Member of cult church speaks out

Eight bodies were earlier exhumed from shallow graves at the site.

Dispatch Online/June 27, 2003
By Ncedo Kumbaca

Umtata -- Ex-members of the controversial cult known as the Awaiting Christ Group, or Ibandla lika Krestu, have been left numb by the closure of their church at Mandela Park here.

While Mandela Park community members called for the building to be demolished yesterday, the Daily Dispatch, flanked by community leader Chief Jongisizwe Ndzambule, visited former cult members.

A short distance from the church compound, 26-year-old Busisiwe Ncetani sat outside a two-roomed mud house with her Bible.

She was reportedly the closest cult member to its leader, Nokulunga Fiphaza, and the last person to see her, but has refused to give information to the police.

She was garbed, in obedience to Fiphaza, in a long skirt to hide her feet and had a cloth on her head.

"By wearing this cloth, I show respect to God," she explained.

She joined the church in 1996 in Port Elizabeth. Already a "born-again" Christian, she was attracted by the cult's principles when she attended with her aunt and brother.

The other two left because of the cult's principles. Her brother wanted to go back to school.

Ncetani moved out to stay with Fiphaza and quit school after passing Grade 11 in 1997.

The cult was then chased away from Port Elizabeth, and found brief asylum in Grahamstown.

Forced to move again, it tried to settle in Twecu, near East London, then Payne Farm in Umtata, then Matatiele and Tsolo.

Ncetani lashed out at those who called the cult the Awaiting Jesus Group. "Our church has no name, it is just a group of born-again Christians," she said.

The group is fuelled spiritually by a strict regimen of four daily prayer sessions and marathon fasts that last 20 or 30 days.

"In these services, people praise God and testify about their backgrounds and where they came from with the Lord," said Ncetani.

She said there were about 30 children with no birth certificates at the compound, who were not attending school. Most of the adult members had no identity documents and chose to quit their jobs and stay in the compound.

Ncetani's mother, Nokhaya Hlotyana, said she had been living without her daughter since 1995, before she went to Port Elizabeth.

"When I asked her to come back, she said she was waiting for Jesus," said Hlotyana.

Ncetani came back to her mother's house in Mandela Park last Friday.

"I feel insecure because of her presence. I have sleepless nights worrying that Mandela Park residents will burn my house down," said Hlotyana.

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