Residents of Polokwane predominantly practice Christianity and traditional African faiths. Places of worship are predominantly divided along racial lines, although there is no legislation enforcing this. Most congregations within the city are white, with only a handful of black members. Black people mostly attend church in the city’s adjoining townships.
Christian charismatic churches are mushrooming rapidly in and around Polokwane and are mostly ministered by foreign nationals coming from Brazil, Nigeria, the US and Uganda.
Churches have a long history of bringing education to the city and its surrounding villages. Some of the Christian schools in operation include Jabez Christian Academy, Eagle’s Nest Christian school and Blue Mountain College.
Local Indians and Arabs mostly subscribe to Islam and come together with Somali refugees in mosques for their prayers.
Zion Christian Church
The Zion Christian Church, or ZCC, is the largest church initiated in Africa, with a following of more than 4 million members. The home of the ZCC is at Zion City Moria outside Polokwane. The ZCC Easter Festival attracts more than a million pilgrims each year.
Fusion of traditional African beliefs and Christianity
The village of Botlokwa is 55km north of Polokwane where the Tropic of Capricorn passes through the Southern Hemisphere. The Queen Mother of the Batlokwa tribe, Motswapo, was believed to have the power of rain-making. At the same time she was baptised into the Lutheran Church in the village of Mangata. It has always been a culture of the Batlokwa people to go to the Molemole Mountains to pray to their ancestors. In a society that is dominated by Christianity, this kind of practice is not condemned by their various religious denominations. They still attend their respective churches whenever they can and pray to God, while not forgetting their traditional African beliefs.
German Christian Missionary
Missionaries arrived in the north-eastern part of South Africa in 1860. By 1900 there were nearly 30 000 converts in the region. The missionaries contributed to the study of African languages, producing Bible translations and hymnals.
In1962 the mission churches became amalgamated with other Lutheran mission churches in the region forming the Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Africa. The Polokwane branch of the church is on Biccard Street. Relics of old churches can be found in the rural communities.
Church buildings in Polokwane
Construction of the first church in Polokwane, then Pietersburg, began in 1895 in Market Street. What was then known as the English Church had a slow beginning, mainly because its construction coincided with the Anglo-Boer War. After the war services were held regularly and the congregation grew steadily. This old church is now a historical religious landmark in the city.
The Roman Catholic Church on Biccard Street was built in 1934. Although it is a relatively contemporary building, it is considered one of the city’s finest pieces of architecture. Still the home of the large catholic congregation in Polokwane, this grandiose monument is appreciated by all who view it.