Residents raid cult buildings

Dispatch Online/June 27, 2003
By Ncedo Kumbaca

Umtata -- Local police were shouldered aside as chanting Mandela Park residents broke locks and entered the controversial Ibandla lika Krestu church with a crowbar yesterday.

As anti-crime committee members entered, onlookers shouted vula vula, vula (open up!).

Inside the two residential houses used as church buildings, posters were found -- one depicting four human figures, another showing one figure, a third a "soul" and a fourth, with a black background, showed a bird in the heart of a person.

In the church hall more posters were found.

These said: Jesus Arrives, The Ark Is Leaving for Heaven, Preparations for Rapture, Revelations from God, and many more.

In cult leader Nokulunga Fiphaza's room were chairs, a small table, a sponge mattress and a Bible.

More sponge slabs, blankets, Bibles, hangers and clothes were found in the congregation's sleeping quarters.

Police refused residents' demands to demolish the houses and check the foundations for more bodies. Other residents suggested the houses be burnt.

"We do not want these cult members back here. This has tarnished the area," said community leader Chief Jongisizwe Ndzambule.

A mechanical digger, guided by police, had earlier dug up the ground at the cult headquarters in search of more bodies.

This follows the exhumation of eight bodies at the church compound on Tuesday.

Postmortems were conducted on Wednesday, the results of which will be forwarded to the magistrate's court and the investigating officer.

Fifteen cult members arrested on Sunday for concealing the deaths will appear in the magistrate's court here today.

Three of the detainees -- Pastor Thompson Lingani, 77, Sabelo Simayile, 55, and Herbert Lingani, 50 -- have indicated their intention to apply for bail.

The other 12 were granted R300 bail on Monday.

Cult leader Nokulunga Fiphaza is still missing, along with most of the congregation.

The cult has been chased away from King William's Town, East London, Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown, Matatiele, Tsolo and Paynes Farm in Umtata.

Commenting about the evictions earlier, Fiphaza said: "This is the pain we have to endure as the children of God."

Fiphaza, who denied she was the cult's leader, said they were waiting for the return of Jesus Christ.

According to Chief Ndzambule, the cult came to Mandela Park in 1997 and were initially community ignored the group. "But we discovered their strange beliefs a few years later. They did not allow their members to work, to mingle with other locals -- even their own relatives -- or attend family funerals.

"Children were not allowed to go to school or clinics and were without birth certificates," said Ndzambule.

The police raid last week followed allegations by the mother of a cult member that her daughter had died and been buried by the cult.

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