Congregant’s allegations of abuse and ‘blessing’ add to sex-crime claims
A young Port Elizabeth woman has claimed she is among a group of victims allegedly molested by a popular Durban pastor who is being investigated by the Hawks for suspected sex crimes.
Social media has been abuzz with the claims against the widely celebrated pastor in the wake of a TV feature in which the allegations were made by a number of women who have had contact with him during his ministerial work.
The 25-year-old Port Elizabeth woman alleges she was molested at the age of 14 during an incident in Durban. She alleges she was summoned into an office where the pastor rubbed himself against her.
While police are not looking for the 58-year-old pastor as yet, the Hawks say they have been investigating a number of alleged sexual violence cases against him for months now.
The news comes in the wake of a special television feature on the pastor recently.
Hawks spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Netshiunda said they had been investigating the matter for months prior to the programme.
“Even before the matter was reported, we were investigating it and speaking to [alleged] victims.”
Netshiunda said the TV station had exaggerated the matter when it claimed the Hawks were searching for the pastor. He said the pastor was not on the run.
“The investigations are at an advanced stage and we are confident we are making significant progress on the matter,” he said.
Speaking about the alleged incident that occurred when she was a teenager, the Port Elizabeth woman said: “There was talk among the girls regarding ‘the rod of Moses’, but I did not know what it meant.
“But one day I innocently remarked during music rehearsals that I also wanted this rod of Moses.
“Immediately, he [the pastor] summoned me to his office.”
The woman claimed she had been asked there if she wanted the “rod of Moses” and she responded that she no longer did.
“He [the pastor] came closer to me, saying it was nice,” she said.
“He hugged me and rubbed [against] me with his lower body … I felt very uncomfortable and began to sob.”
The woman said the pastor had asked her what she wanted from God and she had replied that she needed to be blessed.
She alleged that he had handed her R1 000, which she refused, but he had insisted that she take the money and give it to a relative.
The woman claimed that the pastor targeted females, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, to whom he promised a better life.
She said the majority of his alleged victims were attracted to his church because of the “miracles” he claimed to perform.
“He loves girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. He creates a ploy to be a father figure to them,” she said.
She claimed the pastor would preach a sermon about sex and would ask “me to stand up, saying look how beautiful I look”.
When a reporter visited the ministry’s Port Elizabeth church yesterday, a number of people were inside, praying.
Most of the congregants refused to speak, except one woman who had joined the church in 2002.
Asked about the allegations, she said: “We can’t speak about what the pastor is accused of. It is not up to us to judge.”
Another congregant, when asked for the pastor’s cellphone number, said: “You can’t call him. He is a man of God.”
But she said the allegations made in the TV feature were rubbish.
“Where is the evidence? They must show us the evidence.”
She said the claims were orchestrated by other pastors within the church who wanted to oust the pastor at the centre of the allegations.
Asked again for a contact number for the pastor, she said the church had an appointed spokeswoman.
But the “spokeswoman” denied this, saying the only way to obtain comment was through the pastor’s personal assistant, who used a British phone number.
However, the personal assistant could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities chairwoman Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said churches were supposed to be a safe space.
“We have a serious problem of rape culture in this country and if it is happening in church, we have a much bigger problem.”
She said the commission had finalised its report into the commercialisation of religion and abuse of people’s belief systems.
“We will brief parliament on the report over two days in June,” Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said.
“We need a peer review mechanism to put an end to this.
“When pastors do something wrong, they can be held accountable and removed from the register.”
She said among their recommendations was the vetting of pastors and traditional healers.
“Right now, we could have a pastor with a sexual violence background leading a church, or a Sunday school teacher who just wants access to children.”
Bay human settlements chairman Nqaba Bhanga said mayor Athol Trollip would hold a closed meeting with the church leadership to discuss the allegations and what they planned to do about them.