KZN ANC denies trying to capture Nazareth Baptist Church for political reasons

On Thursday, a collective aligned to the Ebuhleni faction of the church accused Premier Sihle Zikalala of trying to impose his preferred leader on the church for the advancement of the ANC.

FILE: Close to 50,000 followers of the Nazareth Baptist Church, also known as the Shembe Church, leave their church in Ebuhleni, 45km, north of Durban for their pilgrimage. Picture: AFP

DURBAN - The African National Congress (ANC) in KwaZulu-Natal has denied claims that it was trying to capture the Nazareth Baptist Church for political reasons.

On Thursday, a collective aligned to the Ebuhleni faction of the church accused Premier Sihle Zikalala of trying to impose his preferred leader on the church for the advancement of the ANC.

This followed the premier’s recent announcement that he’d assembled a team to mediate between the warring factions in the church.

The Nazareth Baptist Church - also known as KwaShembe - has been embroiled in succession battles since the 1970s.

It is estimated that the church has five million members belonging to seven factions that are clashing with one another.

Last month, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the late Vela Shembe of the Thembezinhle faction was the rightful leader of the church.

Following that ruling, Premier Zikalala announced that he intended to intervene in the factional battles within the church, which was rejected by some members of the Ebuhleni faction.

The ANC’s spokesperson in KwaZulu-Natal Ricardo Mthembu: "If there are any issues that they think the ANC has not conducted itself, they must engage the ANC."

The Ebuhleni faction said it planned to challenge the decision regarding the late Vela Shembe.