Johannesburg bishop detained under apartheid dies at 89

From left, Bishops Sigisbert Ndwandwe, Desmond Tutu and Simeon Nkoane marching in April 1985 to the then John Vorster Square to demand the release of Father Geoff Moselane. (Photo: Robert Tshabalala/Financial Mail/Gallo Images)

The Right Revd Mfaniseni Sigisbert Ndwandwe, a former Bishop-Suffragan of Johannesburg who was detained without trial during the 1980s uprising against apartheid, has died in Jouberton in North-West Province. He was 89.

Bishop Ndwandwe was first ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church and earned the degree of Doctor of Canon Law. After he became an Anglican priest, he and Dean Tom Stanage were elected in 1978 as bishops-suffragan of Johannesburg to assist Bishop Timothy Bavin.

At that time, the Diocese of Johannesburg stretched from the Swaziland border in the east to the Botswana border and the Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman in the West. Bishop Sigi, as he was fondly known, was based in Jouberton and served the western part of the Diocese.

During the uprising against apartheid which began late in 1984, Bishop Sigi and Bishop Simeon Nkoane, who had later been elected to replace Bishop Stanage, both worked with young anti-apartheid activists in their communities and were subjected to attacks by apartheid forces.

In 1985, they joined Bishop Desmond Tutu, recently enthroned as Bishop of Johannesburg, and two dozen other priests in an illegal march to police headquarters in Johannesburg in protest against the detention of Father Geoff Moselane of Sharpeville. Father Moselane was later charged with UDF activists in the Delmas treason trial.

In April 1986, Bishop Sigi’s house in Jouberton was fire-bombed. In response, police arrested him on charges of public violence. They released him, only to re-arrest him under the Internal Security Act, then strip-searched him in public and detained him without trial for 99 days on a claim that he had conspired to murder policemen.

He was later named by the then Archbishop Tutu to a panel of four bishops who were appointed to promote peace during the conflict of the late 1980s and early 1990s in KwaZulu-Natal.

Bishop Ndwandwe is survived by his wife, Dorcas, his children, Mbuso, Donald and Angie, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren. His funeral service is at 8 am on Friday May 11 at the Diocesan Centre of the Diocese of Matlosane.

Please note that this report has been corrected to reflect the correct date of Bishop Sigisbert’s funeral. It is Friday May 11, not May 18 as previously recorded. Our apologies for the error. Thank you also for Fr. Amoore (see comments below) for pointing out that Bishop Sigi was elected at the same time as Bishop Tom Stanage.

11 Responses to Johannesburg bishop detained under apartheid dies at 89

  • I can still rememerd that we would have confirmation on the saterday when th Bishop was release from jaill .at st Peters Klerksdorp and we thought it wont take place .but Bishop said the work of the Lord must go on and it did.I know God had bless Bishop for all he has done. My condeles too the clergy and the Family

  • He was our political umbrella during the repressive system in the 80, We all knew where to run to when attacked by the whites supremacy system. It’s a shame that he left us before we could celebrate his political role as a community of the former Western Transvaal , Jouberton in particular . My his soul Rest In Peace

  • Actually Bishop Sigi as he was affectionately known was elected and consecrated with Bishop Tom Stanage as Bishops-Suffragan of the Diocese of Johannesburg in 1978. Bishop Simeon was elected as Bishop Suffragan in 1982 when Bishop Tom was translated to Bloemfontein. Bishop Sigi was a very gentle and caring man and we remember him well from Alberton where he came and presided over a Latin mass for us one Patronal Festival (translated from the SAPB rite, not the Tridentine rite) .

  • We so loved Bishop Sigi, and Dorcas. During his incarceration, members of All Saints Vanderbijlpark visited him – and when at last he was released, I remember his visit to All Saints. He stood on the chancel steps looking down the aisle at the open door, and described how it felt knowing he could walk down the aisle, out the door and onwards – and no-one would stop him!
    Bishop Sigi ordained Rob as a deacon in December 1979
    Our love and condolences to Dorcas and their family.

  • The faith of our Fathers lives on! Remain blessed even as you rest in perfect peace. Amen.

  • I have fond memories of Bishop Sigi as a teenage girl growing up in Rockville Soweto where my late father was the rector of the parish of Moroka. He was a regular visitor to our home and the parish. When my father passed away in 2008, even though he was in retirement and frail, he drove all the way from Matlosane to the funeral in Soweto. My family will forever be grateful for that. We thank God for his life that touched many. Sincere condolences to his family. May his soul rest in peace and rise in glory.

  • God’s soldiers never die but just pass on. This time around I am like many others equally disturbed by this event of death. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. Commission of inquiry could be the least to give us a closure to the causes of his departure untimely???

  • May his soul Rest In Peace and rise in glory. I was confirmed by Bishop Sigi in Itsoseng,Lichtenburg.

  • Remember him well from our days of living in Vaal Triangle. May he Rest in Peace. Your work is now done

  • bishop Sigi was our interim priest at All Saints Vanderbijlpark. I was licenced as a lay minister by Bishop Sigi what a special day. He was a humble caring God fearing servant of the Lord. My condolences to Dorcas and family. He will be missed but never forgotten. RIP in the arms of our Father God.

  • +Bishop Sigi Ndwandwe was a servant of God par excellent , a bishop and shepherd to the flock of Christ we shall see him at the feet’s of Jesus in the heavenly realm may his soul continue to rest in peace and raise in Glory amen.

    Revd Kwandiwe Ludziya
    Rector of St Stephen’s New Brighton
    Diocese of Port Elizabeth.

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