41 IPHC suspects appear on murder, damage to property charges
Pretoria – At least 41 men arrested during the attack at the Leonard Modise-led International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC) headquarters in Zuurbekom, Gauteng, on Monday appeared in the Westonaria Magistrate’s Court charged with murder, attempted murder and malicious damage to property.
“In the early hours of Saturday, 11 July 2020 the South African Police Service (SAPS) responded to an incident of shooting wherein it was alleged that a group of men stormed into the church yard armed with rifles, shotguns and pistols and started attacking security personnel as well residents of the church compound,” said the National Prosecuting Authority’s Gauteng spokesperson, Phindi Mjonondwane.
She said police units that attended to the crime scene managed to rescue the people that were held hostage, including women and children.
“Two of the suspects were injured during the crossfire between the alleged assailants and the church’s security officials. They are currently hospitalised and will appear in court as soon as they are released from hospital,” said Mjonondwane.
“An attorney, a member of the South African National Defence Army (SANDF) and a SAPS official are amongst the accused that appeared in court today (Monday). All accused were remanded in custody till Wednesday, 15 July 2020 for further investigations.”
On Sunday, after the attack of the IPHC headquarters, allegedly by a rival faction seeking to take control, Leonard Modise appealed for intervention to stop the bloodshed. At least five people were killed in the takeover bid on Saturday morning.
“This is a church of peace, a church of love and a church which heals. The people who attacked this place yesterday (Saturday) were here to hijack God’s land.
"We are begging you to help us, as law enforcement agencies," said Modise, younger son of the late church leader "Comforter" Glayton Modise, who died in 2016.
The well-known church, which boasts a 3 million membership in South Africa and neighbouring countries, has been engulfed in a bitter three-way conflict to succeed Glayton Modise, who "inherited" the church from his father and founder, "Comforter" Frederick Samuel Modise, in 1998.
There has been intensive conflict between the three main contenders – Glayton Modise's two sons, Frederick Leonard Goitsemang and Tshepiso, and Michael Sandlana, reportedly Modise's son out of wedlock – to take over the reins of the church.
Leonard Modise has in the past told the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria that his late father publicly and lawfully anointed him to be his successor before he died. Leonard Modise leads the IPHC group based at the Silo headquarters church in Zuurbekom. The other two contenders run different church splinter groups elsewhere.
Tshepiso Modise currently leads one of the biggest IPHC branches in Springs, east of Johannesburg, while Sandlana leads the splinter church from the Jerusalem branch in Pretoria.
On Saturday, national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khehla John Sitole, said four people were found shot and burnt to death in a car, while a fifth victim, a security guard, was also fatally shot in his car while apparently attending to the complaint.
Police arrested over 40 suspects, including six people who had been taken to hospital. Among those arrested were members of the SAPS, SANDF, Johannesburg Metro Police Department and Correctional Services. Over 34 firearms, including five rifles, 16 shotguns and 13 pistols, had been seized.
In November 2018, a shoot-out between feuding factions of the church left three people wounded outside the church in Zuurbekom. In 2017, the warring factions went to court over claims that more than R110 million was missing from the church coffers.
African News Agency (ANA)