Mthembu, Toitoi Smart
1901 to 1985
Head Mountain of God Apostolic
Church in Zion / Church of Christ / Messenger Apostolic Church in Zion / London
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 as 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)
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.