Nontetha, the Martyr. (2002 in Review)

By Sesanti, Simphiwe | New African, January 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Nontetha, the Martyr. (2002 in Review)


Sesanti, Simphiwe, New African


Ever heard of Nontetha Nkwenkwe, the black South African woman who braved government censure to fight for freedom for her people, and as a result was officially declared "insane" in 1922 and hospitalised by the government?

There is something called moral victory. This occurs when those who uphold justice and the truth suffer physical defeat in the hands of those who represent falsehood and injustice. The vanquished fall with a sense of pride knowing that they are morally superior to their conquerors. One of the greatest known African martyrs, Steve Bantu Biko, must have had this concept in mind when he wrote in his book, I Write What I Write, that: "It is better to die for an ideal that will live than to live for an ideal that will die."

This was exactly the case with one remarkable black South African woman, Nontetha Nkwenkwe, about whom a book, African Apocalypse, by Robert R. Edgar and Hilary Sapire, has been published.

Born in 1875 in Toyise in the Eastern Cape, Nonthetha was committed to Fort Beaufort Mental Hospital on 6 December 1922, released on 5 January 1923 on six months probation, and re-committed on 7 April 1923 for an indefinite period.

The book exposes the ruthlessness of the racist white South African government which declared Nontetha mad, not because she was really insane, but because they hated her teachings. This woman who could neither read nor write, caught the attention of the South African authorities when her movement attracted many followers. She preached that the "natives should arrange their own matters without the interference of the white men".

In mid-1922, Fort Jackson, the superintendent of Natives at Newlands, branded Nontetha "an undesirable as her theme is chiefly against the white man".

A white trader, Sidney Jakins, warned that Nontetha's movement "has the religious aspect merely as a blind" and that its aim "is for the downfall of the Europeans". This fear of the revolutionary spirit of Nontetha became a fever, catching many white South Africans. A report from Pretoria ruled that Nontetha's religious aspects were "cloaking a more serious objective, for information has been received that her followers discuss the overthrowing of the Europeans by a combination of the black races and the coming of the American Negroes".

So they began to plot against her! By arresting and confining her in a mental institution, the authorities believed, as one white magistrate put it, "the fact that the priestess has been declared insane, [it] will do much to extinguish the faith of the red adherents".

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Nontetha, the Martyr. (2002 in Review)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?