Shembe faction breaks with tradition after shooting incident

2012-01-27 00:00

FOR the first time in its 33-year history, the eBuhleni faction of the Nazareth Baptist Church, also known as the Shembe Church, did not climb the holy mountain this year.

Spokesperson of the eBuhleni faction Thokozani Mncwabe said yesterday that faction leader Inkosi Mduduzi “Nyazi lweZulu” Shembe called off the pilgrimage to Nhlangakazi mountain on Tuesday. This after the Shembe church faithful had embarked on their two-week pilgrimage to Nhlangakazi in Ndwedwe earlier this month.

However, they were unable to complete the pilgrimage and camped at the Homisi area, 21 km away from the holy mountain, while the smallest Shembe faction, the Ginyezinye from Trust Feed outside Pietermaritzburg, had permission to occupy the mountain until Monday (January 23).

The three-million strong eBuhleni faction was expected to climb the mountain afterwards.

Mncwabe said the reason for the cancellation was because of the shoot-out three weeks ago when the eKuphakameni faction was occupying the mountain. An eBuhleni supporter who mistakenly went to the mountain on Saturday (January 14) had his car sprayed with bullets. No one was injured in the incident. A 26-year-old man, Cebolakhe Nzimande, was arrested in connection with the incident and is out on R1 000 bail.

“On Tuesday Inkosi [Shembe] announced that the holy mountain is not going to be climbed this year because it is “dirty” following the shooting.

Inkosi said Homisi (the area where the eBuhleni pilgrimage ended), will this year be “symbolically and spiritually the holy mountain to us”, Mncwabe said.

However, he said the church’s priests had failed to apply for permission to embark on the pilgrimage while the other two factions — eKuphakameni and Ginyezinye — did.

“We are angry because it’s our priests who let us down, although I personally told them to seek the permission in time. They took things for granted because we are the biggest faction … We hope next year we would be able to climb the mountain as per the tradition of our church.”

The Nhlangakazi pilgrimage is the most sacred event in the Shembe church’s annual calendar as it symbolises the establishment of the church in 1910 by its founder Prophet Isaiah Shembe, who spent days in the Nhlangakazi mountain prior to the establishment of the traditionalist Christian church.

The eBuhleni faction’s failure to climb the mountain comes in the wake of a leadership battle between Inkosi Mduduzi Shembe and Inkosi Vela Shembe, currently before the high court in Durban.

The leadership battle started after the death of eBuhleni leader, Inkosi Vimbeni Shembe, in April this year. During his funeral, a staunch member of the church, Mqoqi Ngcobo, announced that the new leader was going to be Inkosi Mduduzi. He was followed by the church’s lawyer Zwelabantu Buthelezi, who announced that according to a will left by Inkosi Vimbeni, the rightful leader was his cousin, Inkosi Vela. The two parties then took each other to court and the case is expected to re-convene in April this year.

The eBuhleni faction broke away from the Ekuphakameni in 1977, after its leader Inkosi Amos Kula (AK) Shembe was expelled by the late Inkosi Londa Shembe’s supporters and settled at the Mzinyathi area of Ndwedwe where he established the eBuhleni headquarters.

The original headquarters of eKuphakameni was left under the control of Inkosi Londa Shembe who was assassinated in 1989. Inkosi Londa Shembe’s youngest son, Inkosi Vukile Shembe, is the current leader of the eKuphakameni faction.

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