Shelembe family feud heats up

Alpha Shelembe’s church has obtained an interim court interdict preventing four of his late father’s wives and 18 siblings from entering any of its temples and properties.

The Ekuphumuleni faction of the Shembe Church, which is led by ANC MPL Alpha Shelembe, approached the Pietermaritzburg­ high court following a row that erupted when the opposition members of the family visited the Shelembe home at KwaHhaza, near Howick, last month. The second applicant, Londiwe Myeni, who is a member of the church, alleged that the group damaged property and stole belongings belonging to Ekuphumuleni and Alpha.

In an affidavit responding to the allegations, an opposition family member, Lizwi Shelembe, said they went there to commemorate the anniversary of death of their father, the late leader of the church, Bhekinduna. The police were called and 10 people were arrested for malicious damage to property and contravening a separate court order.

That other order had been granted pending a court matter, which involves his wives and children, over the rightful heir to Bhekinduna’s compound and church.

Bhekinduna, who died in 2005, had 19 wives, including the four who have been interdicted from entering his homestead and temples without the permission of the church. Lizwi has claimed that their father wanted him to be his successor, not Alpha.

Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati said she was granting the interim interdict so as to prevent a repeat of last month’s fracas.

She said there was no evidence that the affected group would suffer any prejudice as they did not ordinarily attend the church service at the temple at KwaHhaza.

She said the different matters should be consolidated when the cases return to court in October because they deal with the same issues.

Speaking to The Witness after the court proceedings, Alpha said he was relieved that the church was granted an interdict because the family feud is compromising its integrity.

He said he had raised his siblings “like his own” from a young age since the time their father died.

“If they felt strongly that their rights had been infringed on they could have followed the legal processes — and I’m not against that,” he said.

He said the church is an independent institution and the congregants cannot be subjected to family issues.

“I’m not against Lizwi presiding over his own temple — he already has one in Maqongqo,” said Alpha.

Speaking on behalf of the opposition group, Nazareth Shelembe said they were saddened by the court’s decision and hoped the final ruling on the matter would be different.

“Because of this order we also won’t be able to access the graves of our father and siblings who are buried there,” he said.