Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Mthembu, Toitoi Smart

Head Mountain of God Apostolic Church in Zion
Botswana , South Africa

Toitoi Smart Mthembu was born in Zimbabwe in 1901 at Mphini south of Plumtree. His father was Mavokoto who belonged to the Majonwani family, which was part of the Tembo clan, whose totem was Dube (zebra). Mthembu is an Ndebele corruption of Tembo (Kealotswe 1994:6).

He was baptised in 1920 at the LMS mission, and attended school eight years after his baptism (Kealotswe 1994:7-8). He went to work in Johannesburg where he joined the Messenger Apostolic Church in Zion in 1936, but was expelled from the church after he had kept the bishop waiting outside (he had the key).

For the next two years he lived a secular life, and was interested in dancing and beauty contests and smart clothes, from which he got the nickname “Smart”. About this time he returned to Zimbabwe, and found his wife had moved to Botswana with their child Amos. He attended the Church of Christ at Danangombe in Zimbabwe (Kealotswe 1994:13). There he became the spiritual child of Nanani Somfula Nkomo.

In Johannesburg he began attending a “boer” church, and some of the people at that church asked him to pray for them, and people were cured of barrenness and other problems. He gathered a small mixed congregation of whites and blacks around him in Sophiatown. As a result of a dream he called it the Head Mountain Apostolic Church in Zion. He asked an association of AICs to ordain him as bishop, and then his church grew rapidly in Johannesburg. After Mthembu returned to Botswana in 1948, however, it grew more rapidly there (Kealotswe 1994:16-17).

In 1956 Mthembu married a second wife, Khutsafalo, the daughter of a traditional healer. He had eight children by her and four by his first wife Baka-Amos Kealotswe 1994:14). One of the things that made Mthembu famous was his contest with a one-eyed snake at a dam at New Canada, near Soweto. Many Zionists would not baptise their members in the dam for fear of this snake, but Mthembu subdued it (Kealotswe 1994:16)

Stephen Hayes


Kealotswe, Obed. 1994. An African independent church leader: Bishop Smart Mthembu of the Head Mountain of God Apostolic Chruch in Zion. Gaborone: University of Botswana.

This article is generated by the Database of African Church Leaders, which is part of the Database of African Independent Churches maintained by Stephen Hayes. All rights reserved.