Friends share fond memories of bishop

Nelson Mandela Bay Nafcoc president Letemba Singapi, left, with Bishop Andile Mbete in front of a framed copy of The Herald with a story about the bishop, which was given to him as a present at the breakfast held in his honour
Picture: Eugene Coetzee

It was a mixture of an old boy’s club breakfast and a family reunion when Bishop Andile Mbete’s nearest and dearest met to celebrate his 65th birthday and retirement.

The bishop, who was honoured with a swanky banquet last week as well as yesterday’s breakfast, was reminded of his activist past when friend after friend stood up to recall their fondest memories of the respected man of God.

The breakfast, which was attended by veterans from different churches, was used to honour the bishop, who has dedicated 41 years of his life to the ministry.

Guests came bearing gifts to celebrate the clergyman entering a new stage of life and his birthday.

Mbete’s wife Thembakazi – one of the few woman in a sea of elderly men – described her husband as someone who valued spending time in his study.

She said he was a hopeless romantic who never ceased to make her feel loved, even in the toughest of times.

“My husband always made me feel like a queen – never for one day did I doubt my place in his heart,” she said.

“It takes a lot of responsibility to be the wife of a church leader and, as we embark on a new journey, I would like to express gratitude to my children for their patience as we moved from town to town.”

Mbete’s son, Awonke, spoke about his father as a man he shared with the whole church, describing him as a hero.

Mkhuseli Jack, who shared a cell with Mbete in St Albans in 1985, said: “Mbete was a courageous leader, with a sharp listening ear.

“He was an anchor of hope during the height of political instability in the country.”

Childhood friend the Reverend Elliot Banzana described Mbete as “the last of a kind” who constantly practised what he preached.

He said he felt sorry Mbete had to retire at this time, when younger ministers more concerned with status and position needed moral guidance from such leaders.

An emotional Mbete responded by thanking everybody who had supported him throughout his journey in the ministry, as well as those who had gone the extra mile to make him feel treasured.

He said although coming to Port Elizabeth had been accidental as he had lost out on a scholarship to study in South Korea because he could not get a visa in the early 1980s, he felt it had been a blessing in disguise.

Mbete said it was not political leadership that would lead this country out of its current struggles, but the strength of religious leaders.

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