Judge Achmat Jappie has ruled that hand writing expert Michael Irving can present his findings in the Shembe trial in the Durban High Court on Monday.
“I have decided to allow applicant Vela Shembe to call Mr Irving to testify. His evidence to the dispute of the signature will be heard,” Jappie said.
The Shembe Church, also known as the Nazareth Baptist Church, has been embroiled in a leadership battle since Vimbeni Shembe died last March. He was the leader of its largest faction.
According to a will, he apparently chose his cousin Vela Shembe as his successor, but some senior church leaders want his son Mduduzi to take the reins instead.
After failing to convince the church's elders of his nomination, Vela Shembe took the matter to court.
Jappie said he was satisfied with Irving's experience and qualification.
Irving would be allowed to present his findings on the 2000 deed of nomination, and would be cross-examined by Mduduzi Shembe's attorneys, who were concerned about his qualifications.
Last week, Rajesh Choudre SC, for Mduduzi, objected to Irving presenting his findings in court, claiming he was not a reliable witness.
“His qualification is not sufficient because he (only) did a foundation course with 20 modules, setting a basis for further experience,” Choudre said.
“We do not know the nature of the cases he has been involved in and we do not know if his evidence has ever been challenged.”
He said it was also not known if his evidence had been rejected in cases in which he had previously testified.
Archie Findlay SC, for Vela, told the court Irving had enough experience to be considered a credible witness. – Sapa