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Church blows up a storm about vuvuzela

Published Jan 19, 2010

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By Gugu Mbonambi

The Nazareth Baptist Church, also known as the Shembe, was the inventor of the vuvuzela and it would take legal action against companies claiming to have trademark rights to the instrument.

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According to the Ekuphakameni faction of the church, the Nazareth Baptist Church had been using the vuvuzela - which it called izimbomu - since the church was founded by Prophet Isaiah Shembe in 1910. The instrument was used for praise and worship.

Ekuphakameni spokesperson Edward Ximba said yesterday the church's legal team had been instructed to look at the origins of the vuvuzela and advise them on their rights.

"The Shembe church has been exploited for years by people who think they know better. This is particularly because they think we are uneducated.

"We will also speak to the (church's) Ebuhleni faction so we can challenge the vuvuzela issue as one united voice."

Ximba said the church wanted compensation from the company claiming rights to the vuvuzela.

Neil van Schalkwyk, spokesman for Masincedane Sports, holders of the trademark for the vuvuzela, said the Shembe church had approached the company six years ago about who had come up with the concept for the instrument.

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"We started manufacturing vuvuzelas in 2001, and at that time we were not even aware of the Shembe church," he said.

The company had been contacted by the Shembe church in 2004, the year the company applied for a trademark for the vuvuzela.

"We met with the Shembe representatives in 2004, who said they wanted compensation, and forwarded them a proposal that we would sell the vuvuzelas to them at wholesale price. They could then sell them to their members and make a good profit, as they claimed to have about four million members."

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Another company manufacturing vuvuzelas, whose representative asked not to be named, said the instrument belonged to soccer supporters and no one could claim rights to it, including the Shembe church.

Rich Mkhondo, spokesperson for the 2010 Local Organising Committee, said the committee had not made or distributed vuvuzelas.

"We also have no control or influence over what spectators can bring to the soccer venues or what they can use as a celebratory instrument," he said.

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"The church must consult the suppliers of vuvuzelas, not us."

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