Thursday, June 11, 2009

LUDZIDZINI – His Majesty King Mswati III, Indlovukazi and King Shembe smiled, chatted and enjoyed a colourful display of the Nazareth Baptist Church’

While some of the Christians had hoped King Mswati III would speak to them, he just marvelled at their dances and singing before giving an order through Indvuna TV Mthethwa to go enjoy some food he had prepared for them.
The Shembe Christians had visited Their Majesties yesterday at the royal residence and were given the platform of performing before them. The event started just before noon and ended slightly after 1pm.
An estimated over 2 000 Christians attended the event which was spiced by traditional dances which came in theimage form of Zulu dances (kudlalisela or kugiya) while others blew their horns while they went around in circles. Both young and old members of the Shembe came in their numbers for the ‘royal blessing’.When their king arrived, they responded by lifting their hands in the air while singing their songs which symbolised some respect to their king.
His Majesty King Mswati III arrived a few minutes later and sat together with the Shembe King. They would now and again marvel at the dances while sharing a word. After an hour, Mthethwa then announced that food has been prepared for the Christians. The king left with the Shembe King into the palace while the Shembes went for refreshments.Notably was that most of the Shembe followers were from South Africa. Matsanjeni MP Qedusizi Ndlovu was also spotted among the crowd and danced up a storm.In an interview, Sakhile Kubheka (10) from Piet Retief said he was happy to dance before the kings. He said it was an honour and experience to see King Mswati III. “I always see him on the newspapers but today was a special day. Same goes with our king, we don’t see him like we did today, it was a true blessing,” said Kubheka.Kwayinkhosi Zwane from Ngwavuma said it was a fantastic experience to see the two kings together. He said dancing before them was more than just a blessing. “When they told us we were going to see the king, I said thank God, because I knew we will be given the platform to dance for him. Today is surely a great day,” he said.The event was also graced by members of the royal family, the Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini, Cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament and members of the public.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Isabelo Home

OVER 1 000 Nazareth Baptist Church members yesterday flocked the Isabelo Home, Lozitha, for the official opening of the church’s two-week long conference. The conference was officially opened by the church leader King Shembe. He did so by merely coming out of his house and waved to the crowd for less than a minute. Surprisingly, the worshippers celebrated and danced at that short appearance of their leader, saying it was the greatest moment of the day. Before meeting their leader for the few seconds, they first went to the main gate where they prayed then sang their songs to the temple where they normally hold services, a few metres from Shembe’s house. Senior Pastor Mhlephila Mthethwa said the ceremony was called the Umgidi. He explained that throughout their stay in the country, they would have prayer services in the morning and afternoon. weekThe church members come from different places, Kwazulu Natal, Mozambique, Johannesburg and Natal, to name a few. Shembe will spend one more week in the country. Mthethwa said their leader felt that it would not be proper for him to spend only a week in the country having travelled a long distance. He revealed that it would be for the first time their leader spends such a long time in a country.“Swaziland is one lucky country, it has never happened in a history of any country to have King Shembe staying for such a long time,” he said. The Shembe leader arrived on Tuesday during which it was revealed that he would be in the country for only a week. Mthethwa also stated that on Sunday, they would meet His Majesty King Mswati III. Minister of Home Affairs Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze also confirmed that Shembe and his men would have a prayer session with His Majesty. From the country Shembe will visit the Zulu Royal Residence, something Mthethwa described as a rare occurrence; that is, visiting a kingdom soon after departure from another.Meanwhile, Mthethwa came down hard on Swazi church members for not marrying Zulu girls, saying it is not right. He wondered if the Swazi men had problems sexually and otherwise or they merely hated Zulus. “Are you not circumcised? If not you must do something about it because we also have beautiful women who can make beautiful wives. Why don’t you Swazis take from the Zulu King whose Ndlunkulu is a Swazi,” he said. The Swazi men lamented that the Zulu girls were too expensive when it came to paying dowry but Mthethwa said that could be negotiated.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

iNkosi YamaKhosi iseSwazini

LEADER of the Nazareth Church Shembe is in the country for a week-long visit and will stay at Isabelo Home at Lozitha. He arrived yesterday afternoon through Lavumisa border Post in the company of his wife, one of his children, over 10 pastors and was escorted by over 20 members of the South African Police. Some of the police officers drove back to South Africa immediately after Shembe had settled down but will return on Friday. followersShembe was welcomed by close to 500 followers who were already at Isabelo home when he arrived.Senior Pastor Mhlephila Mthethwa explained that while in the country, Shembe would heal all sicknesses and even pay courtesy visit to His Majesty King Mswati III. He also revealed that Shembe would tomorrow afternoon hold a mass prayer outside the Isabelo home. “From today (yesterday) to Tuesday he would be ministering in a number of ceremonies called umgidi,” he said. He also stated that they were still working on the schedule for the other days until his departure on Tuesday.

