An attorney, a police officer and an SA Defence Force (SANDF) member were among the accused who appeared in court over the hostage drama at the International Pentecost Holiness Church (IPHC), which left five people dead.
In a statement, National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said 41 suspects allegedly linked to the attack appeared in the Westonaria Magistrate’s Court, charged with murder, attempted murder and malicious damage to property.
Mjonondwane said the other suspects, who are currently hospitalised, would appear in court as soon as they were released.
All the accused were remanded, and the case was postponed to Wednesday for further investigations.
During the early hours of Saturday, the police and members of the SANDF responded to reports of a shooting and alleged hostage situation at the church in Zuurbekom, a small town on the West Rand in Gauteng.
Its alleged a large group of armed people had entered the church premises and attacked people, saying they were taking it over.
The police said four men were found shot and burnt to death in a car while a fifth man, a security guard, was fatally shot in his car while he was apparently attending to the complaint.
Law enforcement officials arrested 46 suspects, including six people who were taken to hospital under police guard. The police seized 68 firearms including 17 rifles, 24 shotguns, 27 pistols, more than 330 rounds of ammunition, explosives and nine vehicles.
It was previously reported the incident stemmed from a succession battle between splinter groups that is now before the court. This was also not the first incident of this nature, the church said.
An eyewitness who did not want to be named, said he and others were asleep in the church when they were awoken by gunshots emanating from outside.
“It was around midnight when I was awoken by a number of gunshots. As a church marshal, I ran towards the gate and saw many cars parking outside. I alerted others church members, who were inside, through a loudspeaker that we are under attack,” he said from the scene of the hostage drama.
“As I tried alerting the other security guards, I then saw about eight or 10 men jumping [over] the wall. I ran inside the church and they opened fire again. I then saw a white van ramming through the gate”.
The eyewitness said he and others managed to leave the church, running towards the gates where they were allegedly stopped by armed gunmen wearing orange reflector jackets.
“They shouted at us that all is in order. They got closer and asked us where Aaron, Masweetie and Mphahlele were. We then managed to flee outside the headquarters for safety and they continued firing bullets at the other side of the church,” the eyewitness added.