Durban – ANC Presidential hopeful and former health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Saturday told the Nazareth Baptist Church, popularly known as the Shembe church, that the country was faced with immediate issues, including load shedding, that needed to be resolved.
The church, whose membership is about 5 million, hosted its annual prayer at eNyokeni Royal Palace in Nongoma at the weekend.
The traditional African church’s leader, Prophet Mduduzi “uNyazilwezulu” Shembe of Ebuhleni, and King Misuzulu KaZwelithini were at the prayer.
Last week the head of the ANC electoral committee, former president Kgalema Motlanthe announced that incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mkhize will contest the position of party president at next month’s elective conference.
Mkhize, speaking at the 9th Royal Sabbath and uMgidi ceremony of the Shembe church, told the thousands of members of the church at the event that if elected president he will be a committed servant and work towards eradicating poverty, drug abuse, high unemployment and high levels of crime. “I will, on your behalf, deal with the issue of load shedding, poverty, petrol hikes, crime and other social ills,” said Mkhize.
The powerful church is split in two factions, EBuhleni which supports Mduduzi uNyazilwezulu Shembe and the Thembezinhle faction.
The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has long held a belief that issues in the church are part of the reasons that the party fared dismally in the 2021 local government elections.
The battle for the control of the church started in 2011, soon after the death of Vimbeni Shembe. The EBuhleni faction has in the past accused former KZN premier Sihle Zikalala of favouring its rivals, the Thembezinhle faction.
During a march last year to protest against the ongoing court dispute regarding who should lead the church, the EBuhleni faction issued a stern warning to the ANC to intervene in the church’s leadership dispute or face the consequences at the then upcoming polls.
During the march, church spokesperson Nkosinathi Makhanya read from a memorandum of grievances to government officials and issued a warning to the provincial ANC.
“If the ANC thinks it can govern without us, our message is very clear. Let’s meet on the first (of November),” Makhanya had said.