On this women months, congregants of Interdenominational Church Outreach Ministries in Soweto have submitted a letter of complaint to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities. The letter lays out a couple of allegations amongst which is sexual abuse and sexual harassment against the pastor of the church. He is accused of sexual assaulting a minor of 14 years at the time and touching other female congregants inappropriately.
The incidents of sexual harassment and sexual abuses in churches are widespread in this country. There is an ongoing trial of Timothy Omotoso who is alleged to have committed a combined 97 counts of rape, human trafficking and racketeering with the aid of his lieutenants in the church. The KwaSizabantu congregation in KZN was exposed by victims who allege they were sexually assaulted by the leaders of the church. In addition, money laundering, as in the case of Omotoso and prophet Bushiri also feature as one of the common practices of these churches.
In another case, women have made startling allegations of rape against the Archbishop Stephen Zondo of the Rivers of Living Waters Ministries during hearings into allegations of sexual abuse at the church.
The CRL Rights Commission heard chilling testimony from women who accused Archbishop Stephen Zondo of rape dating back to decades. One of the victims accused Zondo of repeatedly raping her when she was only seven years old.
If anything clear recently, the leaders of various congregations are exploiting the vulnerable congregants, mostly women. Instead of being the comforter which should ease the problems of people arising out of the relations of the capitalist system, the churches are multiplying distresses for ordinary working people.
Members of the working class look up to churches for emotional comfort and psychological shelter against the distresses induced by the crisis of the decaying capitalism – the crisis of hunger, unemployment, exploitation and abuses. Instead, these churches exploit this vulnerability. Aided by the poor security and policing system in the country, most church leaders get away with these serious crimes of rape and sexual abuses.
SAFTU stands in solidarity with the people of Soweto who have taken the matter to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities. We further condemn the misuse of stewardship in churches by pastors who exploit vulnerable congregants and perpetuate Gender Based Violence instead of solving societal problems.