In South Africa, a number of highly publicized cases of disgraced pastoralists have occurred in recent months. Cases like Pastor Shepherd Bushiri, accused of money laundering and fraud, and pastor Timothy Omotoso, accused of rape, these have provoked reactions of reprobation across the country.
Even President Cyril Ramaphosa got involved, saying that South Africans must unite to fight against “false pastors.” And this call for mobilization is already heard by his fellow citizens who already lead actions in the field.
Solomon Ashams is a pastor from Nigeria. It is part of the movement against abuse in churches. He travels the streets of Johannesburg where he tries to raise awareness on the issue. “We live in a country where sexual abuse is common in society, and in churches, we also have many prophets, pastors, rulers, apostles, who abuse their power by sexually abusing a woman. We’re just here to tell people – listen, we do not have to be quiet about it, just because it’s a pastor who abuses someone, then you should be quiet.”
According to BBC who was able to meet a woman whom they call “Lubanzi” to preserve her real identity. She filed a complaint against the pastor of her church for rape. “One day, he started asking me questions about my sex life and my HIV status. Then he gave me a drink. He said it would help my heart. It made me sleepy and I woke up naked in bed, I started crying and asked him what happened, he told me to pull myself together, and later I realized that I was pregnant.”
“When I went to tell him, he raped me again, he said that if I reveal that to someone, they will never believe me, as he is a man of God.”
This kind of testimony is not isolated cases. This is why Thoko Mkwanazi Xaluva, the chair of the commission that deals with the rights of cultural and religious communities in South Africa is calling for more regulation of churches.
“You can be pedophile out of jail and create a church. In this country, doctors have a council of health professionals, lawyers have the bar. All professions in the country are regulated by peers, what we say, South Africans are calling for more regulation at the church level.”
While waiting for rules reorganizing the creation of churches and governing their functioning in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa calls for urgent action against pastors who abuse their followers in one way or another.