Inkosi Shembe was a respected leader - Zuma

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pretoria - Inkosi Vimbeni Mbusi Shembe, who passed away last Monday, left an indelible mark in society, President Jacob Zuma said on Sunday.

Speaking at the funeral of the Nazareth Baptist Church (Shembe) Ebuhleni Home in Durban, Zuma expressed sympathy with Shembe's family as well as members of the church.

"We meet here to bury a respected church leader whose contribution to our country has been monumental," said the President.

Zuma said the formation of the Nazareth Baptist Church in 1910, by its founding father Inkosi Isaiah Mdliwamafa Shembe was a historical landmark in South Africa. The church, he said, is as old as the history of South Africa itself.

The coming of Christianity to the country's shores was marked with its own peculiar challenges for it did not come as just a faith, the early Christian evangelist also came with a mission to colonise and to civilize African people, from their own belief systems, cultures and traditions that they had practiced from time immemorial, he said.

"It was within this context that Inkosi Isaiah Shembe established his church his idea was warmly welcomed by many people, as he saw no contradiction between believing in Christianity and in practising traditional belief systems, and hence in integrating Christianity and people's traditional beliefs."

The church has a rich history that South African people as well as its members are proud of. 

"The history of the Nazarites Church is closely associated and linked to the history of our country as well as the history of the liberation struggle in our country. The first generation of leaders of the national liberation movement worked closely and in a cooperative manner with the Shembe church and its leader," he explained.

The African National Congress' first president John Langalibalele Dube played a role in the writing of the biography of Inkosi Isaiah Shembe while he also built the Ohlange the school that is close to Ebuhleni where Inkosi Shembe built his church where members of his church still worship today. 

"It is for that very same reason that even today the relationship between the ruling party in government and the Shembe church is still warm. It is for the same reason that even us in government we always remind ourselves about this relationship."

Zuma commended Inkosi Shembe's teachings where he taught people the value of working hard and the importance of being independent and self-reliant. 

"We have all lost indeed, not just the Nazarites people, the whole nation has lost a leader who was dependable and reliable and who loved community development. As national government we would like to express our deep felt condolences to all family members, friends and relatives, the people of South Africa are behind you during this dark moment," said Zuma. - BuaNews