DURBAN, 24 November 2017 – Vela Shembe, the leader of the Nazareth Baptist Church (Shembe), died at his home late on Thursday night after a short illness.
The church, which claims to have a five million-strong following, made headlines last year after a very public succession battle between Vela and his nephew Mduduzi Shembe finally concluded at the Durban High Court.
The succession battle started in 2011 with the death of iNkosi Vimbeni Shembe, which led to a schism between followers of Mduduzi and Vela, and a five-year court case that saw police having to separate the men’s followers after physical confrontation between the factions at the court.
In October 2016, KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Achmet Jappie ruled in favour of Vela as the titular head of the church.
In February, Vela dismissed as “malicious” and “rubbish” rumours on social media that he had died. The rumours were allegedly initiated by a woman who was aligned to Mduduzi’s church faction.
Ndabezinhle Sibiya, spokesperson for KwaZulu-Natal premier Willies Mchunu, said that provincial government had conveyed condolences to Shembe’s family and the church.
Shembe’s spokesperson, Mkululeko Mthethwa, could not immediately be reached for comment.
– African News Agency (ANA)