Reverend and founder of the independent Ethiopian Church in South Africa
Reverend Mangena M Mokone was born at Bogaga, Sekhukhuneland (Transvaal) in 1851. His mother was daughter of Sephate and was from a royal lineage. In 1863, his father, a junior chief of Bogaga, was killed in the Swazi – Pedi war.
In 1870 he went to work in Pietermaritzburg's sugar plantation in order to buy a rifle. He found work in Mr. Acutt. After working for Mr. Acutt for a period of not more than six months, he left for Durban to find better employment there. It was in Durban that his early schooling began. To keep his employment, he attended night schools. His schooling was coupled with missionary education. Four years after arriving in Natal, the Reverend Damon Hlongwana baptised him. The following year, he returned to Pietermaritzburg where he enrolled with the Pietermaritzburg elementary theology school, the Edendale College. He was Rev. Hlongwana and Rev. H Samoron's pupil for at least three years.
In 1880 the Anglican Methodist Church held it annual conference in Peitermaritzburg and invited Mr. Mokone who was not a member at the time. After the conference he was appointed to be part of their Swaziland mission, but because of theFirst Anglo-Boer War, was unable to take this position. He remained in Natal until 1888. He was then appointed the first head of African ministers in Pretoria. In this position he erected churches and a school that produced people like S M Makgatho, former president of the African National Congress, and J Tabane.
On the 1st November 1892, he took a decisive step and founded the first branch of the Ethiopian church in South Africa. The church was formerly opened on the 5th November 1893. In 1895 he wrote to Bishop Turner of the African Methodist Episcopal church in America, which was also an independent church. Their relationship developed from this correspondence and led to a call from the Ethiopian church in South Africa to form a union with the American church. After the Ethiopian church conference of 1896 it was decided that the two churches should merge. After the conference, Rev. Mokone, J Dwane, and J G Xaba visited United States of America to formalise the union of the two churches. The union was successful and South Africans were given the opportunity to study in America.
Rev. Mangena Mokone continued to serve the African Methodist Episcopal Church that he helped found in South Africa until his death in 1931. His long-term service earned him in the church earned the honoric title of ‘father figure'.