25 years after I left Lumko for Queenstown, I got the opportunity to visit my old mission station where I worked for one and a half year as the last resident Priest. What was supposed to be for me a pleasant surprise, turned on the 2nd of July 2012, into an ugly nightmare which caused the shock of my life.
After an acrobatic trip through several surrounding homesteads because the road leading to the entrance of the Mission was totally “broken”, I found a completely dilapidated kind of a ghost town instead of a flourishing educational institution.
What happened? At the end of 1986, the then President of Transkei, K.D. Matanzima himself wanted to have a finger in the pie at Lumko and issued an ukase telling us that Lumko from the beginning of the new school year would serve as a training college for future teachers.
The first students came, lived initially on bread and peanut butter and some fruit the hawkers coming from nowhere sold to them, and managed to burn two 8 KV generators in one week time… When I left in May 1987 for Queenstown, things started to worsen very soon: The Presbytery and the Language Laboratory were “confiscated” immediately which caused some serious heart troubles to Father Martin Jung, the then Parish Priest of Lady Frere.
Some months later I heard about blocked sewage systems which changed the road into a “smelly and slippery business”, but I heard also about the successful sportive achievements of the students who brought the one trophy after the other home…
From the very beginning, the new government of the Post Transkeian era showed hardly some interest in that “Bush College” and it was only a matter of time before the institution was abolished.
Immediately after it’s inglorious end, Bishop Lenhof was approached by local authorities asking him if they could use the premises for a primary school.
I don’t know precisely how long that “experiment” lasted, but quite soon, there was an unusual silence about Lumko.
25 years are gone now and the results of a governmental confiscation together with the proverbial negligence of the responsible authorities in using of the premises without even investing a single penny in the whole enterprise, followed by a “professional” vandalism, are now lamentably visible: not a single roof, ceiling, door, window or beam is still there and the once beautiful gardens and paths are now a shapeless piece of ground, covered with wild grass, plants and stones which makes it extremely difficult to walk on.
Where is the Lumko Bishop Rosenthal founded? Where is the time when, under the direction of Father Joseph Balzer SAC, the future catechists were properly trained for their task while their wives got acquainted with newer technics in their domestic domain and the children could go to a well functioning primary school?
Where is the time when newcomers in South Africa came to Lumko to learn an indigenous language with the help of an up to date language laboratory?
And where is the time when, after Vatican II, people in the pastoral field could come to Lumko to find some inspiration?
The only building which still “stands”, is the church. Some of the window panes are broken and the paint is peeling off from the neglected walls and doors, but it’s tower is like a warning finger telling us what a blame and shame Lumko is today!
And that after all those years of investing a lot of money and a considerable number of manpower in the building up of the Mission Station and the Institution.
May God spare us from such disappointing events in the future!
Fr. Edward Tratsaert SAC