The legitimate leader of the Nazareth Baptist Church (Shembe), Inkosi Vela Shembe, has downplayed malicious rumours of his death.
On Monday, a woman believed to be a member of Mduduzi’s faction posted a message on Facebook, alleging that the leader had died.
However, she pulled down the message the following day, begging for forgiveness for spreading the malicious rumour.
The woman named Phumelele Goqo explained that she posted the message after she heard that Vela had died.
Her apology statement, written in isiZulu, read: “Guys, I heard that he had died and then I posted the message on my Facebook. As you all saw in my comments section that I was not sure, I was told by one of the members of the family that he had died. I am so sorry for what I had said.”
Vela’s spokesperson Nkululeko Mthethwa said on Wednesday that Vela Shembe is alive and kicking but that he is hurt by the rumours of his death.
He added that the church is considering taking legal action against the woman and that his church members are pressing him to lay charges against her.
The Nazareth Baptist Church (Shembe) has been in the spotlight since 2011 when the battle for supremacy in the multi-million member church started between the founder’s son and his cousin.
The leader of the church Vimbeni Shembe died in March 2011. In line with the church’s constitution, which was adopted in 1999, Vimbeni nominated his successor in writing and left the deed of nomination with his attorney, Zwelabantu Buthelezi.
During his burial in April 2011, Buthelezi named Vimbeni’s successor as Vela but Vimbeni’s childhood friend, Inkosi Mqoqi Ngcobo, disagreed with the nomination. He rather insisted that Vimbeni’s son Mduduzi was the rightful heir.
The protracted tussle, however, came to an end on the 18th of October 2016 when the court finally ruled that Vela Shembe was the legitimate leader of the Shembe church.
Presently, Mduduzi’s faction is still appealing the court ruling. They continue to take the son of Vimbeni Shembe “uThingo lweNkosazane” (Rainbow) as their leader.
The Nazareth Baptist Church (Shembe) is also known as Ibandla lamaNazaretha. It was founded by Isaiah Mloyiswa Mdliwamafa Shembe, born in 1865. He was a self-styled prophet who claimed to have been sent directly by God.
The church has approximately 4 million members. It usually holds a month-long celebration in Judea near Eshowe every year in October, where members gather to receive the blessings of Shembe.
The church also observes rituals like fasting, the washing of feet, keeping the Sabbath and baptism by immersion.