African religious leader
John Maranke was the founder of a successful independent church called the Apostolic Church of John Maranke. Today the church claims over 500,000 members in Africa, and many European converts outside the continent.
Maranke was born Muchabaya Ngomberume in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). His mother was the daughter of the Shona chief Maranke, whose clan name he adopted when he founded the church. Little is known of his early life, but church tradition says he had the first of several spiritual visions at age five. It is reported that he suffered mysterious illnesses throughout his adolescence and had a near-death experience. Maranke claimed a voice told him to take the name John the Baptist and to preach to many nations. In July 1932, he held his first religious ceremony, at which approximately 150 people joined the new Apostolic Church of John Maranke.
The practices of Maranke's church, a mixture of Jewish, Christian, and indigenous Shona religious elements, were inspired by his visionary experiences. As the church grew, Maranke gave some followers—including family members—leading positions. After his death, control of the church passed to his sons. (See also Prophetic Movements, Religion and Ritual.)