Priest accused of rape attempt
A Port Elizabeth woman who turned to her priest for counselling instead allegedly found herself being groped in the dark – where he then tried to unbuckle her pants – inside his office at the St Mary Magdalene Anglican Church in West End.A preliminary inquiry by the church found sufficient evidence against the Reverend Canon Zola Nanana for the alleged incident on April 2 2018 to institute a diocesan disciplinary tribunal on June 22 2019 at the St Saviour’s Church in Walmer, according to an internal church letter.Nanana, who has since been suspended, is accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment and faces a third charge where his conduct allegedly resulted in the possibility of a scandal within the church.A church official allegedly also tried to convince the woman, who can’t be named as she is the victim of an alleged sexual assault, not to go through the justice system as this was would affect her “wellbeing”.When approached this week on the allegations, Nanana said he was unable to comment as the matter was still under investigation.“I can’t comment until the [church and police] processes are complete. Refer all the questions to my lawyer,” he said.Nanana did not respond to a message requesting the contact number for his lawyer.The woman reported the incident to the church in October and then the police in November. According to a November statement given to the police, she said she had met Nanana in the rector’s office at the church for counselling.“[When] the counselling was over I stood up [and] he also stood up.”They then walked towards the office door, where Nanana pulled her towards him and switched off the lights, according to the statement.“I was very scared and terrified. I remember his voice saying ‘I want you’,” she wrote.She stated Nanana then forced her against the wall while holding her neck with his hand.“I was powerless. I was freezing,” she wrote.Nanana then started to kiss and lick her face, she said in the statement.“He tried to pull down my pants but he struggled with my belt. He could not get both of our pants down because I was struggling to get away.”When Nanana started touching her vagina, she shouted out: “Please God help me.”She said Nanana then let her go and she fled the office.“In June was the first time I told someone that I was almost raped,” she said in the statement.In an October statement to the church, she wrote that while visiting a friend in Cape Town in June she woke up one night to find herself attacking the friend with whom she was sharing a bed. Explaining, she told her friend about the alleged incident with Nanana and shortly returned home to Port Elizabeth.Nanana then tried to visit her at her house in October, leaving her terrified once again.“I had an emotional breakdown,” she stated.At this stage two family members were told what transpired in April and the incident was reported to the church and police.WhatsApp messages, seen by Weekend Post, show that Michael Julius, a relief father at the West End church in February tried to convince the woman not to go through the justice system.“I am only concerned for your wellbeing. I am in court two days a week helping people and listening to cases. I don’t want you to be hurt more. You need the peace and joy of God,” Julius wrote in the message.Two days later, he messaged again saying he had met with a judge to get advice and wanted to meet her.It is not clear why he wanted to meet with the woman.When asked for comment, the woman said she had been left hurt by how the church had handled the matter.“I came out to my mother and uncle and he took it to the church.“They were reluctant and did not want to listen to my case even though he took advantage of my vulnerability. In a vulgar manner he grabbed me and tried to kiss me. He tried to rape me on church’s premises.”The woman said she had sought counselling from Nanana as she was struggling with family issues.Port Elizabeth bishop the Rev Edward Daniels said that allegations of abuse were viewed in a serious light and given the highest priority within the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.“No person should be hurt in a sacred space by a minister or a congregate within the church,” he said.“For this reason, a tribunal has been scheduled for allegations by a parishioner against her rector to be heard.”He said for this case the church was governed by policies and procedures in relation to the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.He said the church was part of the Anglican Communion Safe Church Commission, an international body that provides resources to educate church members about issues of abuse and misconduct.“The diocese of Port Elizabeth subscribes to these values and will not tolerate abuse of any kind.”Police spokesperson Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said the Mount Road family violence, sexual offences and child protection unit was investigating the case.“The investigation is still ongoing and a report is still outstanding from a psychologist,” she said.