The Letaba Herald has profiled Hudson William Edison Ntsanwisi for its throwback Thursday. Ntsanwisi was born on 11 July 1920 at Shiluvane Swiss Mission Station, 10 km South of Tzaneen.
He attended the University of South Africa, where he obtained a Master’s degree in African studies in 1965. He then went on to attend Georgetown University in the United States, where he studied linguistics. After returning to South Africa, he worked as a teacher, and later as a school inspector in the northern Transvaal Province.
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He became the first Chief Minister of the bantustan Gazankulu in 1969 and served until his death in 1993. This area was located across the provinces we now know as Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
A bantustan was a territory set aside for black inhabitants of South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia), as part of the policy of apartheid.
Ten Bantustans were established in South Africa. Gazankulu comprised of 10 formal townships, which were all created and built by the Apartheid Government and included Nkowankowa in Tzaneen. In 1994, after Apartheid, Gazankulu was sub-divided into different municipalities cross-cutting linguistic and cultural boundaries. This was a feature of a new democratic South Africa.
A talented writer, Ntsanwisi had written several Tsonga novels. Apart from his mother tongue, Xitsonga, Ntsanwisi was also fluent in Afrikaans, English, French, German, Setswana, Sesotho, and Venda.
Ntsanwisi became a huge defender on black rights and as an eloquent spokesperson, often spoke strongly of racial cooperation. Whilst addressing a group of Afrikaaners in Pretoria on the 20th October 1977, Ntsanwisi said, “I would like once more to express my faith in the people of this country and that after all these shattering events have subsided, we shall from the ruins build the foundations of peaceful coexistence.”
Furthermore, during an address during the Haus Rissen Conference in Hamburg, West Germany in September 1980, Ntsanwisi said, “What is needed for peaceful coexistence in South Africa is to my mind immediate action because time is swiftly running out for all responsible people in South Africa to make a choice between peaceful change and violent change…I am a prisoner of hope.
I am convinced that co-existence is possible in South Africa and that the people of South Africa, Black and White, have the will to survive together. I believe firmly in co-existence and interdependence and I go with those who hold the view that what is of fundamental importance in South Africa is the universal acceptance of the interdependence of Black and White and that if this continues to influence the minds of men we can adapt and move towards a common goal and live in harmony and peace together.”
Ntsanwisi passed away on 23 March 1993 in a Johannesburg hospital of leukemia.
His legacy lives on through his children, his powerful words and the difference that he made in our rural communities.
Source: The Views of Professor H.W.E. Ntsanwisi, Chief Minister of Gazankulu, Edited by H.T.Cooper