Serene on top, tense below

2012-01-17 00:00

POLICE reportedly had to intervene to resolve a stand-off between the two Nazareth Baptist Church factions — also known as the Shembe Church — as one faction was about to begin its pilgrimage yesterday morning.

The confrontation took place near the holy mountain of Nhlangakazi in the Ndwedwe area, north of Durban.

According to information from eye-witnesses, the Ginyezinye faction of the church was about to begin its mountain pilgrimage after the eKuphakameni faction descended from the mountain on Sunday, when a truck full of eBuhleni faction supporters started to taunt them.

“There were about 50 of them in a truck singing songs glorifying the leader of their faction, Inkosi Mduduzi ‘Nyazilwezulu’ Shembe,” one eye-witness said.

Spokesperson for the Ginyezinye faction, Nombili Mhlongo, confirmed the incident and said physical confrontation was avoided because people from his faction behaved themselves while being provoked by the people from the eBuhleni faction.

“I think when the eBuhleni truck arrived, police thought they were part of us until we told them that they were from the other faction. They stopped them from interfering with us after we had told them that. However, we condemn their behaviour as they were aware all along that after eKuphakameni’s turn, it was us who had the right start the pilgrimage,” Mhlongo said.

eBuhleni spokesperson Thokozani Mncwabe said he was not yet aware of yesterday morning’s incident.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Mdunge said police were not aware of the stand-off between the two factions, but confirmed that police have kept a strong presence at the mountain since the various Shembe factions started their pilgrimages on January 2.

According to permits sought from the Ndwedwe municipality, the next faction to start the pilgrimage is the Ginyezinye faction. Their turn will last for seven days and ends next Monday (January 23). Police will again be keeping a strong presence and are monitoring all movements around the mountain to dampen the tension between factions.

Mdunge confirmed that the car of a member from the eBuhleni faction, who mistakenly went to the mountain, was shot at several times. No one was injured in the incident,

Mdunge said a suspect in the case, Cebolakhe Nzimande (26), handed himself over to the police yesterday with his lawyers and was released on R1 000 bail after appearing at Ndwedwe Magistrate’s court.

His firearm, a pump-action shotgun that was allegedly used in the incident, was taken by police for forensic ballistic testing, Mdunge said.

Mdunge said another firearm, a 9 mm pistol, which was allegedly fired in the air during the incident, was also taken for ballistic testing.

The person who fired the pistol has submitted a sworn affidavit and was released without being charged, while Nzimande was charged for attempted murder.

Both firearms are believed to be legally registered to Nzimande and his companion, Mdunge said.

As the Ginyezinye ascended the mountain yesterday, the eBuhleni faction, which is currently camping in the Hhomisi area of Ndwedwe about 21 km away, could be seen from the top waiting for their turn next Monday. Some guards in their campsite refused to be photographed or to speak to The Witness when it visited their camp yesterday.

Before the eKuphakameni started the annual pilgrimage, Shembe followers worried that this year’s pilgrimage would not take place while the three factions disagreed on which date each faction could climb the mountain. The matter was resolved when they found that only two factions — eKuphakameni and Ginyezinye — had duly applied and agreed upon their pilgrimage days.

The eBuhleni faction then agreed to start their pilgrimage once the other two had ended theirs.

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