Tshego Motaung writes about Pentecostal elder statesman Apostle Dr Philip F Molefe who died at the age of 92 on Saturday August 1
I had the privilege of interviewing Dr PF Molefe at his home in Sharpeville just before his 90th birthday celebration two years ago. We had arranged to interview him at the church venue but we were delayed on the way and he had to go home to prepare for the evening celebration.
Dr Molefe, however, kindly invited us to interview him at his home — and that turned out to be the perfect plan.
I was amazed to meet a 90-year-old who was so full of life and energy and who managed his time so meticulously, but my worst surprise was that he still could drive. His home had many pictures of himself with different leaders, who and each had a personal story that connected them to him.
He personified what the Bible means when it says: “they shall still bear fruit even in old age, they shall be fresh and flourishing.” — Psalm 92:14
He also reminded me of Caleb who at the age of 85, having waited for decades to enter the promised land, said: “Yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me out, just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war both for going out and for coming in.” — Joshua 14:11
After we rearranged Molefe’s living room and chased everyone out, we began an awesome conversation that stirred a deep desire in me to see God move in our nation like He did before. I immediately understood the significance of that conversation in relation to the nation in this season. With so much corruption, crime and hopelessness about, God was reminding us through that conversation that He has changed the hearts of people in this nation before, and He promised to do it again.
Molefe was born on March 30 1928 and grew up in what we today know as Marabastad — this was before forced removals took place in the 1960s. This was a time when Blacks, Whites Indians and Coloureds lived together in one community before the apartheid government took power.
He had been raised in the Christian faith but as a teenager found himself with wrong crowds and he became a notorious thug in Marabastad. This landed him in jail and after being released he continued roaming the streets but he no longer had a desire to continue with his old lifestyle.
He later gave his life to the Lord, led by Reverend AT Dube who became his spiritual father. He then connected with another legend and pioneer of God’s purpose for the continent, Rev Nicholus Bengu, with whom he laboured in preaching the Gospel in the nation and in neighbouring countries – before apartheid-imposed movement restrictions.
He moved to Veereninging, on the Vaal River, a place he had never been to before but where the Holy Spirit showed him he should bring the Gospel — and a place that remained his base for almost 70 years.
One of the things that I discovered in preparing for my interview was the history of the date March 21 in the life of our nation. Many of us know the day as Human Rights Day, previously known as Sharpeville Day when we remember that 69 people were massacred a day after a pass law demonstration in 1960.
What is not well known, is that on this same day in 1954, six years before the shooting tragedy, there had been a massive revival in Sharpeville under the leadership and ministry of Molefe.
Dr Molefe shared with me how a township that had been notorious for crime and many of the societal ills we see today changed in 1954 as people turned to the Lord. Thieves and robbers returned things they had stolen and laid their knives and firearms at the feet of the apostles like in the days of the early Church.
He laughed when he recalled how he had to call the police to assist in keeping these items as they were too many.
Revival had already broken out in another community, Elujizweni in the Eastern Cape on March 21 1953 a year before Sharpeville. Elders in that community tell stories of how people were slain in the Spirit for days following prayers led by women in the community.
So while today March 21 is known as Human Rights Day, it is perhaps time for the Church to begin to celebrate it as a day of revival in South Africa
As Molefe told many of the stories of what he had experienced in his life journey, I couldn’t help but desire this kind of revival in our time. The levels of horrendous crime in our nation need nothing less than the divine intervention that Sharpeville experienced in 1954. There would be no need for the Zondo Commission or any other commission as people would be convicted and would confess their sins and return what they had stolen.
In reflecting on the 1960 massacre that later followed, Dr Molefe said he was comforted by the knowledge that the Gospel had been preached in that community and many who died had already been reconciled to the Lord. It was like God had prepared them — He had sent the revival to save people from the evil that was looming and rescued many from eternal death.
From the house we moved back to the church and I watched with utter shock and admiration as he drove himself to his birthday celebration. I was deeply moved and humbled by the testimonies of people who are now fathers and leaders in different spheres of societies who shared how their lives were shaped by Dr Molefe. Many said they were children going to church with their mothers when they met him.
He has raised many other leaders and influenced the community — even in recent days. He continued to be called to give advice to many leaders, including some in the municipality of Sedibeng. And he was known to never shy away from talking truth to power.
My conversation with Dr Molefe encouraged me to have confidence in God’s ability to change the destiny of nations through the lives of those who choose to devote themselves to Him.
What a privilege to have met this legend, who was strong until the end. He attributed his strength and length of life to honouring God and parents – not just blood relatives, but all the elders God raises in the nation.
All we can say now is he has fought the good fight, he has finished the race, and remained faithful to the end. And now the prize awaits him —the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give him on the day of His return (2 Tim 4:7-8 paraphrased).
See Tshego Motaung’s interview with Apostle Dr Molefe before his 90th birthday celebration: