Bishop Mutendi’s white son

Veronica Gwaze
Professor Marthinus Daneel is not one to be easily found in the annals of Zimbabwean nationalist history.

Yet the learned ‘white son’ has an interesting history which ties him close to the late Zion Christian Church (ZCC) founder, Bishop Samuel Mutendi.

The two met during trying times, in 1965, at the height of colonial rule.

Racism was at its peak when Prof Daneel spent time with Bishop Mutendi.

Prof Daneel visited ZCC’s headquarters in 1965, as he undertook academic research into African Christianity with special focus on the African Initiated Churches (AICs) in Zimbabwe.

The ZCC founder welcomed the then student and they lived at the same compound for several months.

Prof Daneel relived how he met Bishop Mutendi.

“I reminisce how he was neatly clad, clutching a staff in his right hand and relaxing at his sanctuary with a big family of 17 wives and over 70 children.

“My first impression was that he was a soft-spoken patriarch, a good listener but quick-witted and humorous. He approved my stay at his Mutarara church headquarters in Bikita. I also developed a close relationship with Bishop Mutendi’s sons, Enginasi, Sainos, Ruben, Boas and others.

“Some of the boys were avid hunters.

“The Bishop, days later after my arrival, invited me to accept adoption as son in his family.

“I then began to challenge colonial injustices to local communities together with my adopted father – Bishop Mutendi. We once demonstrated against settlers as they tried to invade our prayer meetings.

“Days later, I attended a court session in Bikita where many locals had been detained for protesting against injustices and I used my own money to bail them out. This episode cemented his ties with Bishop Mutendi and his family.

“I refused to be recruited by the colonial government as this would strain my newly found relationship with the Bishop and the rest of the local community.

“I made it clear that I wasn’t prepared to dump my adopted family to serve the interests of the white government. The white officers accused me of being a traitor to the ‘white cause’ in Southern Africa and threatened me with imprisonment at Chikurubi.

“I felt at peace when I told Colonel Hartley that I preferred to be locked up in Chikurubi than to turn against my African brothers and sisters. It was time to fight injustices.”

Prof Daneel also shared his fond memories of Bishop Mutendi during the preacher’s last days.

“He was frail and tired but relaxed in a dignified manner. We spent time sun bathing during one winter season in Bikita. I could feel I was in the presence of a man of God.”

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