Long walk to holy mount

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

About 20000 members of the Ekuphakameni Nazareth Christian Church (Shembe) led by Inkosi Vukile Shembe began their walk from Inanda, near Durban, to Nhlangakazi - the holy mountain in Ndwedwe - yesterday.

They will hold their YEARLY week-long pilgrimage on the mountain. Yesterday, the church's followers gathered early in the morning and began their 100km long walk to the mountain where they will remain until January 6.

The church is split into two groups, Ekuphakameni and Ebuhleni, because of faction fights over the years on who should be granted full leadership powers. The factions now take turns when visiting the mountain to perform their religious rituals.

After years of faction fights in the church, history was made last year when both Inkosi Vukile of the Ekuphakameni side of the church and Inkosi Vimbeni Shembe of the Ebuhleni side, reached an out-of-court settlement for equal power in leading the church, and the taking of turns for pilgrimages to the holy mountain.

Ekuphakameni spokesman Edward Ximba said they were hoping that the pilgrimage would be a peaceful one. Ximba said though an agreement was signed, disputes between the two factions still existed.

"Three weeks after the agreement was signed, the Ebuhleni faction complained about the contents of the agreement, saying that they were tricked into signing it."

Ximba said the Ebuhleni faction has taken the matter to court and that the final court ruling on the matter is expected in March.

The Ebuhleni faction is set to begin their walk to the mountain on January 7, where they will remain for two weeks.