Umtata cult members in court

04/09/2003 19:42 - (SA)


Umtata - Fifteen members of the notorious Umtata cult church appeared in the Umtata District Court on Thursday.

The charges they face were not yet properly formulated.

Their arrest followed the discovery of eight bodies buried in shallow graves in March this year.

Earlier reports were that nearly 100 people, among them women and children, had gathered at the cult's compound "waiting for the arrival of Jesus". The church surfaced about 1989 around the same period a cult with similar ideology surfaced in Uganda.

The accused all paid bail and the case was postponed for pending the decision of the province's Director of Public Prosecutions on whether they should be prosecuted. They will be back in court on November 3.

Thursday's court appearance did not attract large attendance as was the case previously.

When they made their second appearance in June police had to escort them out of town while a large crowd bayed for their blood.

The investigating officer, Detective-Inspector Bongani Ntanjana, confirmed that police have since obtained a statement from the alleged cult leader, Nokuzola Fiphaza. She denies being the leader.

Ntanjana also confirmed that Fiphaza had reported that members of the community at Payne's Farm near Umtata where she is staying were constantly harassing her.

Police were making turns at Fiphaza's home when patrolling the area, said Ntanjana.