Cops accused of fuelling violence within IPHC wrangle
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Pretoria - The International Pentecost Holiness Church (IPHC) faction led by Bishop Michael Sandlana has called on the law-enforcement agencies, particularly the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) to investigate the role of individual officers in instigating violence which has haunted the church over the years and left several people dead.
The IPHC Jerusalem led by Sandlana lamented the role of police officers and fake social media accounts which seemingly have and share exclusive information, including photographs taken while the charismatic church leader was in restricted areas where only on-duty police officers could access.
Sandlana and three co-accused appeared in court on Monday after being charged with fraud in connection with a fraudulent submission declaring Sandlana’s estranged wife Magalane Benedicta Sandlana dead, to the Department of Home Affairs. The four were released on bail ranging from R2,000 to R5,000 (about US$140 to US$350) and the matter was postponed to June 29 for further investigations.
Sandlana’s spokesperson, Tshepo Phuthi, said the IPHC Jerusalem members who were in court were constantly taunted and accosted “by well-known and self-declaring members of the rival IPHC factions who are employed members of the different law-enforcement agencies”, some in full police uniform.
“Competent law-enforcement officers are not representing their political parties or churches when they are in official police uniform. Their lines have been blurred, or there are no lines at all now,” said Phuthi.
“The IPHC Jerusalem, led by Comforter Michael Sandlana, strongly believes that the ongoing court case, where he was on Monday charged with fraud, is part of an ongoing well-orchestrated and choreographed campaign, with the rival factions of the IPHC using some of its members in law enforcement and the criminal justice system to bring down Comforter Sandlana.”
In July last year, police officers, members of the South African National Defence Force and officers from the Department of Correctional Services were part of a group of more than 40 assailants arrested following a hostage drama at the IPHC faction in Zuurbekom, west of Johannesburg.
At the time, the IPHC at Zuurbekom said the group identified themselves as police officers and were “armed to the teeth with pistols, rifles (and) crowd disperser pump rifles".
On Wednesday, Phuthi said a fake Facebook account impersonating British actor Bruce Payne has also been instrumental in fuelling hatred and spreading rumours against Sandlana. He said some police officers had been implicated in previous violent scenes within the church, but were still working.
“What further raised eyebrows is that some of the members of the law enforcement who have been clearly implicated by witnesses in the previous violence in the bloody attack of 11th July 2020 at Zuurbekom were seen around the vicinity of the police station, which, unmanaged, could have resulted in a violent confrontation,” said Phuthi.
“A high-level private and independent security assessment also pointed us to a failed plan which, if it had had it been implemented, was going to cause a life-threatening incident to Comforter Sandlana. Our members, who witnessed the presence of these law-enforcement officers belonging to the other IPHC faction, were strongly instructed not to react or to act in any violent or provocative manner.”
Phuthi charged that there was no doubt that some police officers aligned to the other church factions were feeding information to various social media accounts, including the fake Bruce Payne account.
“That Facebook account has for some time now been used to criticise and defame Comforter Sandlana. The mistake they made on Monday was to post pictures from restricted areas within the Sandton police station where only police officers can access as Comforter Sandlana was led in. This was happening in real time, as Comforter Sandlana was within the police precinct. Can one then look forward to police impartiality and justice?” Phuthi asked.
JMPD spokesperson Xolani Fihla said a member of the police unit had previously been investigated for involvement in the IPHC fallout but was exonerated because of lack of sufficient evidence.
African News Agency (ANA)