Faction fighting plagues church

2012-01-16 11:00

Clashes between rival factions of the Nazareth Baptist Church are feared at its holy mountain in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal, after two pilgrims were attacked there at the weekend.

“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 today.

He said 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 Nhlangakazi Mountain, outside Durban, in January every year.

They always ascend on different dates to avoid clashes.

When the eKuphakameni faction climbed Nhlangakazi mountain 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,” said Mncwabe.

“The police have been deployed there to prevent clashes, but they failed to stop the attack,” he said.

Mncwabe said members of the eKuphakameni faction had left the mountain yesterday afternoon and that his faction was expected to start occupying the mountain today.

The police are expected to closely monitor the situation today as the eBuhleni faction is also deeply divided.

“We will continue to monitor the situation there to prevent clashes and crime in general,” said Colonel Jay Naicker.

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 Durban 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.

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