Police probe Zuurbekom church factional feud allegations

Scenes from the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC)  in Zuurbekom are pictured, 11 July 2020.  The South African Police Service has confirmed the arrest of over 40 suspects and the seizure of more than 34 firearms after being alerted to a hostage situation and shootout at the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC)  in Zuurbekom, Johannesburg in the early hours of Saturday morning. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark  

Of those arrested, six were in hospital under police guard. Sixty-eight firearms were confiscated, including 17 rifles, 24 shotguns, 27 pistols, more than 330 rounds of ammunition, explosives and nine vehicles.

The police has announced the arrests of 46 suspects for the mayhem at the International Pentecostal Holiness Church in Zuurbekom on Saturday, which left five people dead.

Of those arrested, six were in hospital under police guard. Sixty-eight firearms were confiscated, including 17 rifles, 24 shotguns, 27 pistols, more than 330 rounds of ammunition, explosives and nine vehicles.

Spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said police were investigating the possibility the attack was motivated by a feud between parties within the congregation.

“Four men were found shot and burnt to death in a car while a fifth man, a security guard, was also fatally shot in his car while he was apparently attending to this complaint,” Naidoo said.

Naidoo said 42 suspects would face charges of possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition while four would face charges for possession of explosives.

“The crime scene was processed by SA Police Service [Saps] forensic experts after the Special Task Force, Tactical Reponse Team and Visible Policing members rescued a number of men, women and children who were said to have been held hostage within the compound,” he said.

Naidoo reported that among those arrested were members of Saps, the SA National Defence Force, the Johannesburg Metro Police Department and the correctional services department.

“Those members were not at the scene in their capacity as members of security forces.

“Instead, they were there as members of the church and they just happen to be members of these different departments,” he stated.

In November 2018, two factions from the church confronted each other outside the church’s headquarters, leaving three people with gunshot wounds. Clashes over the leadership of the church have led to several court battles following the death of the church’s leader Glayton Modise.

The church has more than three million worshippers from South Africa and neighbouring countries.

Christians of South Africa said it was “shocked to learn of a failed coup d’état” at the church, saying supporters of a “rebel group” had “stormed” the church premises in an attempt to hijack the property and “possibly assassinate one of the late Rev Clayton Modise’s sons, Leonard “JK” Modise, who took over the reign at the headquarters pending a court outcome on the succession debate”.

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