Friday, May 15, 2009

On a Shembe Pilgrimage

On a Shembe Pilgrimage
White smocks clinging to their bodies, the Shembe congregation files hypnotically into the early morning surf on Durban’s beachfront. Predominantly Zulu, these members of the Shembe Church have been visiting the beach for decades to perform their customary baptisms.
Pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain
Known for their celebration of the godly gifts of nature, the Shembe begin each year with a pilgrimage to Nhlangagazi, the Holy Mountain, on the first Sunday of the New Year.
Dressed in spotless white robes, thousands of believers, young and old and irrespective of the weather, walk 80 kilometres from Ebhohleni, the church’s headquarters near Durban, to the Holy Mountain.
Spiritual Calling
The 3-day pilgrimage is a re-enactment of the journey taken by the church’s founder, Bishop Isaiah Shembe, who, in 1910 received a spiritual calling to the Holy Mountain where he was instructed by the Holy Spirit to start the Shembe Church.
The Shembe path he paved includes several evocative pilgrimages and festivals throughout the year, which visitors are welcome to attend.
Month of Prayer
Another key date on the Shembe calendar is their annual October festival. Over 25 000 Shembe gather for a month of prayer, healing and religious celebrations in the village of Judea near Eshowe on KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast.
The village, which does not exist outside of the Shembe festival month, literally springs up overnight. Hundreds of family-run shops appear, selling everything from food to clothing to Shembe icons.
Mixing Business with Belief
The Shembe mix business with belief as comfortably as they do African traditional practices with Christianity. The combination of traditions is their interpretation of the African renaissance.
Reverend Mthembeni Mpanza of the Shembe Church explains:
“Dance has always been part of Bible as a way of worshipping God. Isaiah Shembe integrated African dance with Hebrew dance and merged religion with culture.”
Hero to Healer
The hybrid rituals have another resonance for Mpanza: the Zulu traditional warrior has been turned into a peace-lover and sticks, spears and shields transformed into biblical staffs.
“In traditional Zulu culture, sticks were made to kill, but in Shembe culture sticks are for healing. In traditional Zulu culture, heroes are counted by the number of people they have killed. In Shembe culture, heroes are counted by the number of people they have healed,” he explains.

"Shembe is the way for millions

"Shembe is the way for millions in southern African"

(Reuters, November 13, 2006)

Judea, South Africa - No pill would cure his burning headaches so Njabulo Mjiyahko tried a holistic approach, visiting a religious healer who prescribed a spoonful of holy petroleum jelly three times a day. Miraculously, the pain vanished after a week, convincing Mjiyakho to desert his Salvation Army church and join legions of Shembe converts, born-agains and lifetime followers of the independent church movement. Mbusi Vimbeni Shembe is the fifth prophet of a homegrown South African faith, known as the Nazareth Baptist Church, that infuses gospel preachings of Western missionaries who brought Christianity to Africa with elements of Zulu tribalism. "The Bible says God will send a prophet like you. In Africa that is someone of my skin colour, who speaks my language and can talk to my ancestors in order to solve my problems," said Mjiyakho, 40, a patrol officer in the eastern Kwa-Zulu Natal province. "This is the only church that is from God for black people." Stories of the supernatural abound among some 4 million Shembe disciples in southern Africa who consider its charismatic leaders a godsend. The founder was Isiah Shembe who in the early 1900s experienced a spiritual awakening on a hilltop and claimed to possess magical powers to heal the sick and drive away evil spirits. Throngs of faithseekers from far and wide gather annually in South Africa's eastern Kwa-Zulu Natal province, 70 kilometres north of Durban, to re-enact the mountain ascent. In a separate month-long pilgrimage nearby, thousands stream to a holy land -- transforming a barren piece of tree-dotted property into a bustling shantytown almost overnight -- to worship and be blessed by Shembe. TAILOR MADE FOR AFRICANS The Nazareth Baptist Church has its own etiquette. Saturday is Sabbath -- the holiest day and a time to rest. Worshippers walk barefoot which they say was an example set by Jesus, wearing loose-fitting white gowns and displaying tribal flair like fur headpieces and beaded anklets. Unmarried women, clutching Zulu hymn books, wrap white sheets over their head to hide from wandering male eyes. Holy Water and sacred tubs of Vaseline are consumed or applied to the body as a remedy to cure whatever ails. Smoking, drinking and sex are frowned upon over religious holidays. During celebrations Shembe men and women slip into Zulu regalia -- popular styles are animal skin and warrior dress -- and line up to perform traditional dance steps including an intimidating stomp. Historical archives about the Bible-based faith are sparse -- or at least concealed -- and its clergy is tight-lipped. The church decided to close celebrations several years ago to outsiders arguing openness yielded little benefit. The religion is solace for many Africans trapped in poverty in a region saddled with some of the world's highest rates of AIDS. It also thrives among rural dwellers who attach great value to preserving age-old traditions. Worshippers believe it is their duty to be generous to the less well off, donating money, goats and basic food items to the church which distributes them to the jobless and orphans. Edward Mkhize, a 41-year-old accountant, said he switched to the religion more than a decade ago because it accepts traditional practices, like polygamy. "In this faith I am able to have two wives and as many cattle and goats as I need. God blesses you with a lot of things," he said.

