Rival Shembe church attack condemned
Durban - KwaZulu-Natal acting Community Safety MEC Senzo Mchunu has condemned a shooting at what the Nazareth Baptist Church has proclaimed as its holy mountain in Inanda.
"Such behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Even though there are factions that exist in this church, that is no reason to resort to violent ways," Mchunu said on Monday.
He urged church members to remain calm, saying the police had been deployed to keep watch.
Two people were shot at the Nhlangakazi mountain in Inanda outside Durban on Saturday. The attack was apparently caused by ongoing tensions between rival factions of the church.
Car sprayed with bullets
"The situation is tense. Two of our people narrowly escaped death when their car was sprayed with bullets on Saturday," Thokozani Mncwabe, of the church's eBuhleni faction, said on Monday.
The two had gone to the mountain while it was still occupied by members of the rival eKuphakameni faction.
Members of the two factions make a pilgrimage to the mountain every January. They always ascend on different dates to avoid clashes.
When the eKuphakameni faction climbed Nhlangakazi on January 2, they were escorted by the police.
"Our reverend made a mistake of not getting a permit from the police early. That is why the incident happened. The attack could have been avoided," Mncwabe said.
"The police have been deployed there to prevent clashes, but they failed to stop the attack."
Mncwabe said members of the eKuphakameni faction had left the mountain on Sunday afternoon. The eBuhleni group was then expected to make its trek up the mountain on Monday.
The police were expected to watch over this group as well, as it was also deeply divided.
"We will continue to monitor the situation there to prevent clashes and crime in general," Colonel Jay Naicker said.
A leadership battle in the eBuhleni faction began in April 2011 with the death of its leader Vimbeni Shembe.
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 Nazareth Baptist Church, also known as the Shembe church, was founded by Isaiah Shembe in 1910.
Violent family disputes over succession have plagued the church since the 1970s. The church now has numerous factions.