The leader of the Nazareth Baptist Church, Vela Shembe, has died.

Shembe died on Thursday night.

While reports say that he died of cancer, the church says the are awaiting an autopsy report.

Church spokesperson Nkululeko Mthethwa says they are saddened.

“I can confirm our great leader passed on at midnight at his home in KwaZulu-Natal. It is something that was unexpected. We were not prepared for this.”

Shembe recently won a five-year high court battle against his second cousin Mduduzi Shembe for the leadership of the church in the Durban High Court.