Timothy Cekwane (1893-December 1949) was founder and leader of the Zulu spirit church, the Church of the Light. The church emphasizes the “cleansing” of itself and its members.
Cekwane was born near Himeville, in Natal. Although his parents were not Christian, he became a preacher in Himeville, at Mzimba’s Presbyterian Church of Africa. He was, however, dissatisfied with the nature of worship in the Presbyterian church, which he found too cold and formal.
When Cekwane saw Halley’s Comet in 1910, he took it as a sign that he should establish a new and more vigorous church. On that evening, he spoke in tongues and healed the sick. He noticed that the palms of his hands were bleeding, and therefore concluded that his special link with God was through blood, which cleansed himself and his followers. Those who were with him that night were converted, and went on to help him convert others. They called their new church Ibandla Loku Kanya, or “The Church of the Light.” They made the broom their symbol, to show that their aim was to “cleanse” the world for God. In the late 20th century, church members still met annually to “cleanse” themselves on the hill where Cekwane saw the comet in 1910.
Upon the death of Cekwane in 1949, religious leadership of the church passed to Aaron Mjwara, who also had the “gift of blood” in that he could produce blood in his mouth while preaching.
Leonard Leslie Bessant
Bengt Sundkler, Bantu Prophets in South Africa, Oxford, 1961, Zulu Zion and Some Swazi Zionists, Oxford, 1976.
This article was reprinted from The Encyclopaedia Africana Dictionary of African Biography (In 20 Volumes). Volume Three: South Africa- Botswana-Lesotho-Swaziland. Ed. Keith Irvine. Algonac, Michigan: Reference Publications Inc., 1995. All rights reserved.