Zion Christian Church

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The Zion Christian Church (or ZCC) is the largest African initiated church in Southern Africa, with millions of members belonging to the ZCC star and members belonging to Saint Engenas ZCC.[1] The church's headquarters are at Zion City Moria in Limpopo Province, South Africa (Northern Transvaal).


The ZCC was formed by Engenas Lekganyane in 1910 after a long journey of trying to find a spiritual home.[1] After being educated at two Anglican missions, Lekganyane joined the Apostolic Faith Mission around 1911 in Boksburg. He then joined the Zion Apostolic Church schism in 1916 and eventually became a preacher of a congregation in his home village during late World War I.[2] After falling out with the ZAC leadership, Lekganyane went to Basutoland to join Edward Motaung's Zion Apostolic Faith Mission in 1920. After some time he returned to the Transvaal as the regional leader for Lion.[3]

Lekganyane ZCC members trace the founding of the church to a revelation which Lekganyane is said to have received from God on the top of Mt Thabakgone in 1924.[4] After splitting from Lion, Lekganyane used his home village of Thabakgone, near Polokwane (Pietersburg), as a headquarters, with about twenty initial congregations in the Northern Transvaal, the Witwatersrand, and Rhodesia.[5] In 1930 Lekganyane began building a stone church there. After clashes with his chief, Lekganyane was expelled with his church still unfinished. Determined to obtain land, he eventually purchased three farms in the Polokwane area. Maclean Farm near Thabakgone would eventually be renamed as "Moria", the ZCC's headquarters. The ZCC was officially registered as a church in 1962 after the government's reluctance to recognise one of the continent's largest and most influential churches. The early church was strongly influenced by the doctrines of the Christian Catholic Church of John Alexander Dowie, based in Zion, Illinois in the United States of America, and by the teachings of the Pentecostal missionary John G. Lake, who began work in Johannesburg in 1908.

The ZCC changed fairly dramatically following his son Edward Lekganyane's assumption of control of the church in 1948. Edward was a highly educated, flamboyant figure who eventually obtained a degree at an Afrikaans divinity school.[6] In contrast to his father, Edward relied less on faith healing and oral testimony in services, and moved towards a more biblically-based doctrine. Under his leadership the all-male Mokhukhu organization developed. This group initially formed as a church choir. Wearing military-style khakis, police-style hats, and the Star badge, the Mokhukhu in each congregation engaged in dancing, singing, and praying three times a week according to a preset schedule.[7] An additional feature of Edward's control of the ZCC was the rapid growth of Zion City Moria as a pilgrimage site. Using the Maclean farm that his father had purchased in the 1940s, Edward instituted annual pilgrimages that have gone on to become massive southern African-wide events. Each year during Easter Holidays Church members bus en masse to Moria, Polokwane (Pietersburg) (between 10 and 13 million members) to meet the Bishop and to pray for blessings.[8]


The church fuses African traditions and values with Christian faith. As opposed to the mainstream European churches, the church has sought independence and autonomy in terms of theological and dogmatic approach. According to the ZCC, scholars such as EK Lukhaimane, Hanekom, Kruger, Sundkler and Daneel did not understand the ZCC's approach to Christianity. Due to the apartheid education system in which Africans and their beliefs were rejected and mocked, they saw ZCC as a sect. This situation was exacerbated by the church's policy on secrecy, which limited its inability to publicize its activities. As a result, the ZCC maintains that much writing about it is inaccurate. The church still believes in prophecy, the power of healing and spiritual counseling, which did not resonate with the scientific perspectives of these academics. Instead of understanding the therapeutic value of its practices, they described them as rituals. The use of different mechanisms for faith-healing include the laying-on of hands, the use of holy water, drinking of blessed tea and coffee, and the wearing of blessed cords or cloth.

  • The colors of the church are green and yellow. Church uniform differ according to the state and gender of members and occasions. Men wear khakhis for dancing and green suits for church services. Young women wear blue for church services and khakhi for choir practices. Elder women wear green and yellow regalia for church services.
  • Because the church preaches the message of peace, they start their greetings with the word 'KGOTSONG OR KGOTSO A E BE LE LENA (KGOTSO E BE LE LENA)' meaning "peace be unto you." ZCC is about peace and respect and the love of God.
  • The church has its own magazine called "Messenger". Next to messages for its members, the magazine contains a list of events in the congregations throughout the country (e.g. visits of the Bishop).
  • There are other ZCC sacred locations. Pudingwana or Podingwane (Podungwane) near Lebowakgomo, was the headquarters of ZCC from 1937 to 1942 before it moved to Moria, while Thabakgone is the church founder's birthplace and original headquarters.
  • Women do not take part in Sunday service preaching. They, especially in Z.C.C Star, are allowed to preach during the women services held every Wednesday.
  • Lekganyane is believed to have supernatural powers (believed to be the mediator between man and God). This is the reason why most worship songs are about him.
  • Lekganyane is referred to as "Kgomo", which translates to "Cow".


Members of the Z.C.C generally believe that:

  • A person is saved through baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, by dipping him/her in water 3 times (Christian Bible, Matt 28:19).
  • Z.C.C members pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ. Lekganyane is the leader.
  • Redemption is obtained through confession, repentance and prayer.
  • The bishop and ministers of the Z.C.C preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ as laid out in the bible.
  • The Z.C.C Church Members have a strong belief in Prophets and Prophecies.


  1. ^ Anderson, A., 1999. "The Lekganyanes and Prophecy in the Zion Christian Church", Journal of Religion in Africa, xxix - 3
  2. ^ Hanekom, C., 1975. Krisis en Kultus : Geloofsopvattinge en seremonies binne 'n Swart Kerk, Academica: Kaapstad en Pretoria
  3. Motshwaraganyi Tlhako "The two largest churches in Southern Africa", 2010 'Maltipular Senior Publishers'


  1. https://www.academia.edu/14338013/Engenas_Lekganyane_and_the_Early_ZCC_Oral_Texts_and_Documents
  2. Lukhaimane, The Zion Christian Church of Ignatius Engenas Lekganyane, 1924 to 1948: An African Experiment with Christianity (MA Dissertation, University of the North, 1980), 15-22.
  3. "Who Was Engenas Lekganyane/" http://deanministries.page.tl/Who-Was-Engenas-Lekganyane.htm
  4. Lukhaimane, "Zion Christian Church," 23-4.
  5. https://www.academia.edu/14338013/Engenas_Lekganyane_and_the_Early_ZCC_Oral_Texts_and_Documents
  6. Hanekom, C., 1975. Krisis en Kultus : Geloofsopvattinge en seremonies binne 'n Swart Kerk, Academica: Kaapstad en Pretoria
  7. M. Ramogale and S. Galane, "Faith in Action: Mokhukhu of the Zion Christian Church." http://www.folklife.si.edu/resources/festival1997/faithin.htm
  8. R. Muller, African Pilgrimage: Ritual Travel in South Africa's Christianity of Zion. London: Ashgate Press, 2013. 978-1-4094-8164-5