Cradock’s revered Reverend Mbali who survived polio at birth is now an academic doctor

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The Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sakhela Buhlungu congratulates Dr/Rev Nkosinati Mbali on his graduation 

Among the graduates that were capped during the University of Fort Hare 2022 Spring Graduation ceremony last Friday, is Reverend Nkosinati Mbali from Cradock.

The highly admired Rev, who is living with a disability after surviving polio at birth – a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus - graduated with a Doctor in Theology.

Dr Mbali shared his life story with us.

Background and upbringing

“I grew up in Lingelihle township, which had a political history in South Africa. I am living with a disability because of polio since birth, which affected my back and left leg. Polio was a historic major pandemic, and many children did not survive because of a lack of medical expertise in the past.

I am the firstborn of four children from my late mother, a former nurse who was expelled from a nursing college because she fell pregnant with me. The expulsion was motivated by apartheid laws that a single person cannot fall pregnant during nursing training.

Her situation worsened when my father could not accept my disability and disappeared. My late mother carried two disappointments, expulsion from her work and the disappearance of my father, but my grandmother played a very pivotal role and insisted that I go to school. She believed that God had a purpose for me.

My family has faced challenges but created my world. They supported me through my personal needs and did not give up on me, as bitter trials often turned out to be blessings. They introduced empowerment as the main tool amidst harsh circumstances.”

Primary and High school life

“Being accepted at a normal school was a challenge as I was discriminated against during my enrolment. The teachers I was exposed to could not accept my disability. Their attitude and behaviour were very traumatic.

The school management did not accept me as a physically disabled learner because of the myth that a disabled child was bad luck to society. No one was willing to see bad luck daily, hence, I became a victim of being called isifobo and isilima. My objective was to see my goal achieved, so I persevered.

Travelling a very long distance from home to school excluded learners such as myself because the system had no programs such as Scholar Transport and School Nutrition. I had to wake up early and leave home because I did not want to be embarrassed in front of other learners. I had to travel almost 4km a day from home to school using assertive devices and shoes.

The disadvantage of walking a long distance had the painful consequence of tiredness after school hours. High School life was also tough since the school was not an accessible place. It did not accommodate me at all.

My school experience left me with scars. Thank God I managed to convince myself that one day, things will be better.

This period of my life reminds me of what Pele once said: "Success is not an accident, it is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do."

Tertiary Education Journey

“My academic journey started in 1996 when I enrolled for a Diploma in Theology and obtained it in 1998. Sadly, my mother died in a car accident on graduation day. The death of my mother disturbed me, and I struggled to cope for almost two years. I then furthered my Theological studies and completed a Bachelor of Theology from the South African Theological Seminar.

In 2018 I completed a Master of Theology from Baptist Theological College and published one article from the study.

I enrolled with the University of Fort Hare in 2019 for a Doctoral Degree in Theology. The study investigated the marginalization and exclusion of women from church governance structures in the Cradock region of the Baptist Church of Southern Africa.

It identified barriers and stereotypes and proposed solutions for the inclusion of women. The study adopted a qualitative approach to gain a deeper understanding of the attitudes and behaviours involved while drawing from the richness of responses from sampled congregants.

The study's most compelling findings were that there was acceptance of gender inequality within church structures, rampant patriarchy influenced by local culture, misrepresentation of the scripture to justify the exclusion of women and institutionalized power imbalance.

An overarching recommendation is that a Gender Action Plan (GAP) be implemented to transform the church, thus creating deliberate and accelerated development programmes for inclusion of women in church governance and leadership structures.

While studying for my PhD, I published three articles in accredited peer-reviewed journals.”


“I have served as an HIV/AIDS Coordinator at Inxuba Yethemba Municipality, then moved to the Department of Education as an Administrative Officer responsible for the Integrated Management System. After seven years with the Department of Education, I received a promotional post at the Department of Sport as Assistant Manager from 2016 to date.

This reflects what my grandmother used to say: "Yimfundo yodwa eyakuvulela iminyango ebomini"  which means only education will open doors for you in life.

Survival Strategy

Self-acceptance has been a key for me. I have never accommodated the word 'shame' in my life rather than being an ambassador to the society of inclusiveness in my church and society. I thank God for giving me this opportunity to explore and become an agent of change.