Four-year-old Lungisani Ntuli was found dismembered on the premises of St John’s Church at the weekend. He had been missing since Wednesday.

Angry Pongola residents have threatened to avenge the brutal murder of a four-year-old boy after the pastor arrested in connection with the crime was released from police custody yesterday because of insufficient evidence.

Irate Ncotshane village residents in Pongola, who spent yesterday waiting outside Simdlangetshe Magistrate’s Court for the pastor’s appearance, said they would continue burning public and municipal buildings in the area.

“Just like nobody bothered telling us what is happening in court or that the pastor has been released. We also won’t inform anyone about our next action,” said one angry resident.

The mob sang and chanted while waiting waited to catch a glimpse of the 51-year-old pastor at his first appearance after he was arrested on Tuesday in connection with Lungisani Ntuli’s murder.

The pastor’s arrest came after the boy’s dismembered body was found in a rondavel at the pastor’s St John Church.

The boy’s legs, one arm and head were in a grocery bag. Police are still searching for the rest of the body.

After the gruesome discovery, the angry mob went on the rampage, burning the church to the ground and setting fire to the home and tuckshop of a woman they accused of witchcraft.

The woman’s house was burnt after people found what they thought was a human head and backbone.

The bones have been sent for forensic analysis.

Angry over the arrest of 15 people for public violence after the torching of the church and the woman’s home, community members threw a petrol bomb into the court building.

Nobody was injured.

The 15 community members were released on warning and are expected back in court later this month.

In court yesterday, community members and a huge media contingent arrived early for court proceedings, but they were barred from court.

They were only informed at 5pm that the pastor would not appear as he had been released.

KwaZulu-Natal provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, acting Community Safety MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo, and Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni also attended the proceedings. The three were seen leaving court after a quick meeting in one of the courtrooms.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube said the man was set free because of insufficient evidence. “The NPA didn’t have sufficient evidence to prosecute the pastor, and decided that there was no need for him to appear in court.

“The police will continue with their investigation and the docket will be sent back to court if there is evidence,” he said.

Meanwhile, the boy’s family was last night making funeral arrangements.

A family spokesman, Sakhile Ngubane, said the boy would be laid to rest next week after his body was released to the family.

Contacted last night, the pastor’s neighbour said the man was not back at the church premises.

“Good thing as well because we are on a warpath,” she said.

Earlier this week the priest denied having anything to do with the killing, and said he had been in Durban for a church service when the body had been found.

Meanwhile, Rev Bongani Johanes Buthelezi issued a statement on behalf of the St John’s Apostolic Faith Mission Church, distancing it from the church where the body parts had been found.

“There are splinter groups that split from the church and formed new associations that are not governed by or associated with the St John’s Apostolic Faith Mission Church.”

National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega has appealed for calm in the area and asked the community to allow police to conduct their investigations.

“We understand the community’s anger, but taking the law into one’s own hands is not helpful. It only serves to prompt further police intervention and arrests,” she said.