Followers show peak of faith to Mount of Shembe

Followers show peak of faith to Mount of Shembe

Every January more than a million of Shembe's followers walk 85 km to the sacred mountain of Nhlangakazi, Inanda, north of Durban.
THEY emerge from a hilltop like an endless stream of water, stretching more than 20km.
Clad in white Nazareth gowns, Zulu traditional skirts, animal skin headgear, a sea of toddlers, teens, adults and the elderly sing in jubilation as they prepare to ascend the great mountain of Nhlangakazi.
Their journey began three days ago from Ebuhleni Village, one of the two headquarters of the Shembe Church in Inanda. Sadly, the holy journey was hampered by heavy rain which made the roads dangerously slippery for the barefoot congregation.
There are those who persist on the journey despite serious injury.
"As soon as I reach the top of the mountain , the wound will heal," a congregant says as she rests at the side of the road.
These strong-willed followers continue on their journey to salvation. "We bow to Shembe, for he is controlled by God and the holy spirit. God speaks through him," says Mbali Mkhwenyane (49) of Empandweni.
Vimbeni Shembe (70), the third leader of the Shembe Church founded by his great-grandfather Isaiah, is arguably the most powerful man in the history of religion in southern Africa, according to his followers.
"He is God ," says Enoch Mthembu, spokesperson of the Ebuhleni section of the Shembe Church. "The elderly, the sick and the disabled participate on this holy journey because their spiritual belief is so strong.
"God spoke to Moses and A braham on a mountain top, much as he did with Shembe. Therefore, this ritual is symbolic of the Bible's preachings. God instructed Shembe to rescue African people from self-destruction, much like he did with Moses and the Israelites ."
The people of Ebuhleni attest that their leader was sent by God because he is a people's person who lives a simple life and has dedicated his life to saving the troubled and blessing the less fortunate.
"He is a humble man who is one with the people and lives in a simple small hut among his people," says Mthembu. Upon visiting the great Shembe village, a crowded informal settlement whose residents occupy many tiny shacks, we came across a triple-fenced yard. The outside fence is electrified.
Behind the security fences are two no-expense-spared double storey mansions, paired with a couple of modern houses that spread across the spacious yard.
Helpers and security guards swarm around the mansion non-stop to ensure that no intruders set foot. Ironically, this house is built in the centre of a village occuped mainly by Shembe's followers.
Our hope of meeting this humble preacher on the holy journey were dashed when we found out that he gets driven to the mountain, unlike his million followers, some older than him, who sleep in small tents covered by wet blankets in deserted valleys on the three-day journey.
But alas, this congregation is interested only in the activities that will take place when they reach the mountain top. Most of them have been walking this road for years and they say each year, Shembe has not failed to fulfil his promises.
The festival will be concluded on January 22 and all 1,5 million members will make the same journey back to their homes, hopefully cured of all their ills, including those sustained during the journey.