Mpumalanga police are warning congregants to be ultra-careful when at places of worship. The warning follows incidents of an attack at the mosque where congregants were allegedly robbed of their personal belongings including cash and a vehicle during a prayer session in KaBokweni, near White River.
Two women were also allegedly sexually assaulted and musical instruments stolen at a church in Thulamahashe, Bushbuckridge a week ago.
Places of worship are the new stomping grounds for brazen criminals. It is alleged about 15 heavily armed men stormed a place of worship and held about 100 Muslim worshippers at gunpoint in KaBokweni.
They were stripped of their personal belongings including cash and a vehicle. Speaking on behalf of the Mosque Moulana Abdullah Mbawa says they have now strengthened their security following the robbery.
“The incident has traumatised us and we do feel that it’s not easy for us as the Muslim community of KaBokweni but the church has to continue. We have taken some security measures, our gates will be locked at certain times of the prayers and all that. So, we are taking security measures of our own and we have engaged with the SAPS. They said that they will give us some security measures from their side.”
A week ago, congregants were attacked in Thulamahashe during an overnight prayer session. Two women were allegedly sexually assaulted and musical instruments were stolen.
A senior member of the church Pertunia Mathebula says they are still traumatised. “There were three men armed with guns. They shot at the church and they wanted to shoot the prophet. They tied him and took their cellphones and they wanted money. They said they don’t have money and then they took their cellphones, the instrument, and the car of the prophet.”
Police investigating the cases
Mpumalanga Police Spokesperson Selvy Mohala says they are investigating cases of robbery, assault, pointing a firearm, and sexual assault among others.
“We suspect that these people might have taken advantage of the fact that in churches, mostly, people are not armed. We know that some people donate in churches. So, these thugs are taking advantage of that particular situation. Now, it happened for the second time in a short space of time in our province. We request the congregants to be vigilant and come forward with information so that we can arrest these particular suspects.”