Vela Shembe who recently won the legal battle to lead Nazareth Baptist Church has died at his home in Umthwalume,  KwaZulu-Natal, on Thursday night.

It has been reported that the church leader succumbed to a long battle with cancer.

Vela and his nephew Mduduzi Shembe, the son of the late leader Vimbeni Shembe, were embroiled in a five-year legal battle to take charge of the church.

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This after the elder leader had died in 2011.

At the time, both Mduduzi and Vela claimed that they were chosen by the deceased leader to lead the church, which has more than five million followers.

Vela’s spokesperson Nkululeko Mthethwa confirmed to News24 that the church leader died of natural causes last night.

“He was not shot dead [as rumoured],” Mthethwa was quoted as saying.

Additional reporting by News24