Natan Gamedze (born 1963) is of the royal lineage of the Gamedze clan of the Kingdom of Swaziland. After his conversion to Judaism as a ger tzedek he became an Orthodox rabbi with Haredi affiliations, lecturing to Jewish audiences all over the world, fascinated by his personal story as to how a person from Swaziland of royal lineage became an Orthodox Haredi Black Jewish rabbi.
As a youth, Rabbi Gamedze was educated in private schools in both Swaziland and London, where his father held the position of Swaziland's ambassador to the United Kingdom and EEC countries.
According to Rabbi Gamedze:
"My grandfather was king. But the British, who had colonized southern Africa, created the states of Swaziland, Bosutoland and Bechuanaland. They drew artificial borders, very often failing to take into consideration the ethnic distribution. So in many places, different ethnic groups were lumped together in the same state. That is what happened to us. And the British chose to recognize a rival royal family as the ruling group.
In order to win our cooperation, they made certain concessions to our family -- such as granting ministerial posts—and we have a semi-autonomous region within Swaziland. My father served as minister of education and ambassador to the EEC countries. Today, it's more like a paramount chief than a king, but they do wield power."
This account reflects the propensity of oral tradition to function as a "charter of the present" as different groups and interests assert competing claims. Scholarly history of Swaziland shows that the independent chiefdom or small kingdom ruled by members of the Gamedze clan was initially conquered and incorporated into the growing Ngwane kingdom ruled by members of the Dlamini clan sometime in the late 18th or early 19th century, long before British colonization. The Gamedze clan is classified among the Emakhandzambile category of clans ("those found ahead") according to Swazi royalist tradition, meaning that they were on the land prior to Dlamini immigration and conquest, as opposed to the Bomdzabuko ("true Swazi") who accompanied the Dlamini kings, and the Emafikemuva ("those who came behind") who joined the kingdom later. Emakhandzambile clans initially were incorporated with wide autonomy, and often in part by granting them special ritual and political status, but the extent of their autonomy was drastically curtailed by King Mswati II, including the Gamedze, whom Mswati attacked and subdued in the 1850s.
Rabbi Gamedze earned under- and post-graduate degrees in Modern Languages and Translation, majoring in German, Italian and French. In 1986, he received his Honours at Oxford University, and in 1988 completed his Master's degree in Translation at the University of the Witwatersrand ("Wits University") in Johannesburg. In 1987 and 1988, he was a sworn translator of German for the South African Supreme Court.
During his studies, he encountered the Hebrew language by chance. Following a growing interest, he took a course in Hebrew at Wits. This inspired a deep inner search, which became a pivotal point in his life. At the end of 1988, he traveled to Israel after being accepted by the Hebrew University to study for his PhD in Hebrew.
Living in Israel led to an increased curiosity in Judaism, which, following an influential vacation in Rome, he pursued by attending philosophy classes at Ohr Somayach Yeshiva in Jerusalem. This proved to be a significant step in his spiritual quest, which culminated in his conversion to Judaism in early 1991.
He then embarked on a four-year learning program at Ohr Somayach. Thereafter, he undertook advanced Talmudic studies at the Brisk Yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem, where he remained until the year 2000. Rabbi Gamedze today lives in Tzfat with his wife and two children.
Rabbi Gamedze is fluent in 14 languages including French, German, Italian, English, Hebrew, Afrikaans, and Zulu. He speaks a number of other languages as well, albeit not fluently.