28 April 2021
Pretoria – Members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Johannesburg Metro Police affiliated to the splinter groups of the International Pentecost Holiness Church have been accused of abusing their powers to persecute the IPHC Jerusalem church led by Bishop Michael Sandlana.
Sandlana’s spokesperson Tshepo Phuthi said the IPHC Jerusalem members who were at court on Monday were regularly provoked by “by well-known and self-declaring members” of the rival IPHC factions who are employed members of the different law enforcement agencies, some in full police uniform.
“Competent law enforcement officers are not representing their political parties or churches when they are in official police uniform. Their lines have been blurred, or there are no lines at all now,” said Phuthi.
“The IPHC Jerusalem, led by Comforter Michael Sandlana strongly believes that the ongoing court case, where he was on Monday charged with fraud, is part of an ongoing well orchestrated and choreographed campaign – with the rival factions of the IPHC using some of its members in law enforcement and the criminal justice system – to bring down Comforter Sandlana.
Last year, around 40 people including police officers, members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and correctional services’ officers were arrested following a bloody hostage drama at the IPHC faction in Zuurbekom, west of Johannesburg where five people were killed.
Phuthi said a fake Facebook account, impersonating British actor Bruce Payne has also been used to spread falsehoods and to slander Sandlana and the IPHC Jerusalem.
He added that some police officers had been implicated in previous violent scenes within the church, but are still working.
“What further raised eyebrows is that some of the members of the law enforcement who have been clearly implicated by witnesses in the previous violence in the bloody attack of 11th July 2020 at Zuurbekom, were seen around the vicinity of the police station, which unmanaged, could have resulted in a violent confrontation,” said Phuthi.
“A high level private and independent security assessment also pointed us to a failed plan which – if it had had it been implemented, was going to cause life threatening incident to Comforter Sandlana. Our members, who witnessed the presence of these law enforcement officers belonging to the other IPHC faction, were strongly instructed not to react or to act in any violent or provocative manner.”
After the deadly attack in Zuurbekom last year, the IPHC’s Priest Vusi Ndala criticized Police Minister Bheki Cele for failing to listen to all parties involved in the deadly leadership battle.
“While Minister Bheki Cele committed to meet all the parties concerned as articulated in a statement issued following the visit to the Zuurbekom faction, he is yet to meet with the leadership at IPHC in Jerusalem, a month after visiting the Zuurbekom faction,” said Ndala at the time.
Ndala made the remarks while addressing a media briefing in Pretoria.
He said the IPHC in Zuurbekom was not representative of the IPHC in its entirety, and instead was simply a faction of the church. Cele’s visit suggested the minister favoured “one faction over the other”, said Ndala.
“We hope that the ministry of police would not want this perception to linger and become a reality that is unnecessary, and we humbly appeal that an opportunity rendered to the IPHC in Zuurbekom is rendered to the IPHC in Jerusalem.”