Disunity reigns as Shembe factions celebrate

MOUNTAIN TOP: KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize, left, with Inkosi Vimbeni Shembe of Ebuhleni, unveil the monument to mark 100 years of the existence of the Shembe religion. Despite much reference to the Old Testament and conventional Christian rituals, the Shembe's spiritual resonance is more African than Western. Every year followers make a pilgrimage to Mount Nhlangakazi. Pic: THULI DLAMINI. Circa March 2010. © Sowetan.
MOUNTAIN TOP: KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize, left, with Inkosi Vimbeni Shembe of Ebuhleni, unveil the monument to mark 100 years of the existence of the Shembe religion. Despite much reference to the Old Testament and conventional Christian rituals, the Shembe's spiritual resonance is more African than Western. Every year followers make a pilgrimage to Mount Nhlangakazi. Pic: THULI DLAMINI. Circa March 2010. © Sowetan.

DEVOTEES of the Shembe religion are threatening the growth of the century-old faith.

This weekend the faith celebrated 100 years of existence but the two warring factions in the church refused to unite. Attempts by church leaders to rope in politicians to sow seeds of unity failed as each faction celebrated separately.

Hopes for unity of the rival groups of the Nazareth Baptist Church, known as Shembe, were dashed when the Ekuphakamani and Ebuhleni factions celebrated separately.

The church was founded by prophet Isaiah Shembe.

The factional leaders showed little interest in bringing about peace between its members since they separated in the 1970s.

What faint hopes of unity there had been as thecentenary celebrations approached were firmly dashed this week.

The Ekuphakameni faction held its celebration on Saturday, while the Ebuhleni marked theirs yesterday.

Both factions pulled in ANC and IFP leaders to celebrate with them. KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize and IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi were invited guests by both factions.

On Saturday more than 80000 Ekuphakameni members, led by prophet Vukile Shembe, circled the church seven times, before heading to the "holy bush" where the church founder and other leaders are buried.

Yesterday, about 100000 Ebuhleni faction members, led by prophet Vimbeni Shembe, also gathered at the church headquarters.

President Jacob Zuma was expected to address the members but he assigned Justice Minister Jeff Radebe to represent him as he was engaged elsewhere.

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