The School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC) within the College of Humanities recently hosted a memorial event in honour of a Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the former University of Durban-Westville, Professor Bonganjalo Goba.
The event was attended by friends, family, students and colleagues who shared memories of Goba.
Synod Secretary of the SASynod of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, the Rev Thulani Ndlazi, reflected on Goba’s religious commitments, his significance as an ordained minister of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA), his theological legacy and significance for the Christian Church as well as his contributions to the development of good citizenship in South Africa.
‘Goba’s allegiance to the sovereignty of God influenced deeply how he strived throughout his life to be a servant leader who exhibited competence, commitment, compassion and consistency in work with no fear or favour in order for society to progress and advance in the post-apartheid dispensation,’ said Ndlazi.
UKZN’s Professor Johannes Smit described Goba as one of the foremost scholars who propagated and developed ‘Black Theology’ as South Africa’s ‘Liberation Theology’ during the 1970s and 1980s. He further reflected on Goba’s expansive academic career that included more than 40 scholarly chapters in edited books and accredited journals.
‘His scholarly legacy is seminal to theologising in the 1970s and through to the 2000s in South Africa. Both academia and the ecumenical church will continue to draw on this inclusive academic legacy, critical of racial and class oppression and exploitation, and propagating inclusivity, freedom, equality and social justice,’ said Smit.
Professor Roderick Hewitt of UKZN further highlighted the deep congregational spirituality that influenced Goba’s Black Theology of liberation, arguing that it was inclusive of all oppressed people.
‘For him, “blackness” was not an issue of skin colour,’ said Hewitt. ‘Rather, it denoted all those who were excluded, oppressed and exploited by White nationalistic ideologies. His theology embraced all different ethnicities. Goba’s call for academia to participate in the struggle with the church, meant that the issues and structures that impact locally, need to be analysed and confronted critically and constructively by the church – as well as all other ecumenical religious traditions.’
He said Goba’s scholarship and legacy were important in the light of the current rise of the apparent world-wide movement of communities and countries towards an ever-growing intolerance, prejudice and xenophobia.
‘Dating back to the times of colonial slavery and the history of injustice perpetrated by the colonising regimes, and their various forms of oppression, this is not new. It is a legacy that has been opposed and we need to continue to critically analyse and oppose it.
‘In this regard, Goba’s theology resonates with those theologies from former colonised countries, especially in the West-Indies and Cuba, as well as the abolition movement. Goba thus forms an important part of the global ecumenical movement,’ said Hewitt.