February 24 - The scene of the shoot-out at the Mancoba Seven Angels Ministries Church at Nyanga village. Photo: SAPS

Johannesburg - The three North West police officers who died on Monday night after their car was involved in a crash were not set to join the team probing the deadly shootout in Ngcobo, police said. 

On Tuesday morning, reports emerged that the three officers were on their way to join the team probing the massacre, which saw five police officers and a retired soldier massacred, when their vehicle collided with a stray horse. 

In a terse statement the police said the officers, who were attached to the North West Tracing team, were driving from Mthatha to Ngcobo.

North West police however, denied these claims, saying the men were tracing a suspect linked to a North West case. 

"They left yesterday [Monday] afternoon to track down a suspect but were involved in a crash at 11pm a few kilometres outside Ngcobo," Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said.

"Three members died on the scene and one member was critically injured and taken to hospital."

This was confirmed by Eastern Cape police spokesperson Captain Khaya Tonjeni. 

Police also confirmed that a case docket of culpable homicide has been opened for investigation.

Meanwhile the memorial service for the five policemen who were shot and killed last week is underway in Ngcobo.  

At the weekend seven suspected police killers were cornered and shot dead when police task team swooped on them at their hide out at the controversial Mancoba Seven Angels Ministries. Ten others were nabbed.

Those killed in the shootout with police were named as Mhlazane Mfazwe, Siyasanga Mfazwe, Xolisa Mancoba, Michael Mancoba, Thandazile Mancoba and Loyiso Dlambulo. The seventh one is known only as Luzuko.

Three of dead were brothers. They were part of the seven brothers who run the Seven Angels church. Until the weekend swoop, followers believed the brothers were literally angels of God. More than a 100 people,including children, were thought to be living on the property.

Police are still pursuing other suspects linked to the shootings.

* Additional reporting by African News Agency/ANA