Congregants pray for robbers who were shot dead while robbing them in Centurion church

Police have taken a statement from the congregant who exchanged gunfire with alleged robbers in a Centurion church on Sunday.
Police have taken a statement from the congregant who exchanged gunfire with alleged robbers in a Centurion church on Sunday.
Image: 123RF/Goran Bogicevic
A pastor and a congregant have recalled how three gunmen stormed their church in Centurion, disrupting a Sunday service by firing shots and taking cellphones and jewellery.

Pastor Kobus Erasmus of Querencia ministries in Centurion, Tshwane, said on Monday that the incident took place as he was about to say the last prayer.

“We were singing the last hymn, just before I was about to say the last prayer.“We were shocked beyond words because we were in a church and within seconds everything changed.

“The men came in with loaded firearms. One of the gunmen hit me with the front of the gun on the head, gangster style. He told me to lie down but I could not because I have a broken hip. He took my cellphone,” Erasmus said.

The men also took cellphones and jewellery from the congregants. The items were later recovered.

After he was hit on the head, there was an exchange of gunshots, Erasmus said.

“It’s difficult to tell you the whole chronology of events.

“Pieter van der Westhuizen [late Springbok player Joost van der Westhuizen’s brother] retaliated. The two guys fell.

“Everyone was praying. We prayed for them too. It’s a hard and sore thing,” Erasmus said.

Van der Westhuizen, an ex-policeman, allegedly produced his own firearm and shots were fired.

Police told SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE on Sunday that two suspected robbers were shot dead.

According to Erasmus, there were about 19 shots fired.

He said the congregants were going for counselling.

Rochelle Roets, whose voice was trembling when TimesLIVE spoke to her on the phone, said the incident left her “extremely traumatised”.

“I sit at the back of the church because I am in charge of the sound. When we were singing, I saw the door behind me open. I saw a guy with a gun and he signalled that I should get down.

“I went on my knees and I started to pray.

“Shots were fired. I said, 'God if this is how it should be, then so be it'.

“As I was turning around, two shots went above my head and three on my left. It was an extremely traumatic experience. I still feel rattledt.”

Shots were fired. I said, 'God if this is how it should be, then so be it'
Rochelle Roets, one of the church's congregants

Roets said she struggled to sleep on Sunday night.

Ulrich Roux, Van der Westhuizen's lawyer, said his client was traumatised by the incident.

“He is traumatised. He acted in self-defence, not only for himself but for the people who were in the church.” 

He said his client had spoken to the police about the incident.

“He has not been charged,” Roux said.

Police spokesperson Brig Mathapelo Peters said a statement was obtained from Van der Westhuizen.

“A statement has been obtained from the congregant who allegedly shot the suspects and this will be submitted for prosecutorial direction,” Peters said.

© TimesLIVE

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