17 arrested after Limpopo 'witchcraft' attack

Johannesburg - Seventeen people, including four children, were arrested in Nancefield, Musina, after a pastor's house was burnt down after claims of witchcraft, Limpopo police said on Friday.

The violence started late on Monday evening when residents of Nancefield arrived at the house of the 70-year-old pastor, spokesperson Ronel Otto said.

He had apparently been seen in a video saying he was involved in witchcraft and that his teenage daughter was an evil spirit.

"The community saw it and [went] to his house on Monday night and tried to burn it down with the family inside," said Otto.

The police were called and rescued the pastor, his wife and daughter before they could be harmed.

The group threw stones at police officers and their cars. Three of the officers on the scene were injured, either by stones or shattered glass.

That evening the group moved to the N1 and tried to block the route between Musina and Beit Bridge. Police ended the blockade.

On Tuesday night, the group mobilised again and this time succeeded in burning down the pastor's house.

On Wednesday, a group went to the pastor's brother's house and threw stones and rocks. The family was inside the house at the time, but no-one was injured.

Police tracked down and arrested the 17 for arson, malicious damage to property and public violence.

They appeared in the Musina Magistrate's Court on Thursday. The four minors, aged 16 and 17, were released into the custody of their parents.

Five of the adults were released on R2 000 bail each. The rest of the group did not get bail and will remain in custody. The case was postponed to May 27.

Otto said the pastor and his family were not injured, but were taken at first to the police station for their own safety.

''Today it's quiet,'' said Otto on Friday, but added that police were monitoring because the community still seemed a little unsettled.

The Sowetan reported that the video with the pastor making his claims, which started the chaos, was screened on Charis TV, which broadcasts Christian church services.

Clips on YouTube show some people in a church service telling tales of being possessed by - or claiming to have messages from -  Satan, warning that he was out to get the Christians.

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