Winston Hugh Njongonkulu Ndungane was born in Kokstad, South Africa on the 2nd April 1941. He graduated from Lovedale High School, Alice, in December 1958. During March 1960 he was involved in anti-Pass Law Demonstrations while a student at the University of Cape Town, this encouraged an increased interest in politics which resulted in his eventual arrest under apartheid law. From August 1963 to August 1966 he served a three-year sentence on Robben Island as a political prisoner. On his release he was served with a two year banning order restricting him to the magisterial districts of Cape Town and Wynberg.
While in prison, Njongonkulu received a call to serve God in the ordained ministry. In 1971 The Most Reverend Robert Selby-Taylor, Archbishop of Cape Town, sent him to St Peter’s College which was a constituent member of the Federal Theological Seminary in Alice. He was made Deacon in December 1973 and ordained priest in July 1974. He served his title and first curacy at St Mark’s Parish Athlone in the Diocese of Cape Town.
In 1975 he was granted a place to read theology at King’s College in London. During his stay in London he served as assistant priest at St Mark’s Mitcham, St Peter’s Hammersmith and St Mary the Virgin Primrose Hill. He received a Bachelor of Divinity, Honours Degree and became an Associate of King’s College, London in 1978. In June 1979 he was awarded a Master of Theology degree in Christian Ethics, also at King’s College. He was subsequently made a Fellow of King’s College.
At the completion of his studies in London he had a brief spell as an assistant chaplain at St George’s Church in Paris, where he ministered, among others, to business people, diplomats, tourists and students. On his return to South Africa in 1980 he was appointed the Rector of St Nicholas, Matroosfontein. Shortly after that The Most Reverend Phillip Russell, Archbishop of Cape Town, appointed him as his representative in Johannesburg. Among his responsibilities was the co-ordination of Provincial departments which were at the core of the outreach ministry of the Anglican Church. His other responsibilities were liaison with government departments, and various diocese of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, as well as ecumenical partners, such as the South African Council of Churches, and Church Unity Communion. He was also secretary of the publishing committee.
In 1984 he was mandated by The Most Reverend Phillip Russel, Archbishop of Cape Town, to take responsibility for re-opening St Bede’s Theological College, Umthatha, which had been closed. In 1985 he was appointed Principal of St Bede’s.
In 1987 he was invited by the The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu, Archbishop of Cape Town, to be the Executive Officer of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, whose major responsibility was secretary of the various Synods and committees of the Church.
In 1991 he was elected Bishop of Kimberley and Kuruman. In September 1996 he was elected Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
Archbishop Njongonkulu served as a member of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion for nine years during the tenure of Archbishop Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury. He has served on the Design Group for Lambeth Conference, and Chairman of the section: “Called To Full Humanity” at the Lambeth Conference 1998; a section which dealt with the most critical ethical issues of the day. He also represented the Anglican Communion at the Catholic Bishops’ Synod on Africa that was held at the Vatican in the 90’s.
He has been awarded several honorary degrees:- 1. Dr of Divinity from Rhodes University, Grahamstown 1997 2. Dr of Divinity from the Protestant Episcopal Seminary, Virginia 2000 3. Dr of Humane Letters from Worcester State College, Massachusetts 2000 4. Dr of Social Science from University of Natal 2001 5. Dr of Philosophy from the University of Cape Town 2003 6. Dr of Theology from the University of Stellenbosch 2005 7. Dr of Divinity from Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2007 8. Dr of Literature and Philosophy, UNISA June 2008 9. Dr of Technology (Human Sciences) from Vaal University of Technology Sept 2008
Archbishop Ndungane has written many essays and made numerous contributions to books. His own book, A World With A Human Face: A Voice From Africa, part-autobiography and part-record of some speeches and sermons, was published in 2003. He has also recently written substantial articles calling for the Anglican Communion to hold fast to the authentic faith of its rich heritage, found in Scripture, reason and tradition, of which a considerable diversity has always been a part. In 2008 Faith in Action – an exploration in contemporary public theology in honour of, and in dialogue with the Archbishop by South African and international church leaders, theologians and civil society figures, was published.
The Archbishop has been deeply involved in campaigns to abolish odious debt of developing countries in Africa working with the Jubilee 2000 Campaign. He has been part of various coalitions campaigning on poverty alleviation, and championing the causes around HIV/AIDS. He has been involved with the promotion of the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals. He speaks widely on these issues as well as on rebuilding the new South Africa and theological questions. In 2005, together with Kofi Annan and Jeffrey Sachs, he was a speaker in the St Paul’s Cathedral, London, series on poverty, ‘What can one person do?’
In 2006 he launched African Monitor, a pan-African not-for-profit body harnessing the voice of the continent’s civil society in monitoring and promoting the effective implementation of promises made by the international community, and Africa’s own governments, for the continent’s development. Its mission statement is: “To be an independent catalyst to monitor development funding commitments, delivery and impact on the grassroots, and to bring strong new African voices to the development agenda”.
Also during 2006, Archbishop Ndungane was appointed ‘Champion’, by Minister of Arts and Culture, Dr Pallo Jordan, of an initiative aimed at transforming historically significant and under-resourced schools in South Africa into sustainable and aspirational centres of cultural and educational excellence. This initiative is called the Historic Schools Restoration Project and is endorsed by the South African government. There are more than 50 of these “historic schools” in South Africa, which have produced leaders of caliber and integrity who have made a significant contribution to the history of South Africa.
Njongonkulu Ndungane was appointed Chair of Council of the University of Cape Town in 2008.
Archbishop Ndungane continues to be recognised for his dedication and was bestowed the Order of the Grand Counsellor of the Baobab: Silver by President Thabo Mbeki in April 2008, who cited his excellent contribution to the struggle against apartheid and striving for a world free of wars, poverty and inequality.
Archbishop Ndungane was one of six convenors of an initiative called The Dinokeng Scenarios, which comprised a group of 35 South Africans from all sectors of society whose objective is: “To create a space and language for open, reflective and reasoned strategic conversation among the broad community of South Africans, about possible futures for the country, and the opportunities, risks, and choices these futures present.” The Dinokeng Scenarios Report was published and released in May 2009.