The Background of the Swaziland Reformed Church

The origin of the Swaziland Reformed Church will be found in 1946 when rev. Frikkie Malan came to Swaziland with the commission to spread the gospel of Christ within the country. He was later followed by people like rev. Jan Greyling and rev. Louis Swanepoel. When rev. Swanepoel arrived in Swaziland, the country was divided into two parts and each minister took responsibility for one half. On 31 January 1967 these two parts were united once again and it became one congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (DRCA). Rev. Okkie Britz and rev. Johannes Malan also did great work in these days.

The Dutch Reformed synods of Northern Transvaal, Southern Transvaal and Western Transvaal agreed at this time to help financially with the work in Swaziland. Representatives of the three synods formed a commission, which later became known as the Swaziland Missions Committee. (When the synod of Eastern Transvaal was formed, the responsibility of Northern Transvaal was handed over to this newly formed synod.) Rev. Johannes Malan was followed up by rev. Hennie Pretorius in 1977. In 1978 it was decided to divide the country in three and by 1980 there were three ministers working in Swaziland, namely Hennie Pretorius (Manzini), Koos Kriel (Ningizimu) and Willem Fourie (Hhohho). In 1980 it was decided to buy a house in Siteki in order to call a fourth minister to Swaziland.

During 1984/85 there was a rapid change in ministers. In 1984 rev. Koos Louw started working in Hhohho and rev. Hennie Basson started in Lubombo. Dr Arnau van Wyngaard started working in Ningizimu in 1985 (the name of this congregation was later changed to Shiselweni and shortly afterwards rev. Wessel Bester started working in Manzini. For the first time there were four ministers in Swaziland! In 1984 Swaziland became a presbytery of the Synod of Northern Transvaal of the DRCA.

In 1987, after a week-long discussion about the future of the church, led by Prof. Dons Kritzinger, the members of the church decided that they wanted to become a regional synod within the DRCA. During a meeting of the synod of Northern Transvaal held in 1988, this decision was approved and on 1 April 1989 the new Regional Synod of Swaziland was formed.

During a special meeting of the DRCA in Pretoria in 1991, where the main theme on the agenda was, ironically, the unity of the church, the representatives from the Synod of Swaziland were forbidden to be part of the synod of the DRCA and they were commanded to leave the DRCA to form their own church. No longer could Swaziland be part of the DRCA, but they now had to form their own synod with the family of Dutch Reformed Churches. On this unhappy note, the Swaziland Reformed Church was formed in 1991. Later that same year, rev, Musa Shongwe joined the church as first Swazi minister and the fifth minister in the church.

In the meantime rev. Wessel Bester left for Vila Ulongwe in Northern Mozambique and went on pension at the end of the year 2000. Rev. Koos Louw also went on pension and rev. Hennie Basson left for a congregation in Ghanzi, Botswana. At present it is only Dr Arnau van Wyngaard and rev. Musa Shongwe left in Swaziland. They are being assisted by a number of evangelists and some tentmakers (people employed in a secular work but helping to preach on Sundays).

The regional synod of Swaziland as it constituted on 1 April 1989: Amos Makhunga, Koos Louw, Philemon Gama, Josef Sihlongonyane, Hennie Basson, Louis Shongwe, Arnau van Wyngaard and Wessel Bester

The first moderamen of the regional synod of the Swaziland Reformed Church which was chosen on 1 April 1989: Dr Arnau van Wyngaard (Secretary), Rev Hennie Basson (Moderator), Elder Josef Sihlongonyane (Assessor) and Elder Philemon Gama (Actuary)

A photograph dating from the time when there were five ministers in Swaziland: Dr Arnau van Wyngaard and Wilma, together with Cobus, Erick & Bernard, Rev Koos Louw and Anneleen, Rev. Wessel Bester with Wika and Jako, Rev. Hennie Basson with Engela and their children, Engela and Willem and Rev. Musa Shongwe at the back