Ngcobo massacre: Panel talks of magic, money and mayhem

2018-03-17 07:38
CRL chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva. (Jabu Kumalo)

CRL chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva. (Jabu Kumalo)

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Johannesburg – Christianity is in a state of emergency, chairperson of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission), Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, said on Friday.

"People think they can do whatever," she said during a panel discussion on cults. "Look at Ngcobo. You have people saying they were angels, trying to convince everyone of their beliefs."

She was referring to the tragedy which happened in Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape on February 21, when five police officers and a soldier were gunned down. The Seven Angels Ministry, which locals described as a cult, have been implicated in the attack.

"We red-flagged the seven angels, but we could not call them a cult."

READ: How Ngcobo cult kept its sex slaves

Speaking on the sociology of cults, sects and personality cults, Professor Maria Frahma-Arp of the University of Johannesburg said some charismatic churches were cults.

"There are racist, polygamous and terrorist cults," said Frahma-Arp.

She added that there were seven signs of a cult – opposing critical thinking, isolating members and penalising them for leaving, emphasising special doctrines outside scripture, seeking inappropriate loyalty to their leaders, dishonouring the family unit, crossing Biblical boundaries of behaviours and separation for the church.

Dr Alex Asakitikpi of the sociology department at the University of Monash said cults always operate in secrecy and everything was done in isolation.

"They do not want people to see what they are doing and they encourage people to not disclose activities."

Asakitikpi said cults were usually started by individuals, due to their encounter with the death of a loved one and loss of identity, among other things.

DOCUMENTARY | News24 takes you inside the cult that captured an Eastern Cape community

News24 sent a team of journalists to Ngcobo in the wake of deadly shootings between police and members of a confirmed cult. The team spoke to the cult leaders, families of victims, law enforcement and cult experts to piece together a story of brainwashing, vulnerability and violence.

Dr Saths Cooper of the International Union of Psychological Science said the country had successfully created a lost generation.

"That is the wake-up call we have to deal with."  

Dr Somadoda Fikeni of the Office of the Vice-Chancellor at Unisa said, when a country experiences a political and social crisis, people look for magic.

"The irony in all of this is that in poverty people are willing to give up everything in order to gain more."

Fikeni said most pastors get rich while some of their congregants remained poor.

"We have been talking about state capture but we have not been speaking about the capture of the church."

In closing, Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said when the commission raised the Ngcobo matter it did not expect it to become a political hot potato.

READ: Ngcobo massacre: 'He was my king, I worshipped him,' says accused about church leader

"People are willing to kill for going to question their leaders."

She said the commission had become an "enemy" after disturbing the status quo.

"We need to learn how to speak truth to power and not be scared."

She said the commission could only recommend to the relative authorities on what steps they could take.

"The state has the sole responsibility to protect its people."

She said the Ngcobo massacre took place at the right time.

"It was the same day that parliament rejected our peer review mechanism recommendation." She said until there was a law that regulated the sector, "it's a jungle out there".

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said government and law enforcement should listen to early warning signs.

"If the peer review was passed the Ngcobo angels would have been stopped dead in their tracks."

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