Hawks confirm pastor under investigation for alleged sexual molestation‚ but deny report he is on the run - Times LIVE
   
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Mon May 01 04:04:40 SAST 2017

Hawks confirm pastor under investigation for alleged sexual molestation‚ but deny report he is on the run

Shenaaz Jamal‚ Sibongile Mashaba And Julia Madibogo | 2017-04-18 19:21:34.0
A Hawks police vehicle. File Photo.
Image by: Gallo Images / Beeld / Felix Dlangamandla

The Hawks say they are investigating allegations that a popular televangelist molested several girls‚ but say the preacher is not on the run.

SABC’s Special Assignment carried an expose on the pastor in which several victims spoke of the alleged abuse. The programme claimed the pastor who leads a church in Durban‚ KwaZulu-Natal‚ was on the run from authorities. Hawks spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Netshiunda said they were already investigating the allegations months prior to the Special Assignment feature.

“Even before the matter was reported we were already investigating it and speaking to victims‚” said Netshiunda.

He said the SABC had “exaggerated the matter” when it claimed the Hawks were searching for the man‚ saying he was not on the run.

“There have been no arrests as yet but investigations are at an advanced stage and we are confident that we are making significant progress on the matter‚” said Netshiunda.

The preacher declined a request for an interview with Special Assignment and Timeslive was unable to reach him for comment. Some of his supporters have defended him. Two former Idols contestants‚ twins Neliswa and Anele Mxakaza said the pastor is a “man of jokes”.

Neliswa took to Facebook to defend the controversial pastor. "I got a chance to meet and know him personally in and out of the pulpit. He's a man of jokes and will always be talking about Christ and the Bible in the middle of nowhere‚" Neliswa said. She added: "Besides the fact that I love him‚ God has shown me and revealed the kind of a man he is. And what was revealed to me when I had asked God to show me who he is in Christ and if he's a genuine man of God. God showed me he's a true man of God. He is next to God's heart‚" she said.

Her sister Anele echoed her sentiments: "I still believe in daddy regardless of everything that’s being said. God has revealed things to me that are keeping me in faith right now."

In the feature‚ several women claimed they were lured into performing sexual favours for the preacher. 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‚ then we have a much bigger problem‚” Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said.

She said there were religious leaders abusing their power.

“Very often they are more powerful than politicians because they draw their power from God. [Putting an end to this] should start with all of us. We must preach the same Gospel.

“People must not trust their pastors more than they trust God because when they do then they believe everything their pastor says‚” Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said.

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. We need a peer review mechanism to put an end to this.

“When a pastor does something wrong‚ they can be held accountable and removed from the register‚” she said.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said among their recommendations is the vetting of pastors and traditional healers.

“Right now we could have a pastor with a sexual violence background leading a church or even a Sunday school teacher who just wants access to children.

“When vetting is done‚ congregants will be protected from sexual offenders‚” Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said.

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