Shembe leader dies after climbing holy mountain

THE Nazareth Baptist Church, known as Shembe, has dispelled allegations that a senior member, who died after ascending the holy mountain, had angered God.

The Gauteng Shembe group, led by Prophet Phakama Shembe, had embarked on the annual pilgrimage to the Nhlangakazi mountain in Ndwedwe, north of Durban, when Mandlakayise Maduna, 60, died on the Day of Goodwill.

The church is at present divided into four factions that are incessantly in dispute over the use of the holy mountain.

Three are in KwaZulu-Natal - the Ekuphakameni, Ebuhleni and Ginyezinye clans - and one in Gauteng.

Maduna's death has angered and shocked the Ekuphakameni faction.

He was a resident of Steeldale and a follower of the Gauteng-based Shembe faction

Gauteng faction spokesperson Pat Dooms said they were in pain because of Maduna's death.

He said Maduna had been elevated into the realm of eternal and ever living spirits of the most holy on reaching the summit of the holy mountain on the day of completing their holy walk with God.

"We were on the end-of-the-year pilgrimage to fulfil the spiritual obligations to the most holy creator following the prescriptions and the teachings of their spiritual leader when Maduna passed on," he said.

Dooms said it was not true that Maduna died after he fell on the mountain. "He was diabetic," he said

Ekuphakameni spokesperson Velemafini Ximba expressed shock at Maduna's death.

He said Phakama continues to mislead people using Shembe's name.

"Ascending the holy mountain is not a picnic. There are rules that were left by Prophet Isaiah Shembe on how we should go to the mountain," he said.

Ximba said they were also preparing for the spiritual journey that will take place from Sunday to January 10.

He said a cleansing ceremony would be performed on the mountain first.

"The teaching of the church founder says before people ascend the holy mountain they must come to his grave to report because he is custodian of the mountain.

"Phakama is not even recognised as one in the church. It's the first time a person died like this."