Succession issues leading to conflicts in several South African churches

Several churches in South Africa have in their constitution a succession plan of who takes over as leader of the church when the incumbent passes away or leaves the position. But these constitutions hardly indicate how this succession takes place.

This is according to Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, Chairperson of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL).

The constitutions of churches must be very clear about these things (succession plans), in order to prevent a lot of fights within the church that are unnecessary

Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, CRL Commission Chairperson

On Tuesday, the Durban High Court ruled that Vela Shembe is the rightful leader of the Nazareth Baptist Church, popularly known as the Shembe Church.

Since 2011, the Shembe Church has been fractured by two factions led by individuals who have claimed leadership of the church after the death of Vimbeni Shembe.

Vela Shembe leads the Thembelihle faction, while Mduduzi Shembe leads the much larger eBuhleni faction.

What we've discovered is that most constitutions are not very clear on succession plans, which has caused a lot of crisis in the country. Its just that the Shembe issue is a national issue. But you'd be surprised at how many thousands of churches, smaller ones, have a similar problem

Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, CRL Commission Chairperson

Xaluva says that the CRL Commission has made its recommendations for churches to have clarity on succession in their constitutions.

She says that churches in the country need to clarify their constitutions if they are vague about succession plans.

Listen to the conversation below:

In iziHlabelelo it is written that a son must always take over (leadership of the Shembe church). This is what they've been doing all along

Sanele in Pretoria

You have a will that is in place, on the other hand you've got the constitution. The question is which framework between the two should supersede the other one

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