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Umtata's cult members in court
("Sapa," September 4, 2003)

The 15 members of the notorious Umtata cult church appeared in the Umtata District Court today. 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 around 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.

Today'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. Bongani Ntanjana, the investigating officer in the case, confirmed that police have since obtained a statement from Nokuzola Fiphaza, the alleged cult leader. She denies being the leader.

Ntanjana also confirmed that Fiphaza had reported that members of the community at Payne's were constantly harassing her. Police were making turns at Fiphaza's home when patrolling the area, said Ntanjana.