Leader of Shembe Church dies after long illness

2011-03-29 00:00

THE leader of the largest faction of the Nazareth Baptist Church, popularly known as the Shembe church, inkosi Vimbeni Mbuso Shembe, died yesterday morning.

His death came just one month short of his 78th birthday, after an illness that started in September last year, according to family members.

Bishop Shembe became the leader of the biggest faction of the church, Ebuhleni, in 1995, following the death of his father, inkosi Amos Kula “AK” Shembe.

He remained the leader of the faction until his death.

Rumours of his illness began to circulate in earnest in January when the church elders refused to let him to go to the holy mountain of Nhlangakazi for an annual pilgrimage.

The move made many of his followers unhappy because it was a tradition for Shembe to lead them when going on the annual pilgrimage.

His son, Nhlanhla Shembe (37), said he blames the church spokesperson, Chancy Sibisi, for denying his father proper medical attention because when he went to see his father on Sunday night he was in a critical condition and he should have been taken to the hospital.

“Chancy Sibisi refused my sister Zanele and I chance to see our father in January because we heard rumours that he was very sick.

“The same person has been refusing to give us access to see our father on numerous occasions when all we wanted was to see the old man.”

He said he believed that his father’s death could have been triggered by the fact that he was isolated from his family.

“Even now I still do not know what the nature of his illness was and what could have caused his death.

“ … we were kept in the dark until his untimely death.”

Shembe described his father as a loving man.

“He was full of good advice and even if he was not happy about anything he did not shout but he would politely tell a joke. Later, when thinking about it, you would realise the message behind the joke,” he said.

The bishop leaves behind a wife, three sons, two daughters, 15 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

The family has not met to discuss the funeral arrangements.

An attempt to get a comment from Sibisi was unsuccessful. He told The Witness he had not prepared a comment for the media, but would make a statement about the matter in the next few days.

With the death of the Reverend Mini Shembe late last year and now of Bishop Vimbeni, this leaves the Shembe Church with only two people in the court battle for the role of titular head of the church of six million.

They are Vukile Shembe, who is the leader of second largest faction, Ekuphakameni, and Sizwe Shembe of the Ginyezinye faction.

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