Inkosi Shembe passes away as an Honourable man
This article “Zuma attends Shembe’s funeral” was published in the Independent Online newspaper on April.3, 2011 (http://www.iol.co.za/news/special-features/the-zuma-era/zuma-attends-shembe-s-funeral-1.1051303#.VRtvKfnF91b.) It is talking about the death of Inkosi (Vimbeni) Shembe. He died at his house at the Ebuhleni village because of an undisclosed illness. His successor is Mduduzi Shembe. President Jacob Zuma himself was there at the funeral. He even said that Shembe had lived a full life, and his contribution to the church is evident and visible to all. Zuma further on clearly states “because of his leadership, the church grew”. In the article the author even includes quotes of President Zuma stating that the formation of this church in 1910 is a historical landmark. It is very important because it was formed as a response to the promotion of Christianity and the inequality that was advocated in the name of God. The church was a rejection of the values that promoted the values of White Superiority over Black oppression.
Isaiah Shembe founded the Nazareth Baptist Church in 1910. When he passed away, his successor was Bishop Johannes Galilee Shembe. Galilee Shembe was very powerful and raised the amaNazarites to become the second largest independent religion in South Africa. However after his death, the unified church divided into two. The larger half of the church was under the leader; Amos Shembe and the church with lesser people were following Londa Shembe. Amos Shembe had a greater emphasis on the Bible and the person of Jesus while Londa, who was also the grandson of Isaiah Shembe, rejected the Africanized Christianity and believed that African Religion was its own category. However, Londa was brutally assassinated. The successor of Amos Shembe was Vimbeni Shembe. I personally believe that Vimbeni was very successful in the terms that he was able to get over a million followers; most of which were Zulus. This is why Vimbeni was such an important person, that even the president attended his funeral.
This article also relates to the RELS 341 class because in class we also talked about Isaiah Shembe and the amaNarazintes religion. In fact the professor of this class, Irvin Hexham, even worked with Londa Shembe. In 1987, Londa approached Hexham to edit and publish the translations of texts; and these translations are published. This was known as “The Shembe Project”. More information on this project can be found on the website: http://bit.ly/1Dqu90k.
In class we also talked about many Zulu traditions and in ways that people misinterpreted some of these traditions. One example is how Margret Mead believed that the Zulu women were free of sexual oppression, even before marriage. However sources looked into Meads work and later on interviewed the same women that Mead talked to and realised that they mislead Mead and lied to her. In fact they had never done the wild sexual acts that they falsely told Mead. In Zulu tradition women usually did not wear anything over their breasts; however they were not free of sexual oppression. One can also link this with Shembe because he was a traditional Zulu who never had any contact with the missionaries; but yet he still felt guilty of his sexual activities. And he did not feel this remorse due to outside influence because he never had contact with Christian Missionaries. One could take this piece of information and see that tradition and religion is not simple, even when analyzing the Zulu society. Also one should not compare one religion to their own; every religion has its own traditions along with its own meanings. Referring back to Zulu women not wearing a breast band, it could be seen as rebellious in today’s western society, but for the Zulus this was a norm. Even in the article president Zuma stated that Vimbeni Shembe was going to be “warmly received by his ancestors, including the Prophet Isaiah Shembe, the founding father and leader of the church of Nazareth.” This is an example of a tradition that is still thought of in Zulu society (passing to ancestors).
It is also evident that Isaiah Shembe was a very popular man and respected by many because in another article, http://bit.ly/1F0WXcd,there was a riot over Isaiah Shembe’s statue simply because it did not represent “the real prophet”. Even though the article claims that this statue took R400 000 to make, the citizens got their way and the statue was not put on public display. It is evident that the passing of Inkosi (Vimbeni) Shembe is sad, but he is remembered as an honourable man.