leadership woes bedevil shembe

The Shembe church's leadership woes continue after the Pietermaritzburg high court issued another ruling informing Inkosi Sizwe Mudliwamafa Shembe to refrain from calling himself the leader.

On Tuesday, Justice Jerome Mnguni ruled that Sizwe Shembe and two others must stop presenting themselves as Shembe church trustees.

The ruling comes a month after Justice Chris Levinsohn ruled in favour of Sizwe Shembe.

Justice Mnguni's order comes after the Ebuhleni faction, led by Prophet Vimbeni Shembe, went to court seeking clarity about Judge Levinsohn's decision.

The latest ruling orders that Sizwe Shembe be interdicted and restrained from representing himself as "leader and titular head of the Nazareth Baptist Church."

It also states that all respondents in the matter be restrained from representing themselves as trustees of the Nazareth Ecclesiastical Endowment Trust.

The church has been embroiled in a leadership dispute for the past 32 years - which has divided it into four factions. Three are based in KwaZulu-Natal and one in Gauteng and is led by Prophet Phaphama Shembe.

The Ebuhleni and Ekhuphakameni factions do not recognise Sizwe and Phaphama as church leaders.

Ebuhleni faction spokesperson Mhlephila Mthethwa said: "The whole leadership issue was handled badly. We heard in the media that our leader had been stripped of his powers. That has tarnished the image of the church."

Mthethwa said they were in pain about the so-called court ruling. The ruling made it clear that Sizwe Shembe was not a leader of the church.

"We want to assure people that the leadership of the church has not changed," Mthethwa said.

Ekuphakameni faction spokesperson Velemafini Edward Ximba said the leadership issue between the two factions was still pending.

Ximba said they would now consult their lawyers to speed up the pending court case.

"We are prepared to bring unity to the church under one leadership but we cannot force the situation," he said. "We are looking at all options to bring about peace."

He said the Ebuhleni group had previously proposed dissolving the trust.

"But we want to check everything to ensure that the image of the church founder is not tarnished."