Police visibility beefed up as 2 rival church groups clash in Joburg

One of the 12 vehicles that was damaged outside the IPHC church in Zuurbekom, west of Johannesburg.
One of the 12 vehicles that was damaged outside the IPHC church in Zuurbekom, west of Johannesburg.
Ntwaagae Seleka

The battle over the leadership at the popular International Pentecost Holiness Church is far from over.

Early on Thursday, two factions from the church confronted each other outside the headquarters in Silo, Zuurbekom, west of Johannesburg.

Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said the clash took place at about 08:30, when a convoy of vehicles carrying worshippers arrived and parked outside the church. 

"As they were about to enter the church premises, another group which was inside the church charged at them. They confronted each other. During their confrontation, firearms were pulled out and three people were injured.

"One was shot in his shoulder. The three injured men were taken to hospital. We managed to seize loaded firearms," said Masondo.

He said the confiscated firearms would be taken for ballistic testing to determine if they had been used in the shooting, or in other offences. 

Damaged cars

About 12 cars belonging to church members were badly damaged in the skirmish. Items from inside the damaged vehicles were strewn on the street.

Clashes over the leadership of the church have led to several court battles, following the death of the church's leader Glayton Modise. The church has over three million worshipers from South Africa and neighbouring countries.

A congregant, who refused to be identified, on Thursday told News24 that he was driving in a convoy with fellow worshipers to the church when they were confronted.

"We were attacked for no reason. They just arrived in a large group, armed with guns, sticks and bricks, and charged at us. We then fled on foot, leaving our vehicles behind. They then damaged our cars and fired shots in our direction," he said.

All the windows of his green Mercedes-Benz sedan were smashed, the roof was tramped on, and doors damaged. Inside the car lay the bricks that had caused the damage.

The man claimed that he did not have insurance to assist him in repairing his car.

No provocation

Another churchgoer said a bullet had miraculously missed his body and hit a man standing next to him.

"They fired shots without provocation. We then ran for cover, leaving our cars behind. We don’t know why we were attacked. This is our church too and we want to worship here," he said.

The wrecked cars were later loaded onto a tow truck and taken from the scene.

By noon, the two factions had still not dispersed from the scene. One group stood outside the church, while another was inside.

Around 14:30, more than 100 security guards clad in black were prevented by the police from entering the premises. Behind the security guards were church members dressed in the church's uniform. Some were walking, while others were driving vehicles.

Police have not arrested anyone and are investigating cases of attempted murder and malicious damage to property.

Masondo promised that they would maintain a high police visibility in the area until calm was restored.

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