File image - The late Bishop Vimbeni Shembe

Durban - A third handwriting expert has vouched for the authenticity of a disputed signature on the deed of nomination of the late leader of the Shembe Church.

Forensic document examiner Leon Esterhyse told the Durban High Court on Thursday his finding was based on his theoretical knowledge, practice and experience.

Esterhyse was asked to authenticate the signature of Vimbeni Shembe on his deed of nomination dated February, 11, 2000.

He examined a copy of the deed of nomination and later the original.

The church, which is also known as the Nazareth Baptist Church, has been embroiled in a leadership battle since its leader Vimbeni died in 2011.

Vimbeni's son, Mduduzi, and his cousin, Vela Shembe, both want to succeed him.

According to a will, Vimbeni chose Vela as his successor, but some senior church leaders want Mduduzi to take over.

After failing to convince the church's elders of his nomination, Vela took the matter to court.

Esterhyse said after examining the specimen documents and the deed of nomination, he was satisfied that the characteristics showed that they were written by the same person.

His examination of the disputed signature revealed good line quality and rhythm.

He said it would be difficult for someone who was forging a signature to identify minute details.

The forger would need to recognise inconspicuous characteristics and copy them successfully, Esterhyse said.

He said all individuals were influenced by factors around them and their handwriting was not always the same.

Forensic document examiners Michael Irving and Jannie Bester have also told the court the signature on the deed of nomination is authentic.

Colonel Frik Landman, another handwriting expert, is expected to tell the court that the signature on the deed of nomination was forged.

Esterhyse said he had 40 years experience as a handwriting expert.

His testimony continues on Friday. - Sapa