| The sage of the enigmatic man who founded southern Africa’s biggest church

Members of the Zion Christian Church during the Motsepe Foundation national day of prayer on November 25, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The event, in its second year, held at FNB Stadium is aimed at praying for the betterment of the country and the African continent at large. (Photo by Gallo Images / Frennie Shivambu)

Participants of the Zion Christian Church all over the Motsepe Foundation nationwide day of prayer on November 25, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The occasion, in its 2nd year, held at FNB Stadium is geared toward praying for the betterment of the nation and the African continent at enormous. (Affirm by Gallo Photos / Frennie Shivambu)

Every Easter weekend, quite loads of hundreds of hundreds of Zion Christian Church (ZCC) trustworthy from throughout southern Africa tumble on “Moria city”, the church’s capital within the north of the nation, for his or her annual pilgrimage.

The church, founded by Engenas Lekganyane in 1925, is “the biggest indigenous non secular circulate in southern Africa.” An estimated one in ten South Africans is a member, constant with College Allan Anderson, Professor of Theology at College of Birmingham.

There are two branches of the church. The first one is led by the founder’s grandson, Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane (b. 1955) The breakaway St. Engenas ZCC is headed by his namesake and gargantuan-grandson.

Each and every of these competing branches are headquartered at Moria, two kilometres apart on the identical farm on which Engenas died and became once buried. They grab separate pilgrimages and varied events.

The usual participants of the principle branch are expected to wear Well-known person badges at all instances. For their fragment the St Engenas participants sport Dove badges. Each and every organisations are identical in theology – a fusion of Christianity and outdated-fashioned African beliefs. They limit ingesting, smoking and eating pork, amongst varied practices. The Well-known person half has a distinctive men’s organisation.

The unrelenting enhance of the ZCC has if truth be told sidelined the outdated faculty Protestant church buildings that launched Christianity to southern Africa. To boot to to their mountainous membership deplorable throughout the space, they furthermore withhold watch over intensive business empires in areas equivalent to transport, agribusiness and insurance.

But, even when Lekganyane became once central to the redefinition of Christianity in southern Africa, his lifestyles sage has been extremely refined to note down. Few written files possess survived. To boot to, the ZCC has at all times been secretive. Participants are forbidden from discussing the church with outsiders.

Church writings are restricted to participants and composed can’t be elaborate in public libraries. Researchers, from the 1940s onwards, had been furthermore stifled as the church sought to withhold tight withhold watch over over its message and practices.

My unique e book, Engenas Lekganyane and the Early ZCC: An Unauthorized History sheds gentle on the enigmatic figure and foundations of his church. The plump biography grew to turn into attainable after a enormous cache of unique documentation emerged about Engenas and the ZCC within the closing few years.

Engenas Lekganyane, founder of the ZCC. Supplied b

Engenas Lekganyane, founder of the ZCC. Equipped by writer, Creator equipped

Who became once Engenas Lekganyane?

The Lekganyanes had been traditional participants of a cramped Pedi chieftaincy residing within the hills east of Polokwane. They lived on land owned by German missionaries, and Engenas grew up as a Lutheran prior to a political contrast erupted over a land dispute between the mission and the tribe.

Within the slack 1890s the younger Engenas became once educated by Xhosa Presbyterian missionaries introduced in to exchange the Lutherans. So Engenas had a truly orthodox Protestant background and training.

Lekganyane’s training and lifestyles had been completely disrupted following the outbreak of the South African Battle between the British and the Boers in 1899. He at closing grew to turn into a migrant worker, leaving dwelling to work in internal sight Tzaneen and remote Boksburg on municipal building projects.

All over these years he first joined Pentecostal or Zionist church buildings. But he became once expelled from Tzaneen by the Protestant chief. Returning dwelling in 1915 on the age of 30 he started his private church with 14 participants. Internal 10 years he had 926 followers and started the ZCC following a imaginative and prescient he had on the pinnacle of Mt Thabakgone, a now sacred hill adjoining to his village.

After an correct dispute energetic the stillbirth of his illegitimate child, Lekganyane became once expelled by his chief in 1930. He lived on private land thereafter, reasonably retaining his autonomy and privateness.


Participants of the Zion Christian Church all over the Motsepe Foundation nationwide day of prayer on November 25, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The occasion, in its 2nd year, held at FNB Stadium is geared toward praying for the betterment of the nation and the African continent at enormous. (Affirm by Gallo Photos / Frennie Shivambu)

Making of the ZCC

Lekganyane became once on the origin inspired by an Australian religion healer named John Alexander Dowie. He took most of his theology from the then white-led Apostolic Faith Mission a Pentecostal team he belonged to from 1910 to 1916.

He integrated many syncretic practices taken from African custom. The largest of these became once to incorporate ancestral esteem into his church, a notice that he adopted from an early Zionist named Daniel Nkonyane.

ZCC participants had been expected to make money choices to their ancestors, which they gave to Lekganyane so that he may maybe perchance presumably intercede on their behalf. He furthermore apparently protected his participants against witchcraft, crime and disease. Over time, he usurped the roles of the chiefs as the claimed main rainmaker within the space.

By 1948, his church had grown to about 50 000 participants. His sage internal the ZCC community has grown critically ever since. Though he left no writing texts within the back of, the ZCC has made him the point of curiosity of its sacred memoir. The sage of his non secular calling, and furthermore his a quantity of claimed miracles and prophesies, are properly-known by all participants.

One of many reasons he managed to point out the ZCC genuine into a non secular juggernaut became once his financial astuteness. He obtained property and reasonably feeble donations for expansion. Moreover, he catered basically to migrant staff, the biggest rising phase of the African population.

Engenas Lekganyane (c. 1885-1948) died 71 years within the past on his private farm east of Polokwane.

All over his lifetime, Lekganyane became once by no blueprint talked about in print. Nor did anyone write his obituary following his rapid burial. He lived, to the end, a secretive and enigmatic existence.

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