The father of one of the 42 men accused of attacking the International Pentecost Holiness Church (IPHC) was seen driving near the church on 31 July, the Westonaria Magistrate’s Court heard on Tuesday.
Investigating officer Sergeant George Maditse told the court that he and his commanders had visited the IPHC’s headquarters in Zuurbekom on the West Rand to take witness statements on Friday last week, when they saw the man driving around in the vicinity.
Maditse said they later established the man is a police officer and that his presence frightened the witnesses they were speaking to.
“When we went there to obtain statements from witnesses, accused number 34’s father was driving around the place. Witnesses now feel threatened,” Maditse said.
The investigating officer was being cross-examined by advocate Barry Roux.
Roux is representing 23 of the 42 accused and has, in previous court appearances, claimed that Maditse was falsely implicating his clients.
On Tuesday, Roux told the court that one of his clients is a lawyer, who was only at the church because he had received a call after 04:00 from one of the witnesses.
“He arrived at the scene and tried to explain that he had been phoned [by a witness] and was told to lie on the ground, and was arrested,” said Roux.
Maditse replied that the lawyer was arrested along with others who were leaving the church premises carrying firearms.
“It was dark and they were coming out of the church’s main gate carrying guns. I don’t know which firearm he was carrying. The five deceased were inside the church before they were killed.
Maditse, however, told the court that he did not have direct evidence to point out who had fired the guns which claimed the lives of five people.
But he said all 42 accused should be charged for the crime.
“Yes, all the accused have committed the crime. I have statements from people inside the church during the attack, and they haven’t told me that they fired shots (in retaliation against the attackers),” said Maditse.
The State is opposing bail for all the accused.
Maditse told the court that one of the men, whose parents are from Lesotho, does not have any form of identification. It made him a flight risk.
“He doesn’t have any proof of identification, and he has no identification, and can run away without trace. His parents, who are also from Lesotho, have confirmed that he doesn’t have identification”.
Another accused, also believed to be a flight risk, had two addresses linked to him, the court heard.
“Another accused resides at Jeppe Hostel and moves around. He has another address in Ladysmith [in KwaZulu-Natal]. We will have difficulties tracing him should he be granted bail. I can’t guarantee that he will come to court.
Maditse insisted to the court that the group of men had a plan when they ambushed the IPHC on 11 July, and that if they were granted bail, they would pick up where they left off.
“My job is to protect victims. I believe that, since the accused didn’t achieve their mandate, should they get bail they will finish what they started. Some have previous convictions,” Maditse said.
The violent act stems from a succession battle between splinter groups that is now before the court.
This came after the church’s leader, Bishop Glayton M Modise, died in February 2016.
The church was founded in 1962 by his father, Reverend Frederick S Modise.
The church is now led by the founder’s grandson, Frederick LG Modise.
Shortly after the 11 July attack, the church said in a press briefing that, since 2016, these “satanic elements” led by the “defected group” have sought to hijack the legacy of its founder, “His Grace Comforter, Frederick S Modise, and his successor, Comforter GM Modise”.
The hearing continues on Wednesday.
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