JL Zwane Memorial Church History
A conflict of many years within the Bantu Presbyterian Church in Cape Town was resolved in one year (1952) by a decision of Assembly to "appoint a Commission to investigate the trouble in the Tiyo Soga Congregation, with powers to settle the matter in the best interest of God's work". (Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Bantu Presbyterian Church 1951: 2528:28). The Reverend Jeremiah Lafangaye Zwane of Pietermaritzburg congregation was requested by this Commission to take charge of the Tiyo Soga Congregation. He arrived in Cape Town in February of 1952 and left the congregation at the end of that year, united and ready to call a minister. The Rev. JL Zwane is still remembered for his commitment to reconciliation, peace and love among Christians.
The Gugulethu congregation was under the Tiyo Soga Church in Langa. In 1976, a church was built. This church building became the centre of the struggle against apartheid in the community and it is where members of different political parties met. The fight for freedom was, according to members of this congregation, central to the very nature of God. This congregation was given a congregational status in 1988, which meant it was separate from the Tiyo Soga Congregation and could call a minister of its choice to serve them.
In the same year the Gugulethu Presbyterian Church congregation extended a call to Rev. Dr. Spiwo Xapile, at the time furthering his studies in Aberdeen, Scotland, his wife, Zethu and their two children. They moved to this congregation in August 1989. In 1992, the congregation was renamed JL Zwane Memorial Church, in memory of a man reputed to be a peacemaker.
When Rev. Dr. Spiwo Xapile arrived, he was already an experienced minister, ordained in 1981 in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth. He had worked in Uitenhage, Somerset East and Butterworth (Gcuwa Congregation) but he was shocked by the extent of the poverty and cash-less-ness when he arrived in Cape Town. "All I saw around me was nothing and my strong faith in the God who created out of nothing, helped me lead the church and the community forward."
The need for buildings (brick and mortar) appeared to be very urgent, but in reality it was not as challenging as the state of mind of the people in Gugulethu, due to the psychological effects of apartheid. It was clear that the damage was great. People had no confidence in themselves.
At JL Zwane, we believe in developing human capital. We do not leave anyone behind if we can get our people excited about making a difference in themselves. There is very little we can do about our past but we have all it takes to shape our destiny. We understand life backwards but we have to live it forwards
History in pictures...