Hans Apie was a member of Makapan's tribe who lived north of Pretoria. Unfortunately, his proper African name was never recorded and all the records refer to him as 'Hans Apie'. Some years before the 1880s Apie left his home and traveled to the Cape Colony in search of work. There he attended school and met up with members of the Methodist Church, which he joined and where he was converted.
Some time later he returned home to the Waterberg district in the Transvaal and began to work as a teacher and evangelist. He built a chapel for his new converts and used the Bible for a schoolbook as he had no others available. When he met the Methodist missionary Watkins in 1881 he already had 30 people who had been converted and were receiving instruction. Watkins reported that Apie was 'a good preacher and was gifted with the power to govern' (Minutes of the 1885 District meeting).
At Makapan's Kraal Apie built a chapel (just over six meters long and three meters wide) in which a couple of hundred people worshipped. The chief wanted to learn to read and Apie was able to help him. Although Apie considered himself a Methodist, he was approached by the Hermannsburg Missionary Society to amalgamate his work with theirs. They sent a German missionary to take over the work but had little success. The people remained loyal to Apie, their own missionary. Apie sometimes traveled further afield and joined other African preachers as well as the missionary Watkins on evangelistic tours of the country further inland.
In the minutes of the Synod for 1886 Hans Apie was listed among the candidates for the ministry. Little is recorded of his ministry but he appears to have continued serving Makapan's tribe as a beloved evangelist. Watkins was very impressed with Apie's work and after a visit to his church where 120 people had been baptized he wrote that if the Methodist Church wanted to retrench in this (the Waterberg) mission (which, of course, it had no intention of doing) it should rather recall the missionaries and support the work of Apie and his fellow preachers (Mears 1972, 34).
J. A. Millard
Diary of the Reverend Owen Watkins. Journal of the Methodist Historical Society of South Africa, vol. 3, no 3, 1958.
Mears, G. Methodism in the Transvaal: An Outline. Johannesburg: Goldfields Press, 1972.
Minutes of the 1885 and 1886 District Meetings (Synods) of the Transvaal and Swaziland District of the Methodist Church.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Malihambe - Let the Word Spread, copyright © 1999, by J. A. Millard, Unisa Press, Pretoria, South Africa. All rights reserved.