Shembe leaders always nominated - secretary
Durban - Shembe Church leaders were always nominated by their predecessors and did not inherit their positions, the KwaZulu-Natal High Court heard on Thursday, in a case to resolve the church's leadership battle.
The church's general secretary, Chance Sibisi, said he did not know until April 2011 that Vela Shembe had been nominated as the leader of the church's largest faction.
He said the now-deceased Vimbeni Shembe's wife had "whispered in my ear" that Vela Shembe had been nominated to be the faction's leader.
The Shembe Church has been embroiled in a leadership battle since Vimbeni's death from liver cancer in April last year.
According to a will presented by the church's lawyer during Vimbeni's funeral, he chose his cousin Vela as his successor.
However, the church's senior leaders expressed their preference for his son, Mduduzi Shembe.
After failing to convince the church's elders that Vimbeni had nominated him, Vela took the matter to court.
Earlier the court heard that Isiah Shembe came to KwaZulu-Natal in March 1910 because God sent him to found the church, heal the sick and preach the gospel, Sibisi said.
"As the congregation grew in numbers, he decided to ordain two members of the church, and his two sons [Johannes Galile Shembe and Amos Kula Shembe] were ordained at a ceremony at the Nhlangakazi Mountain."
He told the congregation he ordained his sons to be the church's future leaders. Johannes Galile became leader in 1935 and, when he died in 1976, his brother Amos Kula became leader.
Vimbeni succeeded his father Amos Kula in 1995. Sibisi said the practice was in accordance with Isiah Shembe's wishes.
Vela is the son of Johannes Galile.
Sibisi had been the church's secretary since 1985 and had worked closely with Vimbeni.
The hearing continues on Monday.