Congregants accuse bishop of raping them
More come forward after PA goes public with church horrors
At least 10 women have accused a Klerksdorp pastor of preying on women in his church, raping young congregants and defrauding others with fake potions made from olive oil.
Police have confirmed they are investigating three cases of rape and one of sexual assault against Bishop TJ Pitso, who heads Jehovah Shammah International Ministries.
He is also accused of spying on congregants to give him the edge in his "prophecies", and planting animal skins, insects and other items on people so they would believe they were cursed and pay him to save them.
The church has denied all the allegations, claiming they are part of a smear campaign.The Sunday Times interviewed 10 women about what they say were their ordeals at the hands of Pitso, who styles himself as "the prophet who cares".
By Friday more women and former congregants were coming forward with allegations against him.
They broke their silence after Pitso's former personal assistant of 10 years claimed on a local community radio station last month that she was used by him to deceive people.
The former personal assistant's allegations include that:
• On Pitso's instructions, she planted muthi, snake skins, beads and knives in people's yards so he could claim the property was cursed and offer to get rid of the bad spirit for a fee;
• Pitso persuaded people that a 5ml bottle of olive oil mixed with a drop of "love potion" from a muthi shop would bring them luck. The bishop would sell each bottle for between R100 and R20,000, depending on the buyer's financial status;
• For years she watched as widows, pensioners, businessmen and professionals took out loans of thousands of rands to buy Pitso cars, bless him with money or donate towards a better church building. The main church in Jouberton township, 7km from Klerksdorp, is nonetheless still only a corrugated-iron structure;
• On Pitso's instructions, she would spy on naked women during bath time at church crusades, seeking out women with genitalia "shaped in a way that is preferred by the bishop".
These women would later be called for a prayer and counselling sessions, where the bishop would demand sex because this would make him more powerful and able to perform more miracles; and
• She would travel all over South Africa and neighbouring countries collecting personal information on congregants. This would be used as a "prophecy from God" during a church service, convincing congregants that Pitso was a prophet.Since making the allegations on Star FM and posting a video of her claims on social media, she said more women had come forward to share their stories. Other congregants had contacted her to ask if they had been conned by him, she said.
These conversations, recordings of which the Sunday Times has heard, include an anonymous caller to the community station saying she tried to kill herself after she was raped by Pitso.
Another woman claimed she had been offered R200 after she allowed Pitso to fondle her.
The personal assistant told the Sunday Times this week she had decided to spill the beans after one of Pitso's workers planted a lizard in her grandmother's pocket.
"During the service the bishop confronted her, saying she had brought her evil spirit in church and asking what was in her pocket. My granny replied she only had sweets with her. Then one of the bishop's children searched her and they found it. From then on, congregants and our neighbours said she was a witch. Soon after the service she suffered a heart attack. She was in and out of hospital and died."
The church has accused the personal assistant of stealing an undisclosed amount of money from the church and blackmailing Pitso after she was stripped of her signing powers over the church's finances.Church spokesman Joseph Pitso said the allegations were a smear campaign and that the personal assistant was recruiting people and the media to destroy Pitso.
"The woman wanted money from the bishop. When he refused to give her the R40,000 and R50,000, she threatened to go to the media and organise girls to destroy the bishop."
North West police spokeswoman Colonel Adele Myburgh confirmed that three cases of rape and one of sexual assault had been opened against Pitso.
Myburgh said he was questioned last Sunday. "The police are gathering evidence. Last week we only had two rape cases. Another rape and sexual assault case were opened against the same person this week.
"We expect more women to come forward."VIOLATED BY THEIR CHURCH LEADER: THE WOMEN SPEAK OUT
• CASE 1
"Whenever I think of what the bishop did to me two years ago, I sink back into depression. I was 18 years old. I got a call from the bishop, who I used to call Daddy at that time. He asked me to come to his consultation room for prophecy.
"At first I was puzzled as to where he got my numbers but I was excited Daddy wanted to see me. I knew people paid R200 for his sessions. But he told me not to worry about the fees.
"I was so excited; eager to hear what was the message that God had sent for me through Daddy. That morning I caught the first taxi to Jouberton where the main church and his offices were.
"He didn't attend to me immediately. My turn came at around 10pm.
He was so excited to see me and he gave me a long hug. I did not see anything strange with the hug at first.
"But when I could feel his hands going into my underwear, that's when I realised something bad was about to happen.
"I tried to push him but he was holding me tight.
"He warned me that I will die if I don't follow his instructions and I should stop crying.
"He instructed me to strip. Even when I cried he didn't have any mercy towards me. He raped me inside the shack where he was doing the counselling sessions with other congregants who had come before me. When he was done, he gave me R50 and told me to buy morning-after pills and never tell anyone about what had just happened."
• CASE 2
"When I was five months pregnant I noticed I was bleeding. I went to the gynaecologist. On my way back my fiancé called the bishop for prayers. He asked me to go in the counselling shack while my fiancé waited outside.
"He first tried to kiss me, I pushed him. Then he touched my privates. I removed his hands. At this point I was scared. He told me this was to save my unborn child and he was not doing it for himself but me. He asked me to pull my dress above my waistline. While praying his hand was inside my panty and was playing with my private parts."
• CASE 3
"The bishop spanked my wife in front of me. I built toilets for the church, blessed him with a car and I think I gave more than R100,000. I stopped going to church when rumours surfaced that he was sleeping with my wife.
"I'm going through a divorce now and my wife is still a loyal church member. We met each other at church. The bishop had prophesied that God had told him we should get married."