Modise family to speak after weekend church shooting
After a hostage situation that left five people dead, the Modise family will speak out publicly of who should head the International Pentecost Holiness Church (IPHC) after the death of its leader Glayton Modise in 2016.
One of Modise’s sons, Tshepiso, on Monday issued a media statement inviting people to a press briefing at his home in Pretoria on Tuesday.
“While some media have speculated that the cause of the shooting is faction fighting and disputes over the leadership of the church, head of the IPHC through succession, Tshepiso Modise, eldest son of 'comforter' Glayton Modise and Marriam Modise, wishes to clarify the family’s position and to affirm its commitment to the church and its members,” the statement read.
Tshepiso will reportedly be joined by his mother Marriam and other family members at the press conference, where they will “discuss the current happenings within the church, the family’s position on the recent tragedy, as well as the succession court case”.
The IPHC has in recent years been torn into three as ongoing battles continue over who — between Tshepiso, his younger brother Leonard and Michael Sandlana, who is believed to be the late bishop's child out of wedlock — will lead the church.
This feud has reportedly resulted in the church being split into three, with congregants divided over who to follow.
On Saturday, five people were killed when gunmen stormed the church premises in Zuurbekom, west of Johannesburg. Police had said “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.”
Women and children were among those who were allegedly held captive by the gunmen. By the time calm was restored, 41 people — among them a police officer, soldier and lawyer — had been arrested by police on scene.
Commenting on the tragedy, Tshepiso Modise’s statement described the incidents that unfolded as “heartbreaking and unnecessary”.
His move to speak out also comes after his brother, Leonard met with police minister Bheki Cele. Leonard has always maintained that his father had appointed him his successor.
After their meeting, Cele issued a statement where he said they had been “briefed on the leadership battle currently playing out in the church over recent years, as well as their request for the intervention of law enforcement”.
However, Cele stressed that the police would investigate all leads.
“We wish to find a way forward on this matter with all parties involved. The South African Police Service cannot be seen to be taking sides. We will not listen to just one side, but all sides — and enforce the law,” he said.
“The law will have to be on the side of the SAPS in order for us to do our work and prevent further bloodshed.”
Meanwhile, the Gauteng provincial legislature’s portfolio committee on community safety expressed concern after the shooting, saying the police’s criminal intelligence division should have known and been able to foil the attack.
The committee said the incident points to “possible challenges in police crime intelligence, and ability to detect and prevent crimes of this nature before they occur”.
“Of great concern to the committee is allegations that amongst those arrested are members of SAPS, SANDF, JMPD and the department of correctional services, who should be protecting citizens against crime,” said committee chairperson Mapiti Matsena in a statement.
“This points to a possibility that the incident might have been well-orchestrated and co-ordinated and should have been detected and prevented — particularly if law enforcement officers were allegedly involved.”
The law enforcers were reportedly part of a group of 41 that was arrested at the church after the shooting. They appeared in the Westonaria magistrate’s court on Monday, where their case was postponed to Wednesday.
Two other suspects remain in hospital, where they are being treated for injuries sustained during Saturday’s shoot-out.
The committee condemned the incident and called for harsh sentences to be imposed on the law enforcement officers allegedly embroiled in the shoot-out, should they be found guilty.
After the incident on Saturday, police said they had seized 68 firearms — 17 rifles, 24 shotguns and 27 pistols — as well as over 330 rounds of ammunition, explosives and nine vehicles.
Those arrested are expected to also be charged with possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition. Four of the accused are also expected be charged with the possession of explosives.
The committee said it wanted answers. “[We] will call both the MEC for community safety Ms Faith Mazibuko and provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Elias Mawela to appear before [the committee] and give a detail briefing on what transpired during the day in question,” it said.
“Noting the swift response by law enforcement officers in arresting suspects in this matter, the committee will expect both [Mazibuko and Mawela] to brief it on measures that will be put in place to strengthen crime intelligence, in ensuring that such incidents are detected and prevented before they occur.”
After the incident, national police commissioner Lt-Gen Khehla Sitole said: “I have embarked on a 'spiritual crime prevention concept' which involves the participation of all religious denominations in the fight against crime.
“It is rather unfortunate that such an incident takes place during a time when South Africa is being plagued by a deadly virus and violent crimes.”