Imisebe Yelanga of the Thembezinhle faction was declared the rightful leader of the six-million-strong Shembe Church by Judge Achmat Jappie. But Rajesh Choudree, lawyer for the eBuhleni faction, applied for leave to appeal.
Jappie granted the eBuhleni faction leave to appeal, which will be heard by a full bench sitting in the Pietermaritzburg High Court next year. Jappie declared Imisebe Yelanga as duly nominated and anointed by late Shembe Church leader Vimbeni "Uthingo" Shembe, who died in 2011.
"As far as the deed of command is concerned, the court is convinced that the late leader appointed Vela Shembe to lead the Nazareth Baptist Church.
Three experts who were summoned to court confirmed that the signature on the nomination letter signed by the late leader was authentic," read Jappie's judgment yesterday.
"The court further orders that the assets of the Shembe estate be handed to the applicant (Imisebe Yelanga)."
Jappie also ordered that both Nkosi Mqoqi Ngcobo, a traditional leader of the amaQadi clan, and leader of the church's eBuhleni faction Mduduzi "uNyazi" Shembe, pay the costs of the trial.
Imisebe Yelanga brought the application against his cousin in 2011 challenging his (uNyazi's) appointment to lead the church.
After Uthingo's death, the two leaders emerged claiming to have been anointed by the late leader.
During Uthingo's funeral, Ngcobo told mourners that the late leader had confided in him that he must announce that he has appointed his son uNyazi to lead the church.
However, Uthingo's lawyer Zwelabantu Buthelezi told mourners that Uthingo had appointed Imisebe Yelanga as the heir and had a nomination letter signed to that effect.
After the announcement, the church split into two factions and the legal processes ensued.
Spokesman for the victorious Thembezinhle faction Nkululeko Mthethwa said they had always maintained that Imisebe Yelanga was the rightful leader of the church appointed by Uthingo. "We are not surprised at all about the outcome [of the court]," said Mthethwa yesterday.