Baptist Church of Nazareth faction ‘grateful’ Sihle Zikalala gave way to others

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The Ebuhleni House of the Baptist Church of Nazareth remains vague on its feelings regarding the resignation of Sihle Zikalala. The prime minister of KwaZulu-Natal bowed out on Friday.

It comes after a collective aligned with the Ebuhleni faction of the church accused Zikalala in 2019 of trying to impose its preferred leader on the church to advance the ANC.

The battle for the church’s succession began soon after the death of its leader, Vimbeni Shembe, in 2011. In 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA) ruled that the late Vela Shembe of the Thembezinhle faction was the leader legitimate, not Mduduzi Shembe of Ebuhleni Home.

The church is one of the largest religious organizations in the country, with approximately five million members.

Thokozani Mncwabe, spokesperson for Ebuhleni Home, said on Saturday: “We have heard the news of the Prime Minister’s resignation. We are grateful [to] him [for] give others the opportunity to lead the province. The time had come for a new direction [with] new ideas to move the province forward. We cannot confirm or deny that he had any connection with our church, but he only visited once [and] met our leader, ‘Unyazi Lwezulu’. This does not make him an ally of the Church.

However, Mncwabe said a meeting between Zikalala and the ANC’s top six in 2019 was aimed at finding an amicable solution between the two factions, which had been at loggerheads since 2011.

“Zikalala said we need to find a solution and resolve our issues with Thembezinhle faction as worshipers,” he said.

“Most political leaders usually come to solicit or achieve their political gains without good intentions [for] the church. We would like to ask all the leaders of this country to take time with us [to address] the issues facing the church, not the ongoing court cases.

He also urged the government not to meddle in church affairs and let the judiciary resolve them.

Meanwhile, the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature IFP welcomed Zikalala’s resignation, saying it was long overdue.

Party chairman Velenkosini Hlabisa said: “The ousting of Zikalala… will bring relief to the people of KwaZulu-Natal in a variety of ways, as it is the start of the final ousting of the ANC in 2024 by the inhabitants of this province.

“For now, we can only wish Zikalala good luck in his future endeavours, and hope that his departure will not lead to further instability within the government. We are waiting for the new Prime Minister, whom we will hold responsible for all ongoing investigations,” he said.

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