Dr Wallace Mgoqi, who earned a reputation as an advocate for human rights and social justice during his long public career which included stints as a legal practitioner, a gender equality commissioner and head of the South African Land Claims Commission and acting judge in the Land Claims Court, shares a testimony about the darkest season of his life.
As human beings we are endowed with the benefit of hindsight — the ability to look back into our past and glean some lessons and some insights, arising from our actions. And as the years go by, this sense of looking back gets stronger and stronger.
On the eve of my 71st birthday on June 7, my mind is taken back to the darkest period that my wife and I went through — the period from 2006 until 2012.
On April 10 2006, after the DA defeated the ANC in the running of the City of Cape Town, the City Council passed a resolution terminating my employment as city manager.
I was sandwiched in the struggle between these two political giants, vying for political power for the province and the city governments.
The reason advanced for ending my contract was that I was seen not to be a neutral government official, but a partisan political animal aligned to the ruling party, the ANC.
I must admit this was not far from the truth, given my political background, born in the womb of black consciousness, and metamorphosed into non-racialism and all that goes with it. Black consciousness itself was a response to political domination, economic exploitation, and social degradation, by whites looking down upon blacks, making them feel inferior in many respects, in South Africa.
From this period of losing my city manager post it was to be downhill for us a family. I fought legal battles, with the dice loaded against me, with a High Court loaded with a majority of white judges, and even in the Appeal Court, in Bloemfontein, where the then judge president, CraigHowie, appointed two white judges to hear my appeal. They dismissed my appeal on papers, without a hearing and with costs.
At the beginning of 2007 I tried to open a legal practice to take up only civil matters, which were difficult to come by in the black community if you were not doing criminal cases, which I was reluctant to take up.
In 2008, with the economic recession biting, I had to close the practice and things spiralled further downwards.
By March 2009 we had to decide whether to wait for creditors to foreclose and sequestrate us or to voluntarily surrender our estate. We decided to do the latter.
In no time the bank came to repossess both our cars, and the house was to follow. This marked the beginning of seeing the hand of God in the affairs of men. A woman, who was visiting my wife, bringing her some goodies from Woolworths, saw a “House For Sale” sign. When she asked, what was happening, my wife explained that the bank was moving to sell the house as we had been sequestrated.
The lady, Nontando Nolutshungu, contacted her group of Western Cape Women Investments, and she and Nombeko Mlambo spearheaded a move to buy the house from their investments, so that we could continue to live in it until there was a breakthrough.
By this time, we had no income, so we would not be able to pay any rent for the house. In fact, things became so bad that we could not afford electricity and had our water supply cut off more than once, and had to ask our white neighbour, Lionel Keith for water. He would use a hosepipe to provide us with water.
Once, while I was bending over to fill a container with water, I saw out of the corner of my eye, our neighbour’s huge, vicious dog, galloping towards me and I miraculously managed to just get out of its way and close the gate between us.
It was during this period, when we had reached rock-bottom, when it was completely dark, that an idea was planted in me to write an autobiography for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.
God’s light shines in the darkness. The light shines in the darkness, and darkness did not comprehend it. — John 1:5
An old friend of ours, now Apostle Linda Gobodo, gave me a book to read, God of the Impossible, a testimony by Pastor Tosin Macauley of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, who miraculously survived what would normally have been a fatal accident.
At the end of the book I saw an advert by a publisher, One Hour Books, whose owner, Dr Ajibike Olunhle Akinkoye, PhD, based in Dallas, Texas, USA, was inviting aspirant writers to send him their manuscripts for publishing.
I was inspired to complete my manuscript, which ended up being approximately 300 pages. The publisher wrote back to me saying they would produce two books from the manuscript: Grace and Discipline, Life Under Apartheid, and Living Beyond Apartheid.
This literary development happened in the midst of our darkest period, as the books were published in 2011.
Sales of my books did not do so well in South Africa, as it was difficult to raise funds to order books from a higher currency , the dollar, for selling in a lower currency, the rand. This was a period of penury, hardship, sweat and tears.
In 2013, as we came out of our darkest years, we were rehabilitated, which meant I could be a director of companies again. I was appointed a commissioner on the Commission for Gender Equality, until June 2019, a seven-year tenure. Concurrently, I was appointed as an acting judge in the Land Claims Court, from January 2014 until October 2019. Throughout this time we rented accommodation as we were both over 65 and did not qualify for 20-year bonds.
We determined to trust the “God of the Impossible “ to provide us with our own home. We do not know how, and do not need to know. The God of the Impossible will do it. He knows best.
Fast-forward to 2020, the same publisher from Dallas had intimated last year that he planned to republish my two books.
This week he confirmed that he is ready to publish the books and put them on 39 000 websites, including Amazon.
Incidentally, in one of his comments after first publishing the two books, he said: “The benefit of hindsight is a gift from above.” This sounded so profound in my spirit, that it became the title for my third book, published in South Africa shortly thereafter. Its sales also did not go so well.
Now, all three books will be in one stable, published together, all over the world. This is cause for celebration and brings to mind Psalm 126 :
When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
“ The Lord has done great things for them”
The Lord has done great things for us;
We are glad.
Restore our captivity, O Lord,
As the streams in the South.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed,
Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
My work of writing was conceived in our darkest hour. God shone His light even in that darkness and ignited and kindled a desire to write a simple manuscript, which resulted in two books — and now three books.
The takeaway here is that even in the darkest hour, do not throw in the towel, and give up. God’s light shines through the darkness and darkness recedes into the background.
We have to recite God’s Word in those very moments and say :
For you are my lamp, O Lord;
And the Lord illumines my darkness. — 2 Sam 22 :29.
For You light my lamp;
The Lord my God illumines my darkness. — Psalm 18:28
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You — Psalm 139 :12
BE ENCOURAGED !
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. — 1Cor 10: 11
NEVER GIVE UP!
Your test, trial and tribulation will be tomorrow’s testimony and will benefit others who will be similarly situated or worse off by giving them courage to draw from your experience .
We are now at a stage in our lives where we are pouring ourselves into the lives of younger couples through marriage counselling, drawing from the grace of being married for 46 years.
As our family friend Bishop Moagi Mike Khunou says in his book, God the Supreme Giver, one of God’s principles of giving is that “ he who has a need must give first“.
We give of our time free of charge, investing in the lives of younger people, to resolve conflicts in their marriages.
Another principle by which God operates is to ask you what you have in your hand, your personality or your house. He then takes what you have and multiplies it, as He is no longer in the business of creating but in the multiplication of what is already there.
As examples of this principle in action, our friend’s book cites Moses and the rod; the widow of Zarepath; the widow whose late husbands left her with debts and their sons were due to be sold — she too had to produce the oil left in the house, which was multiplied; the boy who had two loaves of bread and five fishes, which fed a multitude.
I, too, had to remember that I am capable of writing and to put that to good use. You, too, you have something that God has endowed you with. Find it and present it. He will multiply it.
My wife and I have many needs in our life, one of which is a place of our own which we can leave behind as inheritance for our children and our children’s children. So we use our time as a seed which we plant in the lives of others, believing that the God of the Impossible sees rewards those who diligently seek Him.