Shembe Church set to hear final ruling on rightful leader

2018-04-12 17:04
Shembe Chief Mqoqi Ngcobo (2nd left)leaves the high court with pastors of the Ebuhleni faction on Wednesday.

Shembe Chief Mqoqi Ngcobo (2nd left)leaves the high court with pastors of the Ebuhleni faction on Wednesday. (Ian Carbutt)

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The wait to find out who will be in control of the Nazareth Baptist Church, known as the Shembe Church, hopefully ends on Thursday.

Deputy Judge President Isaac Madondo on Wednesday recounted the history of the church as he read out his judgment. Ultimately, it will reveal who the court thinks should be declared the lawful successor to the late leader of the church, Vimbeni Shembe.

Police and traffic officers were present in large number outside the Pietermaritzburg high court.

Part of Church Street was cordoned off. Media were given access cards to get into the courtroom where judgment was being delivered. Hundreds of church members were in town for the ruling, congregating at Dales Park.

The appeal is about Mduduzi Shembe and his supporters — the Ebuhleni group — contesting a 2016 Durban court ruling that had declared his uncle, Vela Shembe, (who has subsequently died) to be the legitimate leader of the church.

Mduduzi is the son of the late leader, Vimbeni Shembe.

Since Vimbeni’s death in March 2011, the two million-member church has been divided over who should be at its helm.

The succession battle erupted at Vimbeni’s funeral when his close friend, Chief Mqoqi Ngcobo, announced that Vimbeni had confided in him on various occasions his wish for his son, Mduduzi, to succeed him.

Moments later Vimbeni’s lawyer, Zwelabantu Buthelezi, produced a “nomination deed” allegedly signed by the late leader. It declared that he “nominates and recommends” Vela Shembe to take over the leadership role.

The tussle over who should be declared the legitimate successor ended up in court with KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Achmat Jappie ruling in October 2016 that the nomination deed naming Vela as the successor was a legitimate document. This, he said, was also in line with the church’s constitution, which said the church leader would nominate his successor in writing before his death.

Two handwriting experts found that Vimbeni’s signature on the deed of nomination was genuine.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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