Rev Phambani Jeremiah Mzimba (1850 - )
The Order of the Baobab in
Profile of Rev Phambani Jeremiah Mzimba
A devout Christian and founder of the Mzimbatite Church, which subsequently influenced the formation of the Bantu Presbyterian Church in 1923, Jeremiah Mzimba was born in the 1850s at Ngqakayi in the Eastern Cape. His father, Ntibane Mzimba, was educated in Lovedale and became a deacon in the Presbyterian Church.
He attended school at the famous Lovedale College from 1860 and in 1875 was ordained as the first South African-trained black Presbyterian Church minister on 2 December 1875. He became a teacher of biblical studies. After his ordination, he volunteered to go to Livingstone Mission in Malawi but was not chosen, and he dedicated himself to serving the Lovedale congregation and taught at Lovedale Institution.
In 1891, the year of Lovedale’s Jubilee, Reverend Mzimba was chosen to deliver one of the sermons and was recognised as a modest and capable minister and a successful evangelist. In 1893, he was sent to Scotland as a delegate to the anniversary of the Free Church, severing its ties with the Scottish Government.
While in Scotland, he collected funds for the theological school in Lovedale. In the 1897 National United Presbyterian Assembly, the Kaffrarian Presbyterian declined to accept union with other Presbyteries if their African ministers did not receive equal recognition.
Reverend Mzimba left the Free Church of Scotland after 22 years of service, and formed his own independent church. They called themselves the “true Free Church”. He left with most of the congregation members of Lovedale. Reverend Mzimba died in 1911, and his son took over as the head of the Mzimbatite Church. The formation of the Mzimba Church had a direct influence on the formation of the Bantu Presbyterian Church in 1923, the African Branch of the Presbyterian Church of South Africa.
The reverend’s ineffaceable contribution to humanity is shown in the establishment of one of the early African independent churches in South Africa, which was an important initial step towards the liberation of this country.
His name is counted among those of the early pioneers of the African independent churches who played an instrumental role in the development of a new understanding of Christianity among the African believers.
We are proud of honouring Reverend Pambani Jeremiah Mzimba with the Order of the Baobab in Gold for his pioneering role in the emergence of African independent churches.