Horror of the doomsday cult graves

The Star (South Africa), June 26, 2003
By Jonathan Ancer

Angry residents of an Umtata settlement are awaiting postmortem findings on the exhumed bodies of followers of a shadowy group that allegedly brainwashed people.

Five years ago, Sinoxolo Dukuza dreamt of becoming a social worker.

Yesterday her brother, Theo Dukuza, identified her body at the Port St Johns police mortuary.

The 29-year-old Tsolo woman’s body was one of eight exhumed on Tuesday in the garden of a doomsday cult‘s compound in the Mandela Park settlement, Umtata.

Fifteen members of the Awaiting Christ group have been arrested in connection with charges of defeating the ends of justice and burying people illegally.

They are expected to appear in court tomorrow. Possible murder charges are also being investigated.

At the mortuary yesterday, family members came to identify their loved ones and now await news of the postmortems.

Sinoxolo Dukuza was in matric in 1997 when she abandoned her studies to join the cult with four other family members.

“A woman who claimed that she was a prophet convinced my mother, two of my brothers and my two sisters to give up everything and join her church. She told them that Jesus Christ was coming in December and that they would only be saved if they joined them,” Dukuza said.

When December came and went, Dukuza tried to convince his family members to leave the cult. “I was accused of being the devil, and my family were warned to keep away from the ‘worldly people’ – that’s what they called people who were not part of their cult.”

Mandela Park residents, who were told that the compound’s garden would be dug up and the house bulldozed, gathered at the compound and speculated where more bodies might be buried.

Since the Awaiting Christ group arrived in Mandela Park six years ago, the residents tolerated – but remained suspicious of – its members.

Now they are outraged, and want to know how the present state of affairs was allowed to develop. They also want to know what has happened to Nokulunga Fipaza, the cult’s leader, who was confined to a wheelchair following a car accident three years ago.

Reports that Fipaza had been arrested after evading the police for a week could not be confirmed last night.

“There are a lot of evil forces at work here,” a 36-year-old man from Mandela Park said. “They (members) only spoke to us (non-members) to beg for food or to try get us to join.”
Mandela Park community leader Chief Jonas Ndzambule said: “The members of the cult kept to themselves and we only discovered their strange beliefs a few years after they arrived.

“They had been chased away from Port Elizabeth, East London, Mount Frere and Cambele location in Umtata, before coming to Mandela Park. They are dangerous and I hope that this is now the end of them,” he said.

According to Ndzambule, the Awaiting Christ group would not allow children to be sent to school, did not believe that the sick should be treated and did not allow members to work.

He said he complained to the Eastern Cape government, saying children not attending school was illegal. He was told that the matter would be investigated, but heard nothing.

When the police raided the Awaiting Christ compound and arrested the 15 members, Ndzambule paid to send the rest of the cult’s members back to where they hailed from.

“I don’t think they’ll come back. If they do, the community will burn them – there is no doubt of that.”

The members of the cult claim that the eight dead people – the first person was buried in 2000 and the last was buried last month – had died of natural causes, but Mandela Park residents suspect they were murdered.

Ndzambule called for the cult members to be charged with murder. “If a person is sick and is denied access to health facilities … that is murder,” he said.

Dukuza was one of the main instigators in exposing the bodies buried at the compound.

He said he had had vivid dreams about the death of his sister, and on June 13 he went to the compound and demanded to see her.

“I told them that I would not leave until I saw Sinoxolo. Eventually my mother told me that my sister had died,” he said.

On June 17, members of another family also went to the Awaiting Christ compound and demanded to see their 24-year-old son. They were told that he had gone to worship in KwaZulu Natal.

Dukuza and members of this family then went to the police, prompting the investigation that led to the grisly discovery of the shallow graves in the compound.

Dukuza’s mother, a younger sister and his two brothers – who are among the 15 facing trial – are now living with him.

“My mother and my brothers have been brainwashed. They still believe Jesus is coming to fetch them.

“I spoke to my brothers about what they wanted to do now and they just told me that they are waiting for the spirit (of the Lord) to tell them what to do,” Dukuza said.

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