Church group stopped from climbing mountain
Durban - The Nazareth Baptist Church's eBuhleni group has been told to wait its turn to ascend the Nhlangakazi Mountain, KwaZulu-Natal police said on Tuesday.
"We advised the eBuhleni group not to go to the mountain to avoid conflict," Colonel Jay Naicker said.
On January 2, the church's eKuphakameni faction climbed Nhlangakazi mountain in Inanda for a 15-day prayer session as part of its annual pilgrimage.
Churchgoers were escorted up the mountain, outside Durban, by KwaZulu-Natal police.
Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Mdunge said security would be provided for the entire event.
The church, known as Shembe, is divided into the eBuhleni, eKuphakameni and Ginyezinye houses, which take turns to climb the mountain to avoid clashes.
The Mercury newspaper reported on Tuesday that members of the eBuhleni group, who come from Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, were camped at the church's Inanda premises waiting for the pilgrimage to begin.
EKuphakameni spokesperson Edward Ximba was quoted as saying in the paper: "If they come to the mountain, it will definitely ignite conflict."
The eBuhleni group had not been expected to climb the mountain, because it is embroiled in a leadership battle.
The leadership battle began in April 2011 with the death of Vimbeni Shembe, leader of the largest faction of the church.
According to a will presented by the church's lawyer during Vimbeni's funeral, he chose his cousin Vela Shembe as his successor.
However, the church's senior leaders expressed their preference for his son, Mduduzi.
The matter is currently before the KwaZulu-Natal High Court.
The Shembe church was founded by Isaiah Shembe in 1910. Violent family disputes over succession have plagued the church since the1970s.