Sizwe is now Shembe leader

A PIETERMARITZBURG high court judgment has ended a 32-year-old feud and hostilities over the rightful leader of the Shembe church.

The court ruled last week that Isaiah Shembe's descendant, Sizwe Mudliwamafa Shembe, is the leader of the church's ecclesiastical endowment trust.

He was also accorded the status of titular head of the Nazareth Baptist Church, generally known as Shembe.

The judgment by Justice Levinson effectively removes Ebuhleni group leader Inkosi Vimbeni Mbusi Shembe as the head of the church's trust with immediate effect.

Sizwe Shembe said the verdict would bring back dignity to the church and the entire family.

He said since the death of his grandfather, Prophet Johannes Galilee Shembe, the church had splintered into two in 1976 and attempts to bring about unity had failed.

The dispute had resulted in the establishment of three factions, two in KwaZulu-Natal, the Ekuphakameni and Ebuhleni clans, and one in Gauteng.

Shembe said Ebuhleni leader Vimbeni and Prophet Vukile Shembe of Ekuphakameni were no longer leaders of the church.

He said letters had been sent to the two informing them that their powers had been stripped.

"They are not legal leaders of the church. We have invited them to be part of the church's transformation," said the triumphant Shembe.

He said the church would now go back to its origins and stick to the teachings of its founder.

"I once held the leadership position but the Ebuhleni group took me to court demanding that the position be given to Vimbeni.

"I resigned and gave the position to Vimbeni on the understanding that he would unify the church."

Shembe added that Vimbeni had illegally established two other trusts together with his right-hand men Chancy Sibisi and Makho-sonke Bhengu.