A Tale of Three Maggies
© Hirst, M. 2007 Imvubu 19: 1, 4-5.
Elijah Makiwane was born in 1850 at Sheshegu, Victoria East. His parents became Christians after his birth. He attended school at Ncerha under the Wesleyan teacher, Joseph Mjila, and then went to study at Healdtown. According to Stewart, when he entered Lovedale in August 1865, he was deficient in even the most elementary subjects, but made rapid progress in his studies. He proceeded regularly through all the classes until he became one of the first students of theology and qualified for the ministry of the Free Church.
Makiwane was the second black minister trained in the Eastern Cape to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church, the first being Mpambani Mzimba. However, unlike Mzimba, Makiwane remained a loyal Presbyterian throughout his life finding ways to express his independence. He was never subservient and became a most valued minister.
Two years after his arrival at Lovedale and while still a student, Makiwane was appointed an assistant teacher in March 1867 and subsequently taught the junior classes in the mission school. He was assistant editor of Isigidimi Sama Xosa from its first publication in October 1870 to 1875 and from the opening of the telegraph office in November 1872, he had charge of the work there for a year. At the end of 1871 the Lovedale Education Board granted him a Certificate of Honourable Mention, which paid tribute to the influence his character had exerted on others and his spontaneous and unselfish conduct while studying at Lovedale.
The course prescribed at the time for black students for the ministry in the Free Church Mission did not differ materially from the theological curriculum in Scotland. The course included literature, philosophy, languages and divinity. Through diligence and ability, Makiwane did well in his studies. Between 1875 and 1877, he taught the first year class at Lovedale. In 1875 he was licensed as a minister by the Free Church Presbytery in the Eastern Cape and in 1877 he was appointed pastor of the Macfarlan mission church at the Tyhume.
In August 1877 Elijah married Maggie Majiza, a former student of Lovedale Girls School. It was a match to which Jane Waterston, matron of the girls’ hostel at Lovedale, gave her seal of approval. However, the marriage did not last long since Maggie died in 1883 leaving Elijah with three children. Daisy, born in 1878, was the first black woman to matriculate with mathematics as a subject. Cecilia, born in 1880, served as a nurse for many years at Lovedale’s Victoria Hospital. Ashton, born in 1882, was the couple’s only son.
Although Elijah encountered many difficulties, his work at Macfarlan Mission prospered. In 1889 he married Miss Mtywaku of Peelton, whose Christian name also appears to have been Maggie. Elijah strove to achieve equal working conditions for black and white ministers in the Presbyterian Church. His work at Macfarlan was greatly assisted by his new wife, who wrote to the children of Scotland to raise much needed funds to repair the decaying mission buildings.
Elijah suffered much of the fallout caused by his old friend Mzimba’s schism from the Presbyterian Church. One of Mzimba’s followers, Gaba, who was originally a member of the Macfarlan church congregation, made false charges against Elijah, who had to write to the Mission Committee in Scotland warning them that the charges were false. Mzimba’s followers tried to draw away members of the United Free Church to join his new independent church. They stirred up Chief Mbovane Mabandla to exert political pressure on their behalf to gain control of the Macfarlan church congregation. Unfortunately, as a result, the Macfarlan church became the focus of political pressure exerted by Mzimba’s followers and the ensuing acrimony split the congregation apart. When Makiwane and his wife arrived home from pastoral visits to villages some distance from Macfarlan in October 1904, they found their house on fire. Although Elijah’s children and a niece were all asleep inside, he managed to wake them and a tragedy in the making was luckily averted. When Mzimba died in 1911 Elijah was invited to speak at his funeral. With great courage and insight, he pointed out that the formation of Mzimba’s separatist church had increased, if not introduced, a sense of distrust between white and black and black and black that would be a real difficulty for some time to come.
Maggie Makiwane died in 1917 leaving six children. After qualifying as a teacher, Cecil taught at Lovedale for many years. He went to Swaziland for a while. After retiring from teaching, he settled and farmed at Tsolo. After Tennyson had completed his education at Lovedale, he entered the service of the Transkeian General Council, which he served until it became the United Transkeian General Council. After qualifying as a teacher and studying overseas, Tandiswa became the first wife of Professor D. D. T. Jabavu of Fort Hare University. Linda, the youngest daughter, also qualified as a teacher and married the Rev. Lennox Jolobe, the elder brother of Rev. J. J. R. Jolobe. Certainly, for the times in which they lived, the Makiwane family had a proud record of educational achievement.
Elijah moved to Tsolo where, after fifty years of service as a Presbyterian minister, he retired in 1920. In 1927 he married Mrs Maggie Dlova, a local teacher. The marriage only lasted a year as Elijah died at his home in 1928, a loyal Presbyterian minister to the last. R. V. Selope Thema (1886-1955) writes of the stirring moment when he, as a teenage boy in the nineteenth century, first laid eyes on Elijah Makiwane in his village in the Northern Transvaal. “When Mr. Makiwane prayed in Xhosa and I heard him, through the interpretation of Mokele Raphela, praying for men and women, boys and girls, who were still in darkness, I was thrilled and my imagination was stirred.”
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Burchell, D. E. 1979. A History Of The Lovedale Missionary Institution 1890-1930. Unpublished MA thesis. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal.
Matthews, Z. K. Rev. Elijah Makiwane. Imvo Zabantsundu, 21 October 1961.
Millard, J. A. Elijah Makiwane. (http://www.dacb.org/stories/southafrica/makiwane_elijah.html)
Shepherd, R. 1940. Lovedale South Africa. The Story of a Century 1841-1941. Lovedale Press.
Stewart, J. 1887. Lovedale Past and Present: A Register of 2000 Names. Lovedale Press.
Tshabalala, M. 2002. Speech At The Cecilia Makiwane Nurses’ Recognition Award Ceremony. (http://www.doh.gov.za/docs/sp2002/sp0405.html)