Bishop Mmutlanyane Stanley Mogoba

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Biographical information

Synopsis:

Robben Island prisoner, banned person, President of Pan African Congress, Bishop of the Methodist Church of South Africa,  Chancellor of the Medical University of Southern Africa and Vic

Title: 
Bishop
First name: 
Mmutlanyane
Last name: 
Mogoba
Date of birth: 
29 March 1933
Location of birth: 
Polokwane, Limpopo
Position Held:

President (1996 - 2003)

Ban information: 
Banned under the Suppression of Communism Act

Stanley Mmutlanyane Mogoba was born on 29 March 1933 outside Polokwane, Limpopo. He was the last born in a family of six. His father Reuben Tshomoko Sethulane worked as a teacher in Nebo District in Sekhukhune and a lay preacher in the Methodist church. His mother Reneilwe did not work but was actively involved in the affairs of the church as the leader of Women’s Manyano. Mogoba attended primary school education very early in his life and by the age of 12, he had completed Standard 6.

After completing his primary education, he went Kilnerton high school in 1947 and it was at this school that his outlook was shaped. Here Mogoba joined the debating clubs, took part in drama, attended church services and was involved in sporting activities such as soccer, tennis and cricket. During this period, particularly in 1949 he became politically aware. He was influenced by Flag Boshielo who was a member of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA).  Boshielo gave him literature such as parliamentary debates by Sam Khan a communist MP to read. As a consequence, Mogoba joined the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL).

As his elder brother was still studying at the University of Fort Hare, his father could not afford to send him for tertiary education after completing his high school. His family advised him to become a teacher. Consequently, he went to Pretoria Bantu Normal College at Vlakfontein where he registered to study for a Teacher’s Diploma. At the college Mogoba served on the Student Representative Council and also edited the college magazine. After three years he completed his Diploma and an additional nine BA University courses. This enabled him to register and complete his BA with the University of South Africa in 1954. 

Mogoba then found work as a teacher at Mokopane High School in Potgietersrus (now Mokopane). He later moved to Kilnerton high school before moving to Mamelodi High School where he taught history. During this period, he was involved with the Transvaal United African Teachers Association (TUATA) and served on its executive committee. In 1959 Robert Sobukwe spoke at a public meeting where he was invited by the Presbyterian Church in Schoeman Street in Pretoria. Mogoba attended the gathering and was impressed by Sobukwe’s presentation. This in turn influenced him to get more involved in politics. When the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) broke away from the African National Congress (ANC) in 1959, he became closely associated with the PAC. Mogoba became involved in political education channelling his students towards understanding political developments in the country.

In early 1963, Mogoba was arrested by the police at his house in Mamelodi who claimed they were searching for weapons and subversive literature. He was taken to Pretoria police station cells where he spent a night before being transferred to Gezina, and kept in solitary confinement, denied access to family visits or a lawyer.  After spending three months at Gezina he was transferred to Pretoria Central Prison where he was held in solitary confinement before being removed to join other prisoners.

Mogoba was charged with furthering the aims of unlawful organization - the PAC. He was sentenced to three years in prison and sent to Pretoria Central prison.  He was transferred to Leeuwkop prison which is just outside Johannesburg where they were humiliated by being stripped. From here, he together with other political prisoners were loaded in police van and transported to Cape Town on their way to Robben Island.  Mogoba and other prisoners spent a night in Colesberg prison before continuing the journey. Upon arrival he was allocated prison number 20/64, and forced to work at the Stone Quarry breaking rocks for the construction of the Maximum Security prison. He was subjected to the inhumane treatment meted out on prisoners by prison warders. For instance, he was tied to a pole with a wire, assaulted and put in solitary confinement.

