churches-Programe to Combat Racism. It was addressed by ANC President Oliver Tambo, Swapo President Sam Nujoma, PAC Chairman Johnson Mlambo, Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Nathan Shamuyarira and officially opened by Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda. Archbishop Bonifatius Haushiku of the Roman Catholic Church in Namibia opened it with a prayer I was one of the journalists from the Council of Churches in Namibia who came to cover the conference led by Dr Abisai Shejavali, CCN General Secretary. I still have Archbishop Makhulu’s photos and remember him as brilliant liberation fighter and humanitarian. I recall when he responded to Nujoma’s speech that even though Nujoma said Swapo is ready to fight for twenty or more years, he hoped it will not be the case. And eventually true to Archbishop Makhulu’s hope and wish, it took only three years Namibia to be free. He rightly deserves the honour and recognition given to him!!!

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