The Nazareth Baptist Church, popularly known as the Shembe church, will announce details of leadership succession and the funeral of its spiritual leader Vela Shembe this week.

“We are trying to finalise logistics soon. All developments will be given by Wednesday.
We are still trying to process certain things,” church spokesperson Nkululeko Mthethwa told News24 on Monday.

According to Mthethwa, the church, which is home to millions of worshippers, was expecting a large turnout for Shembe’s funeral.

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“We are trying to get everything together for now. We are expecting quite a large crowd of at least 10 000 people. We will soon confirm all the details.”

He said congregants were still reeling from the sudden, natural death of Shembe.

“It is quite saddening and tough but we are trying to cope. We hope God will guide us through this difficult time.”

Shembe’s death last Thursday night came less than a month after the Pietermaritzburg High Court reserved judgment on a leadership contest that has gripped the church since 2011.

After former leader Vimbeni Shembe died in March 2011, his son, Mduduzi, and Vela, who was Vembeni’s cousin, both claimed to be the rightful heirs.

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At Vimbeni’s funeral in April 2011, two separate announcements were made regarding who would succeed him.

In one, his lawyer Zwelabantu Buthelezi said that, according to the deed of nomination that Vimbeni had prepared before his death, Vela should be the successor.

However, Vimbeni’s childhood friend, Inkosi Mqoqi Ngcobo, announced that Vimbeni’s son Mduduzi was the rightful heir.

They could not settle the dispute themselves so they approached the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban. In October 2016, the court found in favour of Vela.

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However, Mduduzi was granted leave to appeal.

Judgment was reserved in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg on October 23. — News24