Shembe under fire

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

KwaZulu-Natal police have vowed to arrest three members of the Shembe Nazareth Church for the attempted murder of a 16-year-old boy.

Police have been looking for the three from the Ebuhleni faction, who include a senior evangelist, for the past 10 days after the teenager laid a case of attempted murder against them.

It is alleged that the boy, a grandson of expelled senior evangelist Mandlenkosi Zwane, escaped death when another evangelist organised a "hitman" to kill him.

A reliable church source told Sowetan that the boy ran for his life after the evangelist allegedly pointed him out to the hitman.

The boy was reportedly saved by a policeman, who is also a church member, who came to his rescue after hearing several gunshots last Tuesday.

The alleged hitman was said to have been forced to run away when the policeman drew his own service pistol.

The police were told of the attack on the boy. They stormed the church headquarters late at night in search of the suspects but to no avail.

The boy is in hiding following the incident.

The boy was attacked after he had gone to the church to salvage his grandfather's belongings after his house (idokodo) had been set alight in the build-up to the 10km walk to the holy mountain of Inhlangakazi.

"I was staying in the church when my grandfather asked me to collect his belongings. When I got there, I was chased by a man with a gun.

"When we went there with the police on Monday, we did not find any suspects," the boy said.

Police Superintendent Vincent Mdunge said police were looking for the suspects.

"The case is a very serious one. Police have been searching for the suspects. I can assure you that we will eventually arrest these people," Mdunge said.

The Ebuhleni faction of the Shembe church has been embroiled in bitter infighting for the past three months.

Some church leaders are said to have been forced to flee because of alleged death threats.

"They no longer take part in church activities because of real threats to their lives.

"Others are unable to participate in the yearly pilgrimage to the holy mountain because of the ongoing squabble," said a source who wished to remain anonymous.