Four leaders accused of being double agents

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

A cloud is hanging over the yearlys pilgrimage of the Ebuhleni faction of the Shembe Nazareth Baptist Church.

Four church members have been accused of being double agents and the senior church leaders are gatvol and have decided not to be part of this year's pilgrimage.

"We are accused of being members of Ebuhleni by day and Ekuphakameni by night. But we will never be part of Ekuphakameni," said Reverend Mhlephila Mthethwa

Mthethwa, together with Armstrong Delu, Michael Biyela and Mthandeni Ntombela are for the first time unable to take part in the annual pilgrimage, citing infighting and criminal elements within the Ebuhleni faction.

The four have been accused of siding with arch-rivals, the Ekuphakameni faction, who have just descended from the mountain.

Over 20000 devotees joined the spiritual walk of 100km to the holy mountain of Inhlangakazi in Indwedwe, north of Durban

The four church leaders had their temporal houses (known as Amadokodo) destroyed at the church's headquarters at Inanda. Though there have been disputes between the two factions over the years, this is the first time that the Ebuhleni faction embarks on the pilgrimage divided and in tears.

Senior church members told Sowetan that the fighting over positions within the church has forced Delu, Mthethwa, Ntombela and Biyela not to take part in the spiritual walk.

"We hope that Prophet Isaiah Shembe will give us solutions to fight the evil now in the midst of our church," Mthethwa said.

The houses of the four church leaders were destroyed, allegedly after instruction from their rivals, who accused the four priests of bringing the church into disrepute.

Mthethwa said he was disappointed that he is not part of the pilgrimage. He said he is also ashamed that their church gets negative publicity due to criminal elements.

"There are people who call themselves priests who are destroying our church," Mthethwa said.

He said he had never seen such criminal behaviour by Shembe members.

"I received a call informing me about housebreaking while I was on holiday. Some of my stuff has been stolen including imvunulo [traditional attire] that we use during dancing sessions in the church.

"Four stoves belonging to my wives were also stolen. Our children have been threatened and told not to take part in the pilgrimage," he said.

Mthethwa said they were waiting for the church to take action before they report the matter to the police.

Attempts to get comment from church secretary Chancy Sibisi were fruitless since all senior leaders are already on the long walk to the holy mountain of Inhlangakazi.