RESIDENTS go about their business outside the House of Restoration church in Winterveld, where three armed men held congregants hostage for about 30 minutes and then robbed them. Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)
Pretoria - Congregants at the House of Restoration church in Winterveld were on Monday still traumatised by the events of the weekend, where armed men held them hostage during a night of prayer and worship for more than 30 minutes.

Shortly before midnight on Friday, the men stormed in to the church and demanded valuables at gunpoint.

Recalling the night, Paulina Ntumelang said they should have seen the red flags earlier that night when a dodgy-looking man in his 20s joined the night vigil.

According to her, he was aloof and looked around the church extensively and with an inquisitive eye. 

“Now that we think about it, the new guy was a bit dodgy he also kept on taking calls outside throughout the service.”

But Ntumelang said she and the rest of the congregants paid the newcomer no mind and carried on as usual. 

“Our church is open to everyone that wants to receive the Lord as their saviour so we don’t discriminate against anyone.“

It is believed the man disappeared 30 minutes before the incident. But towards midnight, one of the congregants left to check on her children at a nearby house.

When she returned, she was ambushed, and the intruders entered the church with her.

Ntumelang said they instructed everyone to lie on the floor before firing a gun shot. “Everyone just fell like dominoes,” she said.

The robbers demanded cellphones and money and the bishop’s car keys.

They told the panic-stricken congregation that they were not afraid to kill anyone and were baying for blood.

“We don’t have the exact number of the people that were in church, but it’s alleged that 40 cellphones were taken and an undisclosed amount of money,” she said.

For 30 minutes, the armed gang went through everyone and everything, taking what they could from each of their victims.

Another victim, Kevin Mpenyane, said he went numb and remained so during the incident. “The robbers were extremely violent and even manhandled some of the women.”

They also made off with the church laptop.

“Just as they were about to flee, they asked for the bishop’s car keys. For some reason they struggled to open the car and demanded that he opened it. But again they could not start the car and so they fled, leaving the car keys behind.”

This attack was the first the church had experienced since its establishment two-and-a-half years ago.

But, said the faithful congregants, the incident could not deter the church from concluding its service; they carried on with the vigil.

“This time we were praying for them and asking for divine intervention and for the robbers to be found.”

Police spokesperson Captain Samuel Sebola said they were investigating a case of robbery and assault. However, they had not made any arrests nor established any leads by late Monday.

Pretoria News