Reverend John Hlengani Mboweni was the first Tsonga Methodist priest to be ordained in 1899; his ordination service gave birth to the First part of South African national Anthem. It was in this service where Nkosi Sikelel’ IAfrica was performed and it was literally translated into Xitsonga. Reverend Mboweni continued and made the song part of his opening sermons for the rest of his Priesthood. The song became part of the Methodist church due to the fact that, Enock Sontonga married a daughter of a Methodist Priest Diana Mgqibisa.
The song was later adopted by the first President General of the African National Congress, John Langalibalele Dube in 1901; who founded the Ohlange Institute and the choir continued popularizing the song. The song was by 1925 an official anthem of the African National Congress.
It’s Reverend Mboweni who realized the potential of song writing in Sontonga and the message in a song that speaks of God blessing Afrika. Mboweni was a protégée of Tsonga missionary education that centered music as basis of extra mural activities. Looking into the discourse of Tsonga history, one will be able to identify with Vatsonga in relation to choral music writing from late 1800s and majority part of the 1900s. Its composers like SJ Khosa and many others that continued giving to Vatsonga in formal music notations after recognizing the importance of music in healing souls.
To many Nkosi sikelela or Hosi Katekisa Afrika is just a song but to us Vatsonga, it’s a gift that both Reverend Mboweni and his church gave to the world. A Tsonga church that in spite of hatred from other tribes towards Vatsonga as an ethnic group, gave an opportunity to a song that spoke of African love and blessing. The Tsonga filled Methodist church did not see a Xhosa in Sontonga, but a fellow African with talent and armed with a song that breathes unity. Following suite was other heavily Tsonga influence churches like Evangelical Presbyterian Church.