In a development that is sure to shock the devout members of Zimbabwe’s largest church, the ZCC, historian Barry Morton has maintained that their legendary founder, Samuel Mutendi, presented a highly inaccurate version of his life story in the sacred text known as the “Rungano Rwe Zion Christian Church”.
Mutendi throughout his life maintained that he had a series of visions between 1913 and 1919 while working as a policeman in Chegutu. He then worked as a lay minister at a DRC mission for three years before journeying to South Africa, where he was baptized by the renowned Engenas Lekganyane,(who would found the South African ZCC in 1925) in a river near Pretoria.
At the time Lekganyane was a leading member of the Zion Apostolic Faith Mission (ZAFM). According to Mutendi, he not only had many visions following the baptism but he also appointed the ZAFM leader in the then Rhodesia. In 1925, when Lekganyane broke with ZAFM, Mutendi went to South Africa and went with him to register the new church in Pretoria.
Morton, in his article “Samuel Mutendi’s Biography Cannot Be True”,
reproduces several ZAFM documents to show that Mutendi was never a member of ZAFM. Likewise he reproduces other documents to show that during this period Mutendi was actually a member of another organization called “Zion Apostolic Church” (ZAC).
According to Morton, these discrepancies invalidate Mutendi’s entire autobiography because they are obviously intentional. According to Morton, the fact that Mutendi was a member of ZAC means that he was converted by Lekganyane well before 1920, thus rendering much of his account as “concocted”.
Morton additionally shows that Mutendi originally went by the name of Samuel Moyo, and only changed his name to Mutendi after returning to Rhodesia with the ZCC. The name Mutendi was a shortened version of “Tenda” and “Sizo”, which referred to his miraculous recoverery from near death as a prematurely-born child. According to Morton, successful faith healers such as Mutendi almost always rewrite their life stories to convince their followers of their supernatural powers