PICS: Five dead, 40 arrested in Gauteng church hostage drama
Pretoria – At least five people have been killed and 40 others arrested in a church hostage drama still at the feud-ravaged International Pentecostal Holiness Church in Zuurbekom, west of Johannesburg, the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Gauteng said on Saturday.
"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 he was apparently attending this complaint, " National Commissioner of Police General Khehla John Sitole said in a statement.
Six people who were arrested have been taken to hospital.
"Among those arrested are members of SAPS, SANDF, JMPD and the Department of Correctional Services."
Sitole added that more than 34 firearms including five rifles,16 short guns and 13 pistols have also been seized.
"The crime scene is still being processed and the figures of arrests and firearms seized may fluctuate as the Special Task Force, Tactical Reponse Team and Visible Policing members continue to comb the compound. These Units have also rescued men women and children who are said to be living in the compound and were being held hostage," said Sitole.
He has tasked the provincial management to finalise its preliminary investigations in the quickest possible time and ensure that the 72-hour Activation Plan is mobilized to bring to book all those responsible for this attack.
"I have embarked on a Spiritual Crime Prevention Concept which involves the participation of all religious denominations in the fight against crime. It is rather unfortunate that such an incident takes place during a time when South Africa is being plagued by a deadly virus and violent crimes", concluded Sitole.
In November 2018, a shoot-out between feuding factions of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church left three people wounded outside the church headquarters in Zuurbekom. The factions have been at loggerheads since the church leader and founder Comforter Glayton Modise died in 2016.
At the time, police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said one group drove towards the church allegedly to ambush the rival group that was inside the building.“The ones inside the church saw the approaching cars and a shoot-out ensued. One person was shot and he was taken to hospital,” Masondo said.
The rival group retreated under heavy gunfire and at least 13 vehicles were damaged. “The other group then used stones to damage the cars,” Masondo said. Police confiscated a number of firearms to be taken for ballistics checks.
In 2017, the warring factions of the church went to court over claims that more than R110 million was missing from the church coffers.
African News Agency/ANA