Church attack: Accused now totals 42 after man discharged from hospital

The number of people accused of the fatal attack on the International Pentecost Holiness Church (IPHC) in Zuurbekom on the West Rand has increased to 42.

On 11 July, the church was ambushed, which resulted in the death of five people as well as cars set alight.

Police also recovered firearms, including rifles and shotguns, from the scene.

The latest individual accused of the attack on Wednesday told the Westonaria Magistrate’s Court, during his formal bail application, that he was discharged from hospital on 15 July.

The 42 accused cannot be identified – for now – because police are yet to conduct an identity parade.

Accused number 43, who is also member of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), is currently in hospital after sustaining burn wounds.

It was earlier reported that two men were hospitalised during the deadly incident that claimed five lives at the IPHC headquarters.

The latest accused told the court on Wednesday that, on 11 July, he was travelling with other accused in a bakkie when they were stopped by police. They were severely assaulted and he lost consciousness.

The man said the bakkie they were travelling in was later torched, although the owner survived with burn wounds.

His lawyer, advocate Barry Roux, claimed the State’s case against his client, along with the 22 other people he represents, was weak.

Meanwhile, all the accused have submitted their affidavits in an attempt to convince magistrate Gavin Pillay to grant bail.

Among them is a lawyer who claimed that, on that fateful day, he was called by one of his fellow accused – the owner a security company – to come and intervene at the church.

Roux said the lawyer arrived at the church, accompanied by two other men.

The three men were later arrested, along with others.

Among those arrested with the lawyer was a Soweto-based police detective, who made his bail application on Tuesday.

The lawyer claimed that police officers manhandled and ordered them to lie on the ground at gunpoint. He has threatened to sue the police for wrongfully arresting him.

The majority of the accused claim to be members of the church. Their lawyers have maintained that they were falsely implicated by the police.

They say they went to the church, upon hearing that the establishment was under siege, and were only there to offer assistance when they were arrested by the police.

Roux earlier mentioned in court that the five deceased men and the 42 accused belonged to the same faction.

Shortly after the incident on 11 July, IPHC executive committee chairperson Abbey Wessie had said the assailants were part of a splinter group, who have been against the current leadership since the death of the church’s leader, Reverend Glayton Modise, in 2016.

Wessie claimed some of the attackers, belonging to the splinter group, wanted to take over the church.

The feuding factions have since agreed to renounce violence, following mediation by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities. 

The case will continue on Thursday.


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