24 February 2018

South Africa: Ngcobo Massacre - Mbalula Brands Shoot-Out Church 'Satanic'

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has branded the church where a fatal shootout took place during a hunt for a gang that killed five police officers, "satanic", and says it would be closed down.

Mbalula was responding after a shootout took place at the Seven Angels Ministry church which left seven people dead and saw 10 arrested.

The church was harbouring suspects in the case that saw five police officers killed at Ngcobo police station earlier this week.

"Police arrested suspected criminals in a satanic place masquerading as a church," said Mbalula in a statement on Saturday.

"Our people must be vigilant and report these kinds of places."

A police officer was also injured in the leg during the shootout and some suspects apparently managed to run away.The raid on Friday night came after four people were taken in for questioning after Warrant Officer Zuko Mbini, 45, Constables Zuko Ntsheku, 38, Nkosiphendule Pongco, 32, Sibongiseni Sondlana, 32 and Kuhle Metete, 27, and a retired soldier were killed. The soldier's name was not available yet.

Mbalula also said from the scene in a report broadcast by eNCA: "Let me tell you what we discovered when the police arrived there.

"That there is no church there, but there is Satanism."Those people are not praying for anything, but they have hypnotised abantu [people]," said Mbalula wearing an ANC T-shirt.

With him was National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole, who had also arrived on the scene in the Nyanga village outside Ngcobo.

Police spokesperson Captain Khaya Tonjeni said it was too early to confirm the identities of any of the people shot dead, but said that what police saw at the property did not resemble a "normal" church.

He said the shooting took place at the door of one of the structures, which appeared to be better appointed than the "filthy dormitories" that most of the people there were living in.

The church was in the news in 2016 when police removed children after reports that they were being prevented from going to school.

He said the people running the church would also be questioned because there were still many unexplained gaps in the information at hand, as the Hawks and a task team work through the evidence at the cordoned off scene.

The charges against the 10 arrested are still being formulated, but the crimes committed relating to the Ngcobo massacre include murder, attempted robbery, damage to police property, resisting arrest, harbouring criminals and defeating the ends of justice.

The possibility that police may have been involved was not ruled out as the gang that struck on Wednesday appeared familiar with operations there, he said.

Sithole said that the church was now off limits, saying it was a crime scene, but would be closed once the police's investigations were concluded.

"We want to thank all the members who have not eaten or slept [to catch these criminals].

"No one will touch us, make us a mockery and continue as if its business as usual," said Sithole.

The community of Ngcobo was congratulated and thanked for assisting police and the police were commended.

In the meantime, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) is also investigating the shooting.

"In terms of the IPID act, if a person dies as a result of police action, IPID must act," said spokesperson Moses Dlamini.

One of the brothers running the ministry, Benjamin Mancoba, was contacted for comment, but the call was ended and his phone switched off.

In Wednesday's shooting a group of attackers entered the Ngcobo police station, between Mthatha and Queenstown, and, without warning, randomly opened fire on officers who were on duty.

Three officers were killed at the police station.

The gunmen then separated the female police officers from their male counterparts, before taking six pistols, two shotguns and two assault rifles.

The retired soldier, who rushed to the scene, was shot dead as they fled.The bodies of two additional officers were later found, shot execution style, along the roadside near Nyanga High School, about 6km from the police station.

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