While he was in prison Mogoba felt a calling to become a minister in religion. In October 1966 he was informed that he would be released.  He was taken from Robben island to Victor Vester prison in Paarl and finally to Pretoria Central prison. While there he successfully completed his courses in theology which he had started on Robben Island. While in jail, he received news for his daughter’s death. During the last week of his imprisonment he was transferred to Middelburg Prison from where he was finally released. He was immediately banished to his hometown of Phokwaneand banned under the Suppression of Communism Act. Mogoba was to report to the police station every week, banned from working as a teacher, attending church services and any meetings. He found word work as clerk at Aboo Bros. Later he worked for the Commissioner of the Nebo district as an ‘unskilled clerk’ despite his qualifications. Tragedy struck the family once again as his wife died. 

 In January 1969 he was appointed by the church as minster on probation and sent to Dobsonville. But the security police followed him and forced him to leave the area and consequently the church transferred him to a church in Middelburg where he was evicted within 24hours of his arrival and sent back to Phokwane. During the year he married Johanna Mamongae Mahlare with whom he had three children. In 1970 he was sent to John Wesley College at the Federal Theological Seminary at Fort Hare, Alice where studied for three years. On completing his studies, he was ordained as a minister and appointed as a theological tutor in church history. While teaching, Mogoba was awarded a scholarship to study African Christianity at Bristol University.

In 1980 Mogoba was elected as Secretary of the Black Methodist Consultation at the church’s Annual Conference held in Welkom but only resumed his duties in 1982.  He served in this capacity for six years until 1988.  Then in March 1988 he travelled to Harare where addressed retired heads of states at the Interaction Council on Southern Africa and Apartheid on negotiations as an option to end apartheid. At the end of his term, he was once again appointed as the Presiding Bishop, the first to hold the title after the church changed it from president. Mogoba served in the post for eight years from 1988 to 1996.

During his time as the Presiding Bishop Mogoba was constantly harassed by the security police. In the 1980s, he was arrested at the headquarters of the Methodist Church in Durban for accommodating a member of Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA) overnight. In late 1987 he arrested again for giving money to members of the PAC who had returned from exile. A month after that he was arrested once more for helping members of an underground APLA cell.

From 1987 to period Mogoba also served as a president of the South African Institute of Race Relations. Also in October 1987 Mogoba was part of a Methodist church delegation that visited Nelson Mandela while he was in Pollsmoor Prison. This was followed by another visit when he was transferred to Victor Vester prison. As the transition to democratic rule got under way, Mogoba also became involved, for instance, he briefly chaired the Electoral Code of Conduct Observer Commission (ECCO) and served as Vice Chairman of the National Peace Committee. He also met Lucas Mangope the president of Bophuthatswana to persuade him to participate in the elections.

He was appointed chancellor of the Medical University of Southern Africa in 1991and in 1996 he was awarded the World Methodist Peace Award.Mogoba resigned his position as presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to take active role in politics. He was elected President of the PAC in December 1997 succeeding Clarence Makwetu. He thus became a Member of Parliament for the PAC. Mogoba then appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 1997 to testify about PAC and APLA activities. In 2003 Mogoba resolved not to stand for another term as President of the PAC. Thus, he stepped down and was succeeded by Dr Mostoko Pheko. Subsequently, in February 2004 Mogoba resigned from Parliament to make way for the party’s deputy president Themba Godi.


References:
• Mogoba, M.S, Faith on Robben Island, Stone, Steel and Sjambok, (Johannesburg).
• 
Kraft, S, (1987), S. African Multiracial Regional Body Formed, from the Los Angeles Times, 04 November, [online], Available at http://articles.latimes.com[Accessed 19 April 2012]
• 
Makhudu Sefara, M, (2004), Top PAC man surrenders seat to deputy, from Independent Online, 2 February, [online] Available at www.iol.co.za[Accessed 19 April 2012]
• 
TRC, TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION -ARMED FORCES HEARING PAC / APLA, from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, [online] Available at www.justice.gov.za  [Accessed 19 April 2012]

Last updated : 24-Mar-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011

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