Thousands of members of the Nazareth Baptist Church‚ popularly known as the Shembe Church‚ have gathered at the Durban High Court ahead of a crucial judgement on who is the rightful leader of the 5-million strong church.

Judge Achmat Jappie is expected to deliver judgement on Tuesday in what could bring an end to a five-year battle after the death of church leader Vimbeni Shembe in 2011.


Vimbeni’s son‚ Mduduzi Shembe‚ and his cousin‚ Vela Shembe‚ both lay claim to being the rightful head of the church which prides itself on mixing Christianity with African tradition.

shembeMduduzi Shembe was mobbed by supporters of his faction‚ Ebuhleni‚ which is the biggest of the church’s four factions.

The barefooted members clad in their traditional white robes brought traffic to a standstill on Margaret Mncadi Avenue‚ when they knelt down before his Black Mercedes Benz GL63 AMG with a personalised number plate UNUYAZI 2 ZN while an imbongi sang his praises.

Other members waved a huge poster of him while shouting the church slogan “Unyazi”.

By the time Mduduzi Shembe arrived at court just after 10am‚ his cousin was already waiting inside.

The battle for control of the Shembe Church‚ which has caused the split into four factions over the years‚ is said to be over the control of its assets‚ which are worth millions.

A large police contingent deployed inside and outside the court kept a close watch on the proceedings. Previous court cases have been marred by violent confrontations between members of the two warring factions.

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