Anglican Priest, full time worker for the Black Community Programmes, Director of Justice and Reconciliation for the Anglican Diocese of Port Elizabeth, President of the National Inter-Faith Leaders Council
Lives of Courage
The Reverend Mcebisi Osman Xundu was born on the 11 June 1934, at Engcobo, Transkei, one of seven children of Regina and Amos Xundu. He attended the local primary school and in Standard Six he went to live with a white missionary couple to continue his schooling at the All Saints Mission near Engcobo. Xundu matriculated at St John’s College, Umtata in 1952.
He joined the ANC Youth League while a pupil at St John’s College and held the post of branch secretary. He came into contact with the Reverend Gawe, a member of the ANC Provincial Executive, who was influential in the development of Xundu’s political and religious philosophy.
However, the person who inspired Xundu to enter the ministry was the late Rev. James Calata, an Anglican priest who served on the National Executive of the ANC. Calata was a close friend of Xundu’s father when they had been pupils at St Matthew’s Schools.
He found employment as a clerk in the Social Benefits Office of the Department of Native Affairs. After two years he moved to work at the Post Office where he remained for a year before entering St Bedes Theological College, Umtata to train for the Anglican ministry. He was ordained as a deacon in 1958 and as a priest in 1960.
In the early 1960s, Xundu participated in the formation of Faith in Action, established by a group of young Anglican cleargy who were dissatisfied with the Church for not living up to the principles of faith it espoused. He also helped form the Anglican Students Federation which operated at theological colleges, training colleges and at universities.
In 1976, Xundu took sabbatical leave to work full time for the Black Community Programmes (BCP). During this time he worked with Ben Koape, Director of BCP, Durban, and Peter Jones, BCP’s Administrator, BCP. He came in close contact with Steve Biko, who was living under banning orders in Ginsburg, King Williams Town.
In October 1977, BCP was banned and Xundu was detained in Umtata until February 1978, along with Fikile Bam. After his release he moved to Natal to serve as parish priest of St Simon of Cyrene Parish, Lamontville, Durban. Xundu soon became involved in community issues in the township. Early in 1982, following talks of a rent hike, he proposed the establishment of a Rent Action Committee. The Committee was extended to other areas under the jurisdiction of the Port Natal Administration Board, and the Joint Rent Action Committee (JORAC) was formed under the leadership of Richard Gumede.
He served in various parishes as a priest in the Transkei and Natal. From 1980 to 1982 he was appointed Chaplain to the Men’s Hostel in the Durban area, a position he specifically requested as he held an interest in the migrant husbands of the women he had ministered to in the rural areas.
JORAC became an affiliate of the UDF. Xundu served as the Vice-Chair of the Joint Commuters Committee, formed to oppose the increase in bus fares by the Durban Transport Management Board. He was also the Vice-Chair of JORAC. He was a member of the Release Mandela Committee since 1981 and was also a member of both the Natal Regional and National Executive Committee of the UDF. He was also a member of the Diakonia Council of Churches as a representative of the Anglican Church of the Diocese of Natal and was the Chair of the Church and Industry Department of Diakonia.
On 27 August 1985, Xundu went to the CR Swarts Square Police Station to make a statement concerning the murder of fellow UDF activist, Victoria Mxenge, whom he had driven home and whose ambush and killing he had witnessed. Xundu was detained at CR Swarts Police Station and was transferred to Pretoria, along with Yunus Mahomed and Farouk Meer, both fellow political activists in Durban. He was released after about 35 days when lawyers indicated that they would bring a Supreme Court application against the Minister of Law and Order for his detention to be declared unlawful. Upon his release he went on holiday to Engcobo, Transkei but was detained by the Transkei authorities. Following his release he was hospitalised.
Xundu was transferred to Port Elizabeth to serve as hospital chaplain and as Director of Justice and Reconciliation for the Anglican Diocese of Port Elizabeth. He also served on the Provincial Board of the Justice and Reconciliation Commission. In 1991, he was made an Archdeacon of the church.
In 2009, Canon Mcebisi Xundu was elected president of the National Inter-Faith Leaders Council (NILC) at a conference in Johannesburg. He heads a committee promoting positive moral and social values, and education. Xundu said the formation of the council was an initiative by President Jacob Zuma to get church leaders involved in the running of the country. “The NILC is worried by the degeneration of morality in South Africa. “This is a programme of action. “We will tackle poverty and income generation in poor communities.” A crucial focus would be on non-violence during strikes.
In 1962, he married Tandiwe Tabata, a nursing graduate. They have two sons and two daughters.
• Xundu, Mcebisi Osman [Online]. Available at: nelsonmandela.org/ [Accessed 25 January 2010] [accessed 25 January 2010]
• Vuso, K. (2009). Bay priest heads new inter-faith council. The Herald [Online] September 20. Available at:theherald.co.za/ [Accessed 11 February 2010]