Ngcobo, Eastern Cape - The church known as the Mancoba Seven Angels Ministries Church in Nyanga village at Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape will be shut down, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Saturday.
Addressing the community at Ngcobo, Mbalula said the church would be shut down, as it was not a place of worship, but rather something else. "There is no church there, it's just Satanism. They are not praying for anything, they are hypnotised," he reportedly said.
The church appears to have been a hideout for the men suspected of shooting dead five police officers and a retired soldier at the Ngcobo police station on Wednesday night.
Police cornered the suspects at the church premises on Friday night after receiving information that the unknown gunmen were hiding there. In a shoot-out between a police special task force and the gunmen, seven suspects were shot dead and 10 others arrested, while some apparently managed to escape.
Also speaking at Ngcobo on Saturday, National Police Commissioner Lt-Gen General Khehla Sithole said the special task force officers had come under fire when they approached the premises.
"The intention was to get to that particular place and break down this gang, syndicate, that has no respect for the law. We were led by our task force and when we arrived there we told them that we are the police and requested them to move aside so we can search for our firearms. We did not even finish talking, they shot at us and injured one of our members and we responded and killed seven of them... and we have recovered our firearms, all of them," Sithole said.
"Sixty-five hours ago our police station was under siege, but we made a decision that this is not going to happen in South Africa where the state will be undermined by criminals. We wanted our guns, to arrest, and to stop these criminals. We went to this church and explained and they shot at us twice. Little did they knot we had trained members. Before 30 minutes, seven of them went down. We continued and arrested 10 more... We recovered our [stolen] weapons too. The dignity of your police station has been restored and those who did that attack, they will never do it again," Sithole said.
Ngcobo community members flocked to the church in large numbers as the police were conducting their investigation on Saturday. Some sang songs calling for the church to be burned down.
Addressing the community at the scene, Mbalula said the church would be shut down. "We are not going to allow a situation where people do as they please; we are a country with the rule of law. Those that died here [suspects] will get handcuffs in heaven."
He warned people against joining organisations claiming to worship God while having other intentions. Mbalula also warned people not to take the law into their own hands as they were shouting about burning the church. "Don't rush to burn down, allow the law to take its course," he said.
"I must thank the police for a job well done, they must continue to assert the authority of the state and affirm the rule of law. Police arrested suspected criminals in a satanic place masquerading as a church. Our people must be vigilant and report these kinds of places. We urge our people to continue working with the police for a peaceful and prosperous South Africa," Mbalula said.
He thanked the community for their role in helping the police with information, and also thanked all the officers involved in the operation. "President [Cyril] Ramaphosa is also rejoicing and filled with gratitude for the work you have done as [the] police force," he said.
The Mancoba Seven Angels Ministries Church at Nyanga village, about 5km from Ngcobo town, has reportedly been in the news in the past when police discovered children held there unlawfully and prevented from attending school.
Five policemen from Ngcobo police station were killed on Wednesday night by unknown gunmen who robbed the police station of 10 firearms and fled the scene with a police vehicle they hijacked from two policemen, who they then murdered. The police van was later found abandoned in a ditch off the road a few kilometres from the police station. A retired soldier was also shot dead when the suspects fled the station.
It is understood that police are searching for those who escaped during the shoot-out on Friday night in caves in mountains behind the church premises in Nyanga village.
African News Agency/ANA