On Sunday, the leader of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), in Zuurbekom, west of Johannesburg, appealed to President Ramaphosa, the SAPS and others to assist in ending the violence in their ongoing leadership battle.
The plea comes after 50 people stormed the church building and held some of the congregants hostage on Saturday.
SAPS National Commissioner Lt-Gen Khehla John Sitole said in a statement that four people were found shot and burnt to death in a car, while a fifth victim, a security guard, was also fatally shot in his car while he reportedly attended to the first four victims.
Police have arrested more than 40 suspects, including six people who had been taken to hospital.
Among those who have been arrested were members of the SAPS, SA National Defence Force (SANDF), Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD), and the correctional services department.
More than 34 firearms, including five rifles, 16 shotguns, and 13 pistols have also been seized at the scene.
The well-known church, which boasts a three-million strong membership in South Africa and neighbouring countries, has been dubbed one of South Africa’s biggest church communities. However, it has been engulfed in a bitter three-way conflict after the death of church leader, Glayton Modise who had “inherited” the church from his father and founder “Comforter” Frederick Samuel Modise in 1998.
The intense conflict is between the three main contenders to take over the reins of the church and their individual supporters – Glayton Modise’s two sons Frederick Leonard Goitsemang and Tshepiso, and Michael Sandlana, who is reportedly Modise’s son out of wedlock.
Leonard Modise has in the past told the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria that his late father publicly and lawfully anointed him to be his successor before he died. Leonard currently leads the IPHC group based at the Silo headquarters church in Zuurbekom. While the other two contenders run different church splinter groups elsewhere.
The church conflict has been ongoing since its leader, Glayton Modise’s death in 2016.
Chairman of the church’s executive council under Leonard Modise, Abiel Wessie, said he had previously told Police Minister Bheki Cele and the leadership of the Hawks, that there would be further bloodshed in the leadership wrangle if law enforcement agencies did not take a proactive stance.