Shembes' peaceful centenary

2010-03-15 00:00

THE Shembe Church’s holy Mount Nhlangakazi in the Ndwedwe area outside Durban might be declared a national monument, if things go according to a plan by the Ilembe District Municipality.

Ilembe District Mayor Welcome Mdabe revealed the idea to thousands of congregants of the Nazareth Baptist Church, also known as the Shembe Church, during the church’s centenary celebrations at the eBuhleni headquarters in Ndwedwe yesterday.

Despite divisions that have plagued the church for the past 30 years, its main two factions — the eBuhleni under Inkosi Vimbeni Shembe and eKuphakameni under Inkosi Vukile Shembe — managed to host two different centenary celebrations both sponsored by the provincial government at the weekend.

The eBuhleni celebrations were held yesterday, while the eKuphakameni’s were held on Saturday.

Speaking at the eBuhleni function, Mdabe said his municipality is prepared to join forces with all interested parties to ensure that Mount Nhlangakazi is declared a national religious monument.

The mountain, which is situated between two tribal areas in Ndwedwe, is believed to be where the church’s founder, Prophet Isaiah Shembe, “communicated” with the Holy Spirit on March 10, 1910, and received instructions to establish the church. The area is under Ndwedwe local municipality, which is affiliated to Ilembe District Municipality.

“We will definitely be part of the campaign so that people from outside can visit and see how we as Africans worship the Almighty. The Shembe church helped us show the whole world that we as Africans are proud of our heritage and religion,” Mdabe said.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize said the provincial government is prepared to ensure that this region is presented and promoted to the whole world.

“Prophet Shembe was a firm believer in peace and dialogue. Any activity aimed at marketing and promoting such beliefs, our government will support it.

“The government is also embarking on a campaign to market KwaZulu-Natal to national and international tourists as a religious tourism site,” Mkhize said.

Mkhize said Shembe church leaders played a crucial role in praying for different political leaders in the province over the past years to ensure there is political stability.

“As we move to the future, the church has a role to play in ensuring that all political parties work together in ensuring service delivery to the people.”

President Jacob Zuma and Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini were expected to attend, but turned out to be too busy. Mkhize and IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi delivered speeches at both functions.

The eKuphakameni celebrations started with congregants circling the headquarters carrying flowers, which were later laid outside the mausoleum where all the past Shembe church leaders are buried.

Inkosi Vukile Shembe, Mkhize and Buthelezi conducted a wreath-laying ceremony at the exact site where Prophet Isaiah Shembe’s remains are buried.

Buthelezi praised Prophet Shembe’s teachings of abstinence until marriage and said they can play an important role in fighting the spread of HIV/Aids.

The eBuhleni function was graced by the presence of AmaNdebele king Ingwenyama Makhosonke II, who congratulated the church on achieving the centenary milestone and sticking to the traditions and teachings of its founder.

National Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Jeff Radebe, also delivered a message of congratulations on behalf of the national government.

Both functions were concluded with the traditional umgido (the Holy Dance), which was danced to the sounds of izigubhu and izimbomu (traditional drums and trumpets).

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