WATCH | Limpopo man alleges UK priest sexually assaulted and raped him as a teen

09 October 2018 - 15:19 By Graeme Hosken
William Segodisho claims that he was allegedly molested and raped by a Catholic priest for four years in the 1980s.
William Segodisho claims that he was allegedly molested and raped by a Catholic priest for four years in the 1980s.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

A Limpopo man has come forward to allege sexual assault and rape by a UK Catholic priest‚ and the complicity of the church in blocking his demands for justice.

William Segodisho went public on Tuesday about the four years of molestation that he allegedly suffered at the hands of a priest while he was a teenager living in a Hillbrow child shelter in the 1980s.

The now retired Jesuit priest is currently living in a nursing home in the UK. The Jesuits are an order within the Catholic Church.

Speaking in Johannesburg with the support of staff from Women and Men Against Child Abuse and South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse organisation (SAMOSA)‚ Segodisho said he had fled to Johannesburg in 1986 from Limpopo after taking part in violent protests against the then apartheid police.

It was at the shelter that the priest had introduced him to the Catholic religion‚ enrolled him at private schools‚ bought him clothes and taken him on holiday to Durban.

Segodisho claims that he was allegedly molested and raped as a way of "repaying (the priest) for his kindness".

William Segodisho speaks about his abuse at the hands of a British Catholic priest, who was based in South Africa during the 1980s and 1990s, at a media briefing in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Tuesday October 9 2018. Subscribe to TimesLIVE here:

Segodisho said he opened a criminal case with the Hillbrow police in February.

He said he had decided to speak out after the church repeatedly blocked his attempts over the past 17 years to get the church to report the priest to the police and have him extradited back to South Africa to stand trial for his alleged crimes.

His determination to fight for justice was renewed recently by the Sidney Frankel Eight case‚ when the Constitutional Court in June removed the statute of limitations on when cases of sexual assault prescribe. It also expanded the definition of rape to include men.

Under the previous Sexual Offences Act men could not be raped.

The Constitutional Court ruled that a section of the Criminal Procedure Act‚ which imposed a 20-year limit on prosecution for sexual assault‚ was unconstitutional. 

A letter written on Monday to Segodisho and his lawyer‚ Ian Levitt‚ on behalf of Father Damian Howard - the British provincial head of the Jesuits - states: "The British Province of the Society of Jesuits is aware of the case involving (the priest).”

"When the case was reported in 2001‚ (the priest) had already returned to the UK. He returned to the UK in 1990.

"(The priest) was informed of the allegations by the British Provincial and withdrawn from all active ministry. He has never ministered again. We have taken steps to ensure that there is no safeguarding risk to children."

The author states an investigation was carried out by the British Province of the Society of Jesus because the priest was a member of that Province.

"The Society of Jesus in Britain is aware of an ongoing investigation by the police in South Africa... While the police investigation continues‚ we do not wish to take any steps which might prejudice that investigation.

"...We have engaged with the complainant's lawyers to focus upon his psychological needs."

The letter follows another letter written by Howard in January to Segodisho's lawyers in which he states‚ in response to his [Segodisho's] request for an apology from the priest‚ that he [the priest] was in a nursing home‚ "and his general health is very poor”.

"I think‚ at the moment‚ a conversation between you and him is inadvisable as it is unlikely to be satisfactory for you... However‚ if his health recovers‚ we can review the situation.

"It is clear that (the priest) violated the trust placed in him as a Catholic priest. He took advantage of you at an age when you cannot possibly have given your consent‚" the letter states.

Segodisho said he would not relent in his fight for justice‚ and to ensure that other children never have to endure "what this man did to me".

"I have children of my own. I am petrified for their safety. Our yard is always locked and I never let them go anywhere on their own.

"That is because of what (the priest) did to me... while on holiday in Durban and at Christ the King Cathedral in Doornfontein and the Holy Trinity Church in Braamfontein.

I have children of my own. I am petrified for their safety.

"He made it known that he was doing these things to me because I owed it to him for how he had helped me. He raped me‚ repeatedly. He forced me to masturbate him and perform other sexual acts."

He said despite repeated attempts to get the church to take action‚ none had been taken.

Rees Mann‚ SAMOSA executive director‚ said instead of helping Segodisho‚ when he first reported the priest to the South African Catholic church authorities‚ the church's officials simply transferred him back to the UK.

"Who knows what he did when he returned to the UK. Who knows how long he has been allowed to commit his crimes."

Mann said they were calling on the South African government to launch an inquiry into all religious organisations and allegations of sexual abuse.

"This is definitely not an isolated incident or limited to one religion."