The History of Makhungutja and KaNdinda

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Lapha lapha! Kuleta tintsaba,

Kukhona bantfwana, kukhona bothishela.

Ngwa ngwa. Shaya thishela, shaya thishela.

Kwasho lichegu lendlula ngendlela,

Latsi tsintsita thishela, latsi tsintsita thishela.

Amid dances and clapping of hands, one encounters this humorous song as you approach a little, tidy and glamorous school, carved in the thick forests of the Makhungutja Hills. It is sung by none other than Makhungutja Catholic School students, a school that boasts of having produced renowned leaders within the society of the Swazi people. Situated in an atmosphere of a serene, tranquil and suitable place for a tutor to share ideas to a learner, Sancta Filipo Benizzi School (Original name of the school), welcomes one with a beam smile.

It all commenced as early as 1956, when the Servite Friars dirtied themselves with Gods work in this area. With the base in Manzini, they started to evangelise the people there. They pitched their tents at Ematjeni, a place within what is called Elukhele in our times. There they found a Dikiza family, which embraced the faith, and a catechetical discourse started. It was during these periods that a young fellow, Daniel Vilakati (longest serving head teacher of the school) would encounter the Catholic faith, and later embarked on a journey to Manzini, for studies and further catechesis. In 1958, the then Fr Siro Edoni OSM, the Cathedral Administrator, built two thatched houses.  During the midweek, these houses were for lectures, whilst on weekends it catered for catechesis and prayers. Since the Dikiza’s were farm dwellers, it was deemed necessary that the school be transferred to its present place, situated on Swazi Nation land because the farm owner was not so fond of education.

On the other side, the first Bishop of Manzini, Bishop Barneschi (Lungcwazi) had welcomed the Salesian Friars to his Diocese in 1952. Due to their zeal of nurturing school kids, the young Salesian Friars, in particularly Fr Patrick Fleming and Br Charles, took it upon themselves to also develop schools outside of the Salesian compound. As early as the 1960’s their focus was particularly on four schools, namely St Boniface later known as Sigcineni, Elwandle, St Francis which later assumed the name Egebeni, St Phillips now known as Makhungutja and St Elizabeth a name which has stood the test of times at Ntondozi area. Makhungutja seemed to be their favourite because although in the most inaccessible place, out of the four it was renowned for its excellence in producing students who were competent even when faced with children from urban schools, Salesian and St Theresa’s schools in particular. Adorned in its royal blue tunic, royal blue shirt, white t-shirt, royal blue cardigan, royal blue tracksuit, black shoes and white socks for girls, the school had a relatively high pass rates. On the other hand, the boys complemented them with their lovely colourful uniform, by their smiles, as they wore their royal blue shirts, grey trousers, white t-shirts, royal blue jersey, black shoes and grey socks.  As the enrolment of students increased, the local evangelisation itself was not to be outdone.

A number of converts were baptised, with dominating surnames such as Dikiza, Vilakati, Mndzebele and Mabuza in the forefront. Due to the vigorous pastoral zeal of one Fr Sean Murphy SDB in the late 1970’s, the neighbouring constituents down the hill fell in love with Roman Catholicism. These constituents include Emphini, Ngoyiya and KaNdinda. Now the number of Catholics grew, whilst the opposite was disappointing for the people residing next to the school. They simply lapsed, and Makhungutja Catholic School became inaccessible especially for the elderly down the hill. It was time for plan B. The congregants, in consultation with the priest, started to worship at kalaMbingo (Dlamini family at Emphini), which also proved to be cumbersome. They then decided to worship at KaNdinda under a shed known as Egushede. There was lot of discomfort there; hence, they resorted to congregate at Joachim Manyatsi’s home, who was a Catechist for St Elizabeth but residing at KaNdinda. Therefore, the congregants started to worship the Lord at KaNdinda in the year, 1989.

The community seemed big at its inception in such a way that when there was Mass, they would congregate under the tree. Not surprising at all, like many other outstations, they would fit into a rondavel hut when there was a priest-less service. Despite this glaring fact of dwindling number of the faithful in the priests’ absentia, a need of a church was there because the Catechist and his wife were old, and obviously, the church may find itself in family disputes in case they died earlier. A series of meetings ensued, and the people sold goats and chickens in order to meet the missionary halfway. The most turbulent time for this outstation was when the pioneers of this project died, and to add salt to the wound the missionary priest was transferred to Lesotho in 1991. It became a tall order for the congregants now, as the Cathedral was now under the Diocesan priests leadership, and the vision was not the same as their predecessors. Amid such torrid times for the Catholics in this area, a glimmer of hope was realised in 1995 when a parish was constituted at the Malkerns Valley and given the name St John Bosco. The shift of focus now was no longer in Manzini but Malkerns as St John Bosco was given outstations namely, ENtondozi, kaNdinda, Egebeni and eSigcineni. The talks of the need of a church continued, and this was realised finally in 2006 when the construction began under the watchful eye of Fr Michael Whelton SDB, and was completed in the same year. In August 2007, the first baptism was held in that church, which the following year in 2008, His Lordship Bishop Ncamiso Louis Ndlovu consecrated the chapel as St Dominic Savio. So far, this chapel is a beacon of hope and a marvel to admire for the people of kaNdinda as a whole, especially for its beauty and welcoming posture.