SHEMBE DEVOTION IN NUMBERS
By: Zukiswa Ndaba and Lethu Nxumalo
The city of Durban was abuzz as thousands of Shembe Congregation members gathered at the Louis Botha Park for a prayer before court proceedings at the Durban High Court on Tuesday.
The church, also known as the Nazareth Baptist Church, has been in a court battle since 2011 over leadership of the Ebuhleni faction. When King Vimbeni Shembe passed on in 2011, his lawyer, Zwelabantu Buthelezi, announced that the late king had appointed his cousin, Vela Shembe of the Ekuphakameni faction, as his successor over his son Mduduzi Shembe.
Traditionally, the successor does not inherit the position but is nominated by the previous leader.
In a bid to prove his nomination valid, Vela took the matter to court where he produced a signed document stating that he should take over. The lawyer testified in court that the document in question was signed in his presence with witnesses by the late king.
Mshumayeli Cele, the anchor of the church said, “Ebuhleni devotees are here to give support, show devotion and to tell the nation that Unyazi (King Mduduzi) is their leader.” He revealed that the congregants would march peacefully from Louis Botha Park to Albert Park before heading to court where a number of their chosen representatives will be sitting in.
“The court case and its delays does not mean anything to the church. It simply shows the level of devotion. The church now believes by the number of people showing support that he (the King) is theirs,” Cele added.
Approximately five thousand congregants had filled the park by mid-morning with the air filled with excitement, jubilation and songs of praise. “We are expecting close to a million people. As you can see, people are still flocking in from all parts of the world.”
The church anchor added that the devotees had come voluntarily. The church did not sponsor the trips to Durban but all in attendance had come because of their loyalty to their king. Colonel Irvin Chetty from the Durban Central Police Station said that they were responsible for the safety of the people who had gathered and that they would be maintaining order throughout the gathering.
“I think attendees will be around fifteen thousand and nothing more. This area alone cannot accommodate a million people.” Chetty confirmed that Dr Pixley KaSeme (West) Street would be closed and drivers were expected to use alternative routes.
The ushers in the gathering were strict on individuals passing by the park as it was seen as holy ground. Some were ordered to take off their shoes and were not allowed to get close to the devotees. Mama Majola from Umlazi Section H, who was selling brochures, the king’s photographs, church stickers amongst other things did not have much to say about the gathering. Most women in attendance refused to speak when interviewed, citing protocol.
However, majority of the men spoke, but could not provide any valuable information. An unnamed man said that they did not care what the world said or thought of them.