KEEPING THE FAITH: Banele Mancoba, 30, leader of the Mancoba Seven Angels Ministries.
Nyanga - In the world of a layman, being a journalist or an accountant requires one to have undergone formal education and a training of some sort.

But in the world of the leader of the controversial Mancoba Seven Angels Ministries Church, you can be a journalist or an accountant even if you have dropped out of school in Grade 1.

All you need is the wisdom of God and a one-day instruction from those with formal training in these professions.

Banele Mancoba, 30, was doing Grade 1 in 1995 when his father, Siphiwo Mancoba, who founded the church in 1986, ordered him to drop out of Grade 1.

“According to a word by God to my father, the South African Constitution and its schooling system was and still is sinful. My father believed our future, as his sons, was not in school but with God.

“Today I am able to read, speak and write English even though I never went to school,” Mancoba told Independent Media in an interview at his home in Nyanga, just outside Ngcobo, in the Eastern Cape this week.

“In Cape Town, I used to work as an accountant even though I don’t have qualifications. I told my bosses I only had a code 14 (driver's licence) and no schooling but they insisted on me being their accountant. Even in journalism, you can show and train me just for one day and you'll see me being a success from the word go.

“The reason why the congregants in our church do not want to go to school is the instruction of my father to us as his sons. The congregants have since adopted that instruction as their own because they believed in my father,” he said.

Banele’s home was a compound to hundreds of stay-in congregants until the fatal shooting of seven church members by police last Friday.

This after a tip-off that the criminal gang which killed five police officers and an off-duty soldier at the local police station was hiding in the compound.

Banele said a day after the reports of police killings, he overheard young men in the church saying that his elder brother Thandazile “King Gabriel” Mancoba, who is among those who were killed by police, was the one who led the attack on police.

“I couldn’t report it to police because I had a busy schedule. I was not surprised by that because I knew Thandazile had a way of misleading people. We even chased him away in the church because he was misleading congregants,” said Banele.

Calls for the controversial church to close have been growing in the past few days.

Newly appointed Police Minister Bheki Cele, as well as the Eastern Cape branch of the SA Council of Churches, renewed calls last week for the church to cease operations.

However, Banele still believes it is not a bad place for worship.

“All we are doing is through the work of God. If they want the church to be closed, they can do that but leave my homestead alone.”

The church’s close neighbour, who asked to remain anonymous, said for many years the institution has been a hideout for criminals.

“It’s a place to hide for any wanted criminal. It’s also a sex-slave place for many young girls.

“My daughter used to date one of the Mancoba brothers until I decided to move her out of the Ngcobo area because I could see there was something wrong about this church,” said the neighbour.

READ MORE: WATCH: Mancoba church leader claims Constitution, schools 'driven by Satan'

Another neighbour said that on numerous occasions they had reported to authorities that their livestock was being stolen by church members.

Banele confirmed cases of stock theft by church members but denied that the church was a place for sex slaves.

However, he said there were times when they encountered complaints about men dating young women in the church.

“There were some men who were mischievous and wanted to date other young women inside the church.

“We have been very strict on that because it’s sinful to have sex before marriage,” said Banele.

Hundreds of the church’s stay-in congregants are housed at places of safety.

Eastern Cape Department of Social Development spokesperson Mzukisi Solani said almost all the people who were “stay-in congregants” at the Seven Angels compound were placed in various centres for safety.

"Among the steps outlined by MEC (Nancy) Sihlwayi is the provision of a safety shelter, psycho-social support, documentation of children and adults for identity documents and birth certificates, and family reunification.”

This week the chairperson of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, said she was approaching the Constitutional Court for a “declaratory order” on the regulation of churches.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said that, after interviewing church leaders in 2016, she knew something wrong was going to happen at the church. She said she raised the matter with Parliament last year but nothing was done about it.

Banele, who said he escaped through the window after hearing gun shots last Friday, believes his father will soon rise from the dead.

“The congregants want to be part of that big day.

“When my father was about to die in April 2015, he told the congregants to wait for him here in the church, saying it won’t take him long to rise from the dead.

“This is why so many people have either taken prolonged leave or even pension from their workplaces.

“Some have taken their expensive cars to the church and that is why people are accusing us of driving expensive cars.”

Banele has maintained that, of the Mancoba brothers, only Thandazile was involved in the police killings.

“My other two brothers were not involved but were killed. I will not sue the state because the Bible is against that.”

Banele said his three brothers, just like his father, would be cremated.

He said the families of the other four deceased were angry with the church. “They believed their loved ones were killed because of the conduct of the church.

"I have not spoken to the families about the funeral of their loved ones.”

Sunday Independent

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