Napo, Joseph Mutunye Kanyane
Kanyane Napo was the founder of the African Church, an independent denomination in the Transvaal that broke away from the Anglican Church in 1888.
Napo belonged to the Mopedi people and was born in Matlala’s Kraal, Sekhukuniland. He was baptized in the Independent Church (Congregational) in Uitenhage by the Rev. Paterson. He belonged to this church for a number of years, even becoming a lay preacher.
Napo then left the Independent Church and joined the Anglican Church because he liked their liturgical style of worship (MS 14 787). He had no grievance against his previous church but simply preferred the Anglican service. Napo remained in the Anglican Church until April 1888 when he left to establish his own African Church. At the time he was living in Pretoria. Napo retained the Anglican doctrines and style of worship in his new church.
In 1892 when Mangena Mokone left the Wesleyan Methodist Church and founded the Ethiopian Church, Napo, like Brander and other church leaders, joined him in his venture. Napo’s church in Marabastad served to show Mokone that it was possible to have a wholly African church without missionary support.
When the Ethiopian Church amalgamated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1896 Napo also became a member. His name is listed among the elders at the 1901 Conference of the AMEC. However, by this time Napo was beginning to feel the lack of freedom he had in his own church. The elders at the conference were angry that Napo had appointed his own preachers ‘by consecration and laying of hands’ (Minutes 1903).
Napo, in return, retold the whole history of how he came to be a member of the AMEC. He stated that he did not want to join Dwane, as others had done, but asked why the AMEC had taken away his plot for a church in Kimberley. Napo wanted to be made a bishop of his own district. In his Pretoria district he had eight churches, nine ministers, twenty-three local preachers and teachers.
Napo left the AMEC and re-established his African Church. In the 1920s, when he became old and blind, he was succeeded by his son Joseph Kanyane, Jr.
J. A. Millard
MS 14 787. Cory Library, Grahamstown.
Minutes of the Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Africa 1901.
Sundkler, B. Bantu Prophets in South Africa. London: Oxford University Press, 1961.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Malihambe - Let the Word Spread, copyright © 1999, by J. A. Millard, Unisa Press, Pretoria, South Africa. All rights reserved.