Shembe: hearing over ‘real’ leader opens today

2011-11-14 00:00

A TWO-WEEK court hearing to judge who is the rightful leader of the Shembe Church opens in the high court in Durban today.

KwaZulu-Natal Judge-President elect Chiman Patel will hear evidence from two factions who contest the leadership. The testimony will be heard until November 25 and then Judge Patel will prepare his verdict.

The contenders are inkosi Mduduzi “Nyazilwezulu” Shembe, who is the son of the late eBuhleni faction leader, inkosi Vimbeni Shembe, and Inkosi Vela “Imisebeyelanga” Shembe, who is the son of the last leader of the united Shembe church, inkosi Johannes Galilee “JG” Shembe.

The leadership tussle, which has divided the three million followers of the church, started shortly after the death of inkosi Vimbeni in March.

During Inkosi Vimbeni’s funeral which took place at eBuhleni headquarters in Inanda in April, a local traditional leader, inkosi Mqoqi Ngcobo, namded Mduduzi as the heir apparent to the Shembe Church.

Shortly after the announcement inkosi Vimbeni’s lawyer, Zwelabantu Buthelezi, produced a letter, allegedly hand-written by Inkosi Vimbeni, naming Vela as the rightful leader.

The two announcements have divided the church, which has resulted in the approach to the courts. Thousands of faithful supporters of Shembe church are expected to fill the streets of Durban as they did during previous hearings.

Also known as Nazareth Baptist Church, Shembe is the oldest African indigenous church in South Africa.

There are three factions of the church in KZN and one in Gauteng.

• skhumbuzo.miya@witness.co.za

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