RIP: The Rev. Sipo Mzimela

Former South African cabinet minister was leader against apartheid

Posted Feb 5, 2013

ens_020512_sipoMzimelaThe Rev. Sipo Elijah Mzimela of Decatur, Georgia, a leader in the struggle to end apartheid and a cabinet minister of former South African President Nelson Mandela, died Feb. 2 from complications of pneumonia. He was 77.

The funeral will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9, at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Atlanta. Bishop of Atlanta Robert Wright will preside.

Born a Zulu in Durban, South Africa, Mzimela grew up in the Anglican Church, graduated from the General Theological Seminary and was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1976 in the Diocese of New York. In the mid-1980s, he moved to Atlanta where he founded the South Africa Education Fund and assisted at St. Bartholomew’s.

He returned to his homeland in 1994 to serve as minister of correctional services and represent the Inkatha Freedom Party in the South African Parliament. He worked closely with Mandela to reform the prison system, freeing political prisoners and child inmates. He returned to Atlanta area in 2002, where he taught in the Religious Studies Department at Agnes Scott College and assisted at St. Bartholomew’s. He retired from active ministry in 2007. He authored three books, Apartheid: South African Naziism, Wither South Africa, and Marching to Slavery.

Committal of his ashes will be in the parish’s memorial garden. Memorial contributions may be sent to St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, 1790 LaVista Road, Atlanta, GA 30329; 50 percent will be sent to a South African ministry in Mzimela’s honor.


Comments (5)

  1. Lynn Pasqualetti says:

    My heart breaks knowing Sipo is no longer here with us. He was a brilliant, kind, gentle and wonderful man who, no matter how may people were in the room made you feel like it was just the two of you. Wh en he took your hand and looked into your eyes to speak to you, it was just magical. RIP my friend. I am honored to have known you for so many years. My prayers and love go out to Gail and Kanyi and the rest of the family. Rejoice in all the wonderful memories.

  2. Bob Van Keuren says:

    It was a great privilege to know Sipo and to call him my friend. He was a great blessing to many people.

  3. Father Sipo was one of the first priests that I met when I joined St Bartholomew’s. His gentle spirit, devotion to God, his great preaching, and just welcoming me to a new church was what made him a great man. When I finally got to spend some time to talk to him about South Africa, it was a history lesson right in front of me. Thank you Father Sipo for all you did in your life. Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory!

  4. Stephanus van Schalkwyk says:

    I met Sipo Mzimela in South Africa in the late 80s and then in the 90s in Atlanta. He was a wonderful man and will be sorely missed.
    Step van Schalkwyk

  5. thulani mzimela says:

    what a legacy he left, I am afraid I never had a chance of meeting him personally, I love him for bearing my last name and being an astute theologian and an academic. to his surviving wife Gail and children, please receive our heartfelt condolences.
    Mnguni Lwandle, Donda!!!

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