African Zionism

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Zion congregants dancing to the drums and singing in Harare (Zimbabwe).
Zion dancers in Harare.

African Zionism, (also "amaZioni" from Zulu "people of Zion") is a religious movement with 15–18 million members throughout Southern Africa, making it the largest religious movement in the region. Zionism is the predominant religion of Swaziland and forty percent of Swazis consider themselves Zionist. It is also common among Zulus in South Africa. The amaZioni are found in South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. It is a combination of Christianity and African traditional religion.[1]


The Zionist churches of southern Africa were founded by Petrus Louis Le Roux, an Afrikaner faith healer.[2] He was a former member of the Dutch Reformed Church who joined John Alexander Dowie's Christian Catholic Church based in Zion, Illinois. In 1903 Dowie sent a Daniel Bryant to South Africa to work alongside Le Roux. In 1908 Daniel Nkonyane became the leader of the church. By the 1920s the church in Africa was entirely separated from its American version. In the mid-1980s the church in Zion, Illinois (now called Christ Community Church) began reestablishing a connection with the Zion movement in Southern Africa. The church works through an agency called Zion Evangelical Ministries of Africa or ZEMA. In South Africa, churches were established at Wakkerstroom and Charlestown on the Transvaal-Natal border.


Zionism blends traditional African beliefs with faith-healing and water baptism. Some members wear white robes and carry staffs.[3]


  1. ^ United States Department of State
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-11-23. Retrieved 2008-08-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Adrian Hastings, The Church in Africa: 1450-1950. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994 pp. 499-505, 520-1, 537-8. Also Hennie Pretorius and Lizo Jafta, "A Branch Springs Out: African Initiated Churches" in Christianity in South Africa, edited by Richard Elphick and Rodney Davenport. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997 pp. 216-224.

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