Original Research - Special Collection: Graham Duncan Dedication

Constructing the self in later life: The life story of Selaelo Thias Kgatla (1949–)

Christina Landman
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 1 | a4210 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i1.4210 | © 2016 Christina Landman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 September 2016 | Published: 16 November 2016

About the author(s)

Christina Landman, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, South Africa


On 15 April 2014 the author conducted an interview with Selaelo Thias Kgatla (then 64) by means of a prearranged interview schedule to revaluate a life review. Kgatla’s years of academic and ecclesiastical involvement leading to his ordination as the minister of the Polokwane Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa at the age of 47 were considered. However, the focus was on the last 18 years before his retirement, which was to happen in December 2015. This period commenced with his ordination in 1997 and covered his involvement in church leadership as Assessor and later Moderator of the Northern Synod (since 1999) and as Moderator of the General Synod (since 2005), as well as his appointments as professor at the University of Limpopo in 1997 and at the University of Pretoria in 2010.

In freezing this interview into the academic account given here, oral history and methodological sensitivities are considered. The interviewee’s ownership of his life review is acknowledged; his construction of the self as a coherent story of church leadership is respected; and the characteristics of remembering in later life are pointed out reverentially.

The life review with Kgatla was expanded with interviews from colleagues and congregants of his choice who confirmed the construction of his life story as one of relationship and resistance. Finally, the author gives a concluding overview of aims achieved in the article in terms of oral methodology and the contents of a life review in which the interviewee constructed his life as a church leader on the interface between resistance and relationship.


Thias Kgatla; Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa; Leadership; Oral History; Lebowakgoma; Polokwane


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