Zuma offers condolences to Shembe church

2011-03-29 07:07

President Jacob Zuma expressed his condolences yesterday on the death of Shembe Bapist Church leader Vimbeni Shembe.

“We have learned with great sadness of the passing of Inkosi Shembe. He played a key role in the history and development of the African independent churches in the country, and the growth and promotion of indigenous culture and traditions,” said Zuma.

“We also acknowledge Inkosi Shembe’s contribution to the promotion of self-reliance and social responsibility amongst his followers and the community at large.”

Shembe was in his late 70s and headed one of four factions of the church.

According to the church’s blog, he led the church since 1933. His branch of the church has over 1 million followers, most of whom are Zulus.

The church has four factions all claiming to be the legitimate leaders of the Shembe Church.

The war for control of the charismatic church, founded in 1910, has raged for decades.

According to a story on www.timeslive.co.za, the church is estimated to be worth R100 million.

The four factions took each other to court over who is the legitimate heir to church founder Prophet Isaiah Shembe.

Turmoil was sparked by the death of Isaiah Shembe’s successor, Bishop Galilee Shembe, in 1976.

Two factions surfaced, led by the bishop’s brother, Amos Shembe, and the bishop’s son, Londa Shembe.

The church is now split into four groups: Ebuhleni, which was led by Amos’s son, Vimbeni Shembe, who is regarded as the wealthiest and most powerful; Ekuphakameni, led by Londa’s son, Vukile Shembe; Ginyezinye, led by Sizwe Shembe, the bishop’s grandson; and a Gauteng faction led by another of the bishop’s grandsons, Phakama Shembe.
Vimbeni Shembe’s spokesman, Chance Sibisi, declined to comment on the leader’s death. 

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