Spotlight on rape in churches

Lebo Makwela reading a poem before the start of the discussion in Gugulethu while Kingdom Queens founder, Reverend Nokwanda Makwela, listens.

Women’s spiritual organisation the Kingdom Queens Ministry and NGOs are planning to challenge legislation on sexual offences in an attempt to decrease the number of rapes of young girls by religious leaders., inside churches.

Following reports of rapes by church pastors and reverends, in particular the case of Cheryl Zondi brought against Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso, different organisations gathered at Intshukumo Comprehensive High School in Gugulethu on Saturday February 16 to discuss the issue.

The organisations said Ms Cheryl Zondi had triggered them to have a discussion about rape in churches.

The organisations considered ways to curb sex crimes and ensure the safety of women and children, especially in the church.

Reverend Nokwanda Makwela said she believed that current legislation needed to be amended.

She said church leaders were committing crimes and going free after that.

“We cannot have a sick society that even the law contributes to. We need to get a legal expert to show us how can we change the current laws. We feel they contribute immensely to some of the ills. Victims know nothing about these laws,” she said.

She said they would take the debates to other areas and consider taking them to the courts if need be.

According to her, many women congregants are manipulated by pastors and reverends.

“Because they believe in them as the closest people to God, they allow everything to happen to them. Our people believe that whatever the so-called ‘men of God’ say is true because they (church leaders) treat themselves as very close to God. There is a belief of witchcraft too by these people that leave the victims scared to come forward when they are raped. The sad thing now is that some have developed a pattern of ‘servicing’ on Tuesday and Thursday. Before the service the pastor will ‘service’ himself. It is a very sad state of affairs.”

She said congregants have become a problem too.

She said whoever decides to report a leader would be analysed, insulted and condemned.

However, she said as the Kingdom Queens Ministry, they aimed to share information that helps deal with the problem.

Lieutenant Colonel Ntombizodwa Cupido said that the rape in churches was becoming a problem.

She said the cases had evoked memories of her experience when she was raped years ago.

She blamed parents for failing to curb the rising number of sexual violence cases.

“Being raped by either a boyfriend or someone you know is a violation of your rights. Women are suppressed. Rapes happen inside the house. Domestic violence happens inside the house. We report it and go back to the police to cancel the case. Awareness campaigns won’t work,” she said.

Lieutenant Colonel Cupido encouraged women to protect themselves to protect themselves and open up about rape whether inside or outside the church.

She said the biggest problem was when the victims made up with their partners and then withdrew the charges they laid.

She applauded the groups for coming together to discuss such an important issue.

The groups that gathered at the school library included Ilitha Labantu, Amalungisa, University of Cape Town Public Health and the ANC Women’s Ministry.