Memorial service of the five cops held in Engcobo

Mourners at the memorial service of the five police officers who were killed last week. Photo by Mbulelo Sisulu

A memorial service was held on Tuesday for police officers killed at the Engcobo Police Station in the Eastern Cape last week. Five officers and a retired soldier were killed when a gang attacked the station. Suspects linked to a cult in a nearby village were arrested in a raid on their church.

Ngcobo, Eastern Cape, South Africa

South African Police Service in the Eastern Cape held memorial service for five police officers and a soldier who were brutally murdered on duty. The service was held at the Methodist Church in Engcobo.

Warrant Officer Zuko Mbini (46), Kuhle Mateta (27), Nkosiphendule Pongco (32), Constable Sibongiseni Sandlana (32) and Constable Zuko Nelson Ntsheku (38) were shot and killed on 21 February.

Traditional leaders, leaders from different churches, political party leaders and people from different communities came in large numbers to give support and sympathies to the family members of the murdered officers.

One of the family members, Mayenzeke Makeleni (27), an uncle to Zuko Ntsheku, said, “We grew up together at home. So I was taking him as my brother because of growing together. He was very nice to everybody at home. As the family we are very sad to lose a person like him.”

Makeleni added that he is working as the cleaner at Engcobo Police Station. “All these police officers that have been killed were very friendly to people. Nkosiphendule Pongco and I used to stay in the same yard. At Engcobo Police Station there is a traditional music group who are working there. So we used to travel different places with Pongco. Pongco was very talkative, in the bus he was the only one who talks. We were always together. Even now I have many photos of us in my cellphone. One of the police officers phoned me around 12am saying there are gun shots at the police station. Then we waited until the gun shots were gone. So after 2am we went to police station. Then when we got there we saw police bodies in pools of blood. The situation is very bad here. Look, now we are scared to walk around town after this incident, especially when you see a car that is not familiar in our town,” he said.

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Ngcobo is a small town in the western part of former Transkei region, under the Chris Hani District Municipality. According to the Socio Economic Review and Outlook for the municipality, Engcobo has the worst poverty levels in the district. It has the least piped water and electrification.

Eastern Cape Premier, Phumulo Masualle told mourning families that the loss of their loved ones is not only for them. “This is the loss of the nation. We are here to sympathise with you. That church needs to be closed,” he said.

Raid and arrests at Seven Angels Ministry

Four suspects linked to the Seven Angels Ministry church appeared in court yesterday in connection with the murder of the cops. One of the church leaders has admitted to the media that one of his brothers was behind the attack.

New Police Minister, Bheki Cele told family members that they must be happy because their children did not die doing wrong things. “Your kids died protecting the community. Our government gives teachers chalk, gives doctors stethoscopes and police have been given guns. The ministry can’t turn into an undertaker. Why do we have to bury police, especially the young ones? How can you allow a thug to attack while you are carrying a gun? People are going to say I have started my things. But I cannot allow police to be killed while they have guns. Our government is going to look after the children of these police officers especially on the side of education. We are going to meet to discuss the matter of their kids,” he said.

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Cele is returning to the police after he was sacked in 2012. Under his leadership, the police was militarised and he infamously called on the cops to “shoot to kill” when dealing with criminals.

New Police Minister Bheki Cele said that the officers who raided the Seven Angels Ministries Church should have killed more of the suspects who were shooting at them during the raid. Photo by Mbulelo Sisulu

He also emphasised the fact that the Seven Angels Ministries Church is not the crime scene. “This is not a church that one. The church leaders must work with us because we cannot allow such churches to exist. I am very happy for what police have done in the church. But I am not happy with the number of people that they killed,” he said.

About 100 women and children, some of whom it is believed were used as sex slaves, were rescued from the church. The children were not allowed to attend school. The views of the church on schooling were stated in a submission to the The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, by one of the seven brothers whom the church is named after, Banele Mancoba. They are against schooling as it is the work of the devil, as is the Constitution.

[…] here we are saying that education is wrong […] because Satan has taken over the schools … he was allowed by Nelson Mandela, Rolihlahla […] I am not a pastor, […] I am an angel from heaven […] I sit at the right hand of the father … we say children should not go to school as the devil has infiltrated schools […] and we say people should not listen to the Constitution because Satan drives it […]

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