Address by President Jacob Zuma, at the funeral service of Inkosi Vimbeni Mbusi Shembe, leader of the Nazareth Baptist Church (Shembe), Ebuhleni Home (Inanda), Durban
03 April 2011
All family members of the Shembe Church;
Premier of KwaZulu-Natal,
Dr. Zweli Mkhize and all Members of the Executive;
Bishops and all ministers of all churches;
Leaders of political parties here present;
Traditional leaders here present;
Members of Shembe Church;
All members of the community;
We meet here today to express and share our sympathies with the family, relatives and the entire members of the Nazarites congregation, who have lost their leader and the guiding spirit of their church Inkosi Vimbeni Mbusi Shembe.
We meet here to bury a respected church leader whose contribution to our country has been monumental.
It was with shock and sadness that we received the news of the passing on of Inkosi Shembe, that he had finally departed to join the land of his ancestors.
We are however comforted in our faith, knowledge and our belief that he has been warmly received by his ancestors, including the Prophet Isaiah Shembe the founding father and leader of the church of Nazareth.
Our hearts and our thoughts are with the bereaved family, relatives and all members of the Shembe church as you deal with the pain and hurt of losing the leader of your church.
The dark cloud that has befallen your family and church shall pass.
The formation of the Nazareth Baptist Church in 1910, by its founding father Inkosi Isaiah Mdliwamafa Shembe was a historical landmark in our country.
This Church is as old as the history of South Africa itself as it was formed in the same year the whites decided to form the Union of South Africa in 1910 with the exclusion of black people, and hence its history is closely intertwined with that of this country and its people.
It was formed as a response to the kind of Christianity that was being propagated at the time where inequality was promoted in the name of God.
In fact it was a rejection of the very same values that the state sought to promote, of white superiority and black oppression. Its formation also underlined the consciousness that the early African Christian converts had.
When this church was founded there was a disturbing trend where it seemed that Black people were being given religion with one hand, while being robbed of their land with the other hand.
The coming of Christianity to our 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.
In order to promote its message Christianity had to break down and criticize traditional belief systems that our people had practiced for many years. In other words Christianity was intolerant of traditional belief systems.
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.
Many leaders of the African Independent Churches like Isaiah Shembe formed their churches around this time.
It is for that reason that the name of Inkosi Isaiah Shembe is mentioned alongside the names of other prominent pioneers who also formed their own churches around the same time.
Among those were people like James Dwane, Moses Mokone Mangena who left their churches and established their own African Independent Churches.
This church has a rich history that our people and 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.
You will recall that the first President of the ANC John Langalibalele Dube played an instrumental role in the writing of the biography of Inkosi Isaiah Shembe.
Ohlange the school that Dube built is close to Ebuhleni where Inkosi Shembe built his church and the 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.
Many of our prominent leaders in government and in our movement are also members of this church. You know them you praise and worship with them.
The pain that all your members feel because you have lost your leader also affects us because of our close relationship. Your pain is our pain, your grief our grief because indeed you have lost a true leader.
The passing on of Inkosi Shembe while painful we are comforted by the fact that he lived a full life, his contribution to his country and his church was evident and visible to see to all.
He left an indelible mark in society.
His leadership was trusted by millions of people in his church as well as in society in general. It was because of his leadership that his church grew, expanded and remained united.
We commend and appreciate the teachings of Inkosi Shembe, he taught people the value of working hard and the importance of being independent and self-reliant.
Inkosi Shembe also played a critical role in promoting community development and self help projects in the community.
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.
Sithi lalani ngenxeba akwehlanga lungehli bafowethu nodadewethu. Sengathi uMvelingqangi angathela umoya wakhe kithi sonke asiduduze asithobe amanxeba esinawo.
With those words I say be comforted as a family, relatives and the entire congregation, leave everything in His name and keep your hopes in Him.
May His Soul Rest In Peace.
I thank you.