Plague of false 'prophets' swindle their naive flocks

16 July 2017 - 00:04 By KHANYI NDABENI

When Aliza* saw a newspaper advert promising divine intervention in her battle to conceive, she was immediately won over.
So desperate was the 30-year-old Johannesburg woman that she drew R250,000 from her and her husband's savings to pay a "prophet" who pledged to pray for her to fall pregnant.
Aliza did not tell her husband she had taken the money. She thought the advert in a national newspaper meant all her wishes would come true; instead, she was left out of pocket and childless.According to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, this is one of many cases in which the gullible have been swindled by people exploiting their religious beliefs.
Findings by the Chapter9 institution were tabled before parliament this week - with the scams including the sale of "holy" water and items like Vaseline, oil, T-shirts and towels with steep mark-ups.
The commission, which conducted a two-year investigation, said some religious leaders had card-swiping devices so people who attended their rallies could make immediate donations.
It said some churches were not complying with the law, were flouting banking rules and were avoiding paying tax. In many cases, foreign pastors were misusing the visa application system.
The body wants all religious leaders to be registered and obtain licences before they can practise.
According to commission chairwoman Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, a Nigerian pastor at a church in the Northern Cape had no work permit.
"Currently there is a lack of accountability in this sector. It needs to be regulated like all the other professions," she said.
"Our recommendation to parliament will help stop the number of deaths among worshippers who are using faith products and defaulting on their medication for chronic disease."
The commission cited the example of a church in the Eastern Cape that encourages people not to work and to keep their children out of school. It sees the hand of Satan in the South African constitution, and promotes a range of superstitious falsehoods.
"Our fear is that once this ministry runs out of funds to feed these people, there will be a mass suicide. This is more of a cult than a church," said Mkhwanazi-Xaluva...

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