Tributes are coming in for the Swaziland Catholic Bishop and human rights activists Ncamiso Louis Ndlovu who died this week.
Ndlovu had a long history of helping activists in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Even the Swazi Observer newspaper, which is a mouthpiece for King Mswati, called Ndlovu ‘a staunch advocate for human rights [who] was loved by all’.
It said he would be remembered for the part he played in a historic hunger strike by University of Swaziland students in the early 1990s. The students, who were then weak from hunger, were given shelter at the Bishop’s House in Manzini and he prevented police from entering to arrest them.
Musa Hlophe, of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations, said, ‘Bishop Louis was highly respected by the broader civil society movement in the country not only for his passionate commitment to the mission of the church and dedication to the plight of the poor through his many programmes ranging from schools, training centres, clinics, homes for the sick and the dying, support for poor communities among many others. He was also admired for his courageous and unshakable campaigns for peace, democracy and human rights.’
The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), which is banned in Swaziland, said in an official statement, ‘Bishop Ndlovu was a father figure to us as can best be attest[ed] by many of our young activists whom he protected when they were hunted down like ruthless criminals by the Tinkhundla regime. True to his outstanding humanity, the Bishop housed and fed the activists making them feel at home away from home. More than anything he provided them with safe refuge away from the charging police officers who wanted to arrest these activists for daring to question the dictatorial leadership of the government.’
The Swaziland Solidarity Network, also banned in Swaziland, said in a statement, ‘The Bishop was able to present a strong and dedicated voice which spoke truth to power. This obviously made him unpopular with the Royal family such that an attempt to silence him was once made in the nineties as armed men kidnapped him, only to release him.’
Phakama Shili of the Centre for Human Rights, Swaziland, said, ‘As an organisation we acknowledge the role that he has played for human rights advocacy in the country. The church under his leadership has been able to introduce initiatives aimed at promoting social justice.’
Ntombi Nkosi. Chair of the Manzini Council of Catholic Women, said, ‘As women in the church we are heartbroken as he was our father and leader.’
Bishop Absalom Mnisi, of the Lutheran Church and Chairman of the Council of Churches, said, ‘He is remembered for his contribution during the evictions at Ka-Mkhweli area where he provided counselling for those that had been affected as well as food and tents for shelter. As a founding member of the Council of Churches, Bishop Ndlovu always reminded the council to provide for the spirit and also the body as many people living in the rural communities were doing so in abject poverty.
‘The council thus established 48 emadladla where these communities would be fed by the church.’
Ndlovu died of heart failure in the intensive care unit at Mkhiwa Clinic, aged 67.