Bible available in all official SA languages for first time

South Ndebele women (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons)

With the launch of the first-ever complete Bible in isiNdebele at the weekend there will be a complete Bible available in all of South Africa’s 11 official languages for the first time.

The launch takes place at the Solomon Mahlangu Stadium in KwaMhlanga on  November 24, says the Bible Society of South Africa in a media release.  The event starts at 09:00 with a Bible walk to the stadium where various choirs and music groups will perform.

The official programme starts at 10:30 with Pastor Mary Mathibela preaching and the well-known gospel singer Solly Mahlangu and his band, Obrigado, appearing as guest artists.  Some church and community leaders, as well as government officials, will attend the launch.

The need for a Bible in isiNdebele was identified years ago and the Bible Society was approached to begin such a translation.

The Gospel of Mark, the first book of the Bible ever published in isiNdebele, appeared in 1977.  In 1986 the New Testament and a selection of the Psalms was published.  After this, work came to a standstill and it was only 12 years ago, in 2000, that the translation of the Old Testament and a comprehensive review of the New Testament began.

Three translators, Pastor David Mahlangu, Pastor Peter Mabena and Prof Andries Breytenbach, also the source-text expert and project leader, worked fulltime on this task. They were supported by a review committee which met regularly to work through the text prepared by the translators and to make recommendations.

The consignment of Bibles arrived in the country aboard the ship the Vecchio Bridge on October 26, 2012.

“This is a historic event for the Bible Society. One million isiNdebele speakers will now have access to a Bible in their own language for the very first time.  Setswana was the first indigenous language to receive a Bible 155 years ago. Now, the last language group is receiving their own Bible and the complete Bible is available in all 11 official languages of our country,” says Rev Gerrit Kritzinger, the Chief Executive Officer of the Bible Society.

To celebrate this event, the Bible Society has announced that these Bibles will be sold at just R25 a copy until the end of December.  This will put many speakers of this language in a position to obtain a Bible of their own.

For the first time ever in the history of the Bible Society of South Africa, the digital Bible in various formats will be launched alongside the printed version. On Saturday it will also be possible to download a free isiNdebele cellphone Bible from, read the Bible online at or buy an e-Bible for your e-reader through the Bible Society’s online store at

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