Residents warn cult members

Dispatch Online (South Africa), June 26, 2003
[Slightly different version of this item]

JOHANNESBURG — Eight bodies found in the garden of a doomsday cult compound in Mandela Park settlement in Umtata were exhumed on Tuesday — and residents are threatening to “burn” members of the cult if it ever returns.

Five years ago, Sinoxolo Dukuza had dreams of becoming a social worker but yesterday her brother, Theo Dukuza, identified her body at the Port St Johns police mortuary. Her body was one of eight exhumed.

Fifteen members of the Awaiting Christ group have been arrested in connection with charges of defeating the ends of justice and burying people illegally, and are expected to appear in court tomorrow.

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

Sinoxolo had been 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 was warned to keep away from the ‘world people’ — that’s what they called people who were not part of their cult.”

When the Awaiting Christ group arrived in Mandela Park six years ago, the residents tolerated, but remained suspicious, of the cult.

Now they are furious, and want to know how the situation 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.

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.

“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 many Mandela Park residents believe they were murdered.

Ndzambule argued that the cult members must be charged with murder regardless.

Theo 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 the other family then went to the police, prompting the investigation that led to the discovery of the shallow graves. 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

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