Church under siege

2018-11-08 06:02
Pastor Luvuyo Dwaba says churches need to be vigilant after a robbery at his church on Sunday, left congregants without their valuables.

Pastor Luvuyo Dwaba says churches need to be vigilant after a robbery at his church on Sunday, left congregants without their valuables.

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A final preaching session at the Lower Crossroads Baptist Church screeched to a halt in mid-verse on Sunday when three thugs stormed the venue, depriving worshippers of their valuables, money and cellphones.

They fired a shot at the head of the church, Pastor Luvuyo Dwaba, as they forced him to lie on his stomach, but missed. Another shot was fired upwards in the venue. No one was injured, apart from the traumatic effects of the robbery.

This incident happened around noon and is the second in as many weeks: About a fortnight ago, a group of young men went on a rampage, picking on the bags of unsuspecting mourners during a funeral service held at the Abednigo Japhta Methodist Church in NY108, Gugulethu, making off with valuables.

The latest incident has sent shock-waves in the religious community of the Cape, since the festive season is around the corner and criminals are seemingly desperate, what with zero tolerance against cash-in-transit heists, as announced by police minister Bheki Cele.

According to eyewitnesses, on Sunday, the robbers brazenly entered the church as the service was being concluded, rudely shouting orders to the congregants to lie on the floor, demanding cellphones, money and other valuables. At least two shots were fired, sending the congregants into a frenzy.

Police spokesperson Captain Bheki Xulu said the thugs entered the church and demanded money and belongings from members.

“One of them was having a firearm and fired two shots, but no one was hit,” said Xulu.

An undisclosed amount of money including seven cellphones and a laptop all valued at about R30 000 were taken by the suspects before fleeing the scene, according Xulu, who added that police are investigating the matter.

A message on social media by a member of the congregation, who was present reads thus: “I watched every step, uMfundisi uDwaba bamlelise phantsi bekhwaza besithi Pastor sapha imali ne phone ... It was too much, abantwana bekhala ngapha nangapha.”

The congregant further writes that she “threw” a R50 note at one suspects after he had approached her, demanding a phone.

“I don’t know how you(I ) managed to put my cellphone and bank cards in a secret place,”(sic) reads the message.

In an interview with City Vision, Dwaba said he saw the suspects as they made their way to the altar.

After the incident, Dwaba was quick to reassure believers though.

“I know that most people’s livelihood is on their phones. I appeal to people to continue coming to church, but to leave their valuables at home.”

“... This time of the year is a very difficult one for everyone as criminals look at ways to make a quick buck ... It is important for churches to be vigilant. Churches are for everyone. We cannot keep our doors locked ...,” he said.

“Clearly they(suspects) had been planning this,” he said. He added that he saw the group as they entered the door. “We were wrapping up our service. They walked in and ordered everyone to go to the ground,” said Dwaba.

He said while this might be viewed as an attack by the devil to discourage congregants, it was also important to understand that some areas were severely affected by crime.

“There were a lot of questions and doubts after the incident. The reality is that this should not break our spirits.”

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