A hero borne out of necessity

Bishop David Nkwe was a father to many. A saint, according to the people whose lives he touched, except he repeatedly said he was no saint.

He maintained that his interventions were to be expected from anybody with a conscience.

That if he was a hero, then he was a hero borne out of necessity. He referred to this as "botho". He refused to have any attention thrust on him - always pointing out to the people he said made bigger sacrifices than he did.

Nkwe did not escape the curious eye of the apartheid machinery. The security branch had him in their sights.

Theology was not his first choice. He had enrolled for a law degree, something his father, Bishop Daniel Modike Nkwe, was proud of. He returned home after a few classes and informed them of a calling he felt right inside.

He said in his generation you did not acquire an education because of the personal benefit it was likely to give to you. You got educated to be an asset to your community.

He found the reach the church had to people both in numbers and into their hearts unparalleled. He discussed this with his then girlfriend, today his wife Maggie. He made his mind up - he was going to be a priest.

In 1965 he returned to the community of Soweto as the rector of St Paul's Anglican Church in Jabavu, where he remained until 1990.

He was elected to start the Diocese of Matlosane with headquarters in Klerksdorp, North West. He remained the bishop of Matlosane until he retired in 2006.

He raised funds to build the Ipelegeng Community Centre in 1972. This centre would become a source of inspiration and development to many of the leaders in government, business and education today.

Many activists in Soweto talk of a basement at Ipelegeng that only the insiders knew about.

Many escaped arrest by hiding in the basement.

Bishop Nkwe died suddenly last week in hospital in Klerksdorp, with his family at his bedside. He was 72.

Nkwe will be buried today at West Park Cemetery after a service at Christ the King Church in Sophiatown.