new turn in shembe leadership dispute

Tensions flared up yesterday at the headquarters of the Ekuphakameni faction of the Nazareth Baptist Church at Inanda, north of Durban, after security guards refused Inkosi Sizwe Mudliwamafa Shembe entry to the premises.

The premises are at present overseen by a faction under the leadership of Vukile Shembe.

Last month the Pietermaritzburg high court ruled that Sizwe Shembe was the sole leader of the church.

On Tuesday a different judge in the same court overturned the ruling and instructed Sizwe Shembe and two other church members to refrain from calling themselves trustees of the Nazareth Ecclesiastical Endowment Trust.

The case was brought by the Ebuhleni faction.

Yesterday Sizwe Shembe went to the church's headquarters at Inanda accompanied by police and armed with a court order allowing him access to the premises but he was turned away at the gates by security guards.

He had earlier gone to the Verulam magistrate's court to ask for a protection order.

According to a security guard on duty at Ekuphakameni, Sizwe Shembe allegedly became angry when he was refused entry.

Ekuphakameni spokesperson Velemafini Edward Ximba confirmed that Sizwe Shembe was turned away.

"We were told that he went to a magistrate to ask for a court order because he wanted to come to his home," Ximba said. "Instead he came to church headquarters.

"Ekuphakameni is not a Shembe family estate but has been a church site since 1916. It was declared as such by Sizwe's forefather. He [Sizwe] cannot do anything now to change that," Ximba said.

Ximba added that they will take Sizwe Shembe's attorney to "the law society for giving wrong advice to his client. The high court has ordered that all processes must wait until July 28. We do not know why Sizwe Shembe came to our church."

Maqhawe Zondo, the attorney representing Sizwe Shembe, said his client had been engaged in discussion with local police.

"He (Sizwe Shembe) went to court to get a protection order because of the current situation. That's all I can say," said Zondo.

The church now has four factions - three in KwaZulu-Natal and one in Gauteng led by Prophet Phaphama Shembe. The church has been embroiled in a leadership dispute for the past 32 years.