Max Express Ntshingila

This is a repost from 2016 – updated:

I saw Mr Thandinkosi Ntshingila for an eye test recently. He was born in 1940. I told him I knew a Mr Max Ntshingila in Harrismith many moons ago, who owned a fleet of buses.

He said “Hayibo! That’s my Dad!!”

He grew up in Harrismith! Strictly speaking Max was his uncle, but his Dad died when he was very young and his uncle Max took him in and raised him as his own in Phomolong.

He told me that besides the buses – remember “Max Express” buses? yellow and green, I seem to remember – Max owned two shops, plus a petrol station in Swaziland.

Max died in 1978 aged 60 (so the news cuttings below are ca.1971). His empire collapsed when he died, as his kids “were spoilt” and “none of them could manage anything”, according to Thandinkosi. And although he was like a son, not when it came to inheritance.

Max sent Thandinkosi to college and he ended up in Durban working for Engen or Sapref or one of those fuel refinery places. Retired now, he plays the horses for fun and I see him at the tote on the roof of our centre occasionally.

– a Biscayne like Max Ntshingila’s –

I had wondered vaguely all these years about something, and I never expected to get the answer. But Thandinkosi had the answer for me: That cream coloured yank tank Max drove was a 1963 Chev Biscayne. I just LOVE it that I did find out! Never thought I would or could.

Thandinkosi still goes to Harrismith regularly to look after the house in Phomolong where he was raised. One of his nieces lives in it.

Leon Strachan sent me some pictures and newspaper cuttings. Note how Dr Frank Mdlalose, who we only got to know of post-1994, when he became KwaZulu Natal’s first Premier, was a house guest of the Ntshingila’s in Harrismith.

Max Express 3
Max Express 4
– snarky apartheid headline, methinks –


Update: Today – 12 December 2019 – I saw Mr Thandinkosi Ntshingila again. I phoned him to come in so I could give him copies of these pictures. He’ll be 80 next year. I hoped he was one of the kids in the photo, but he wasn’t. Not one of the people in the photo are still alive, he tells me. They all died quite young. He’s the only survivor of that household. He was chuffed and moved to receive these mementos, and says he’s going to frame the family photo!

– Mr Thandinkosi Ntshingila studies the photos –


Dr Frank Mdlalose died in March 2021 of COVID-19. His wikipedia entry tells a lovely story: Representing the students at the segregated medical school in Durban, established by Jan Smuts for Black and Indian students, he attended the only conference of the Association of Medical Students of South Africa attended by students from one of the Afrikaans-medium medical schools. They had hitherto refused to attend if Black students were present. One of the Afrikaner students said, as the conference finished, “I thank the Chair for having organised this conference. This is the first time I have met a black man with an intelligence equal to, or superior to, my own.” To which Frank responded, “I, too, thank the Chair for having organised this conference. This is the first time I have met an Afrikaner with an intelligence equal to, or superior to, my own.”

What a man!