When missionaries first reached southern Africa in the 1850s, they realized they needed more language skills. In 1854 Jesse Haven published a few translated missionary tracts and studied the Dutch dialect that was developing into Afrikaans. But more than a century passed before Johannes P. Brummer collaborated with Felix Mynhardt, a scholar friendly to the Church, to prepare an Afrikaans Book of Mormon translation for Church approval, which was published in 1972.
Mission leaders had begun to consider other language groups when in 1908 a Zulu member urged them to begin missionary work among the Zulu. No missionary effort was launched at that time, but in 1987, a Zulu translation of selections from the Book of Mormon was finally published. Mangosuthu G. Buthelezi, a Zulu cultural and political leader, praised the effort. “A great deal of prayerful work has gone into the translation and production of the book,” he noted. “It is a great gift to the Zulu people.” A complete Zulu Book of Mormon translation was published in 2003.
Judy Bester Brummer, who grew up speaking English in her home but Xhosa with her friends, helped translate the Book of Mormon into Xhosa. It was published in 2000. In 2003 the Book of Mormon was also published in Tswana.
Because of these translations, about 70 percent of South Africans can now read the Book of Mormon in their native language.