MZUKISI Tuko, 36, is the only deaf person in his family. B orn in Tsholomnqa township in East London, he later moved to Nxarhuni location, spending his childhood between Nxarhuni and Mdantsane.
He attended St Thomas School for the Deaf in Stutterheim, and later moved to St Martin de Porres Comprehensive School in Port Shepstone.
After leaving school, Tuko moved to Johannesburg, where he worked for 10 years, attending different churches, including Jehovah’s Witness and the Universal Church, as well as Bible Grace Church.
After returning to East London, Tuko was unable to find work.
People who are deaf in South Africa struggle to secure employment, with only around 0.8% of people living with disability in South Africa in gainful employment.
Only a small fraction of these are deaf people, according to Statistics SA.
Tuko found his way to Social Deaf, who pointed him in the direction of Pastor Phumie Jemane, who comes from Mdantsane, and who trained to become a pastor for the deaf at the Deaf Christian Ministry Africa (DCMA), a division of the National Institute for the Deaf, based in Worcester. Jemane is one of the first deaf pastors in the country , and founded a church for the deaf in Mdantsane.
Tuko was surprised there was a church where sign language, the mother tongue of the deaf , was the language of the gospel, and where the pastor was a man who understood deafness and could relate with Tuko in a way no hearing pastor could.
Tuko joined the church in 2011, and in 2012 Jemane asked Tuko if he was interested in becoming an ordained pastor for the deaf. Tuko was excited, but thought finances would prevent him from realising his call to the ministry.
However, Jemane was delighted to have another congregant interested in joining him in ministering, as at the moment he is the only ordained pastor for the deaf in East London.
“Phumie said ‘Hallelujah!’ and told me no problem, he will support me, and there is someone else can also support me,” said Tuko.
With this support, he made his way to Worcester in the Western Cape, and joined DCMA. The DCMA was founded in 2006, with a mission for the training and placement of deaf ordained ministers and pastors of the gospel for the deaf, done in a deaf-friendly way.
Sign language and understanding of deaf culture are key aspects to this ministry.
The Reverend Jan Oberholzer, head of DCMA, was there to welcome him.
On arrival, Tuko was the only new pastor- in-training.
It was a huge adjustment for him, being away from his support base and friends.
But Tuko has a deep commitment to sharing the gospel, and to his calling to the ministry.
As a deaf person, he knows how valuable his passion and skills are to bringing the gospel to the deaf – as a deaf pastor for the deaf.
On completion of his training, Tuko plans to return to Mdantsane and work alongside Jemane in spreading the gospel.
His dream is “to go to preach to the deaf”. He also wants to establish more churches and schools for the deaf.
“I’m so excited about studying to become pastor because God loves deaf people, and they must know who God is.”