Modise's Jerusalema faction denies attack on Zuurbekom church

Five fatalities have been reported and 30 suspects arrested in a "hostage situation" at a church in Zuurbekom.
Five fatalities have been reported and 30 suspects arrested in a "hostage situation" at a church in Zuurbekom.
Image: Supplied

The faction of the Modise church which has been accused of orchestrating the attack at its property in Zuurbekom has denied involvement in the attack that led to the death of five people.

Jerusalema faction of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church which is based in Pretoria refuted allegations that it was behind the attack on Saturday morning

Priest Vusi Ndala, spokesperson of the faction under the leadership of Michael Sandlana denied allegations that the killings and hostage situation was a result of their doing. 

He denied that they sent an entourage of heavily armed men to invade and hold congregants hostage at the church’s headquarters in Zuurbekom. 

“Those people who died there were our members. But we categorically deny that they were sent to Silo. They went there on their own free will to see if they could worship there, but there was no authority given from the executive that they should go and invade Silo,” Ndala said. 

“They were ambushed. They killed our people and it wasn't because we were the ones in the wrong,” he said.

He said they were working with the police to identify the  people who were found shot, killed and burned in a vehicle. 

“We dont know who they are at the moment, but we know they were our people. They were dragged out of the church, shot , and then they burned them. If they were there to hold congregants hostage, why were the ones who were killed?” he asked. 

Ndala denied allegations made by Abel Wessie, IPHC’s executive council’s chairperson, in which they were fingered in a number of criminal activities including assault, theft and robbery. 

On Sunday, chairperson of the Silo's executive council Abiel Wessie addressed members of the media.

He revealed that the church has, in recent months, been under siege by assailants allegedly led by a former member of the church.

Wessie said there had been an ongoing leadership battle dating back to 2015 when the then leader died.

“As a church we strongly condemn what happened yesterday. Our comforter [God] is absolutely disappointed and dismayed by what happened. We are a church, we observe religious principles. We are peaceful church, we have a history dating back from 1962. There was never an incident of this nature until recently when this splinter group started what they are doing.

“This matter is before the high court. They are impatient to wait for the due process of the law to unfold. They have decided to take the law into their hands,” he said.

Wessie said the church had turned to law enforcement agencies each time it came under attack but with no luck.

“Every time we cry to our law enforcement agencies, our cry has ended on deaf ears, unfortunately,” he said.

Wessie said the church had been attacked three times since last year.

The attack, Wessie added, happened while congregants were sleeping.

“Our church was under siege yesterday, by the faction, the splinter group. They came in, they forcefully wanted to take over the church. They came in fully armed.

“They managed to get access. Others went through the back gate and they started harassing the church members who were asleep at the time,” he said.

The armed group allegedly broke windows and doors at the premises and started assaulting congregants.

Wessie said in June last years a bus with its staff members who were going to prepare for an annual pilgrimage in Cape Town was also attacked.

 “When they heard that our people were there preparing, they booked flights, went to Cape Town, fully armed also, went up to the mountain, got through back doors as they are used to. They destabilised the whole process, they attacked, assaulted people and as a result of that, we lost a member who was beaten to death,” he said.

The church was also attacked sometime in October. Property was taken and the attackers started shooting randomly on arrival at the premises.

“This is their modus operandi, we are not even surprised. Here at Zuurbekom, this is the third attempt to overthrow and forcefully take over.”

Wessie told journalists that efforts to get those who have been involved in the previous attacks arrested had not yielded any positive results.

 “After we realised we were not getting any joy from our local [police] stations, we reported several cases. I can count up to 40 cases that have been opened, cases of assault, assault GBH, housebreaking, trespassing, theft of properties ...

“We resolved to take this matter to the highest level of the SAPS. I must state categorically that, despite all those efforts, our pleas, prayers ended on deaf ears,” he said.  

Wessie claimed that 10 people had been killed in similar attacks before.

“That one of yesterday is very regrettable because one life lost is one life too many. If we count the number of lives since the leadership battle ensued, I am counting up to nine and even 10,” he said.  

The church leaders have since called on the government to intervene in the matter to avoid further bloodshed.

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