Shembe, Isaiah

1870–1935
South African church leader

Isaiah Shembe was a ZULU prophet who founded his own church in the early 1900s. As a young man Shembe experienced a dramatic conversion that led him to give up worldly things and become a wandering preacher and healer. He joined the African Baptist Church in 1906 and eventually became an ordained minister. However, he broke away in 1911 to establish the Church of the Nazaretha.

Based on Old Testament teachings, Shembe’s church incorporated elements of indigenous Zulu religion. According to his followers, Shembe performed miracles of healing and was able to foresee the future. After his death he was buried in the village near Durban, SOUTH AFRICA, where his church was based. Shembe’s tomb became a place of pilgrimage for his followers and the area around the burial site became known as “paradise.” Two of his sons took over leadership of the church, which still exists. (See also Christianity in Africa, Prophetic Movements, Religion and Ritual.)

Shembe, Isaiah