Drug dealer gives R15m to church

2013-04-14 14:00

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A convicted drug dealer donated millions to the construction of a Durban church.

Pantanathan “Timmy” Marimuthu, who is also accused of being a police spy, helped build the New Covenant Fellowship church in Red Hill.

Marimuthu, a member of the church for the past eight years, was awarded a certificate of recognition for his donation of about R15 million to the fund for building a 4 000-seater auditorium at its massive headquarters on Tweed Road.

Several other heavy hitters were also recognised for their largesse, but Mariumuthu was the biggest single contributor to the building fund.

Marimuthu is at the centre of a probe into SA Revenue Service commissioner Oupa Magashula after City Press exposed their relationship and an illicit job offer made to a young woman who is a member of the church.

He was also placed on the police’s crime intelligence payroll, along with some family members, by controversial spy boss General Richard Mdluli and has been accused of siphoning off millions from the informer fund.

While the church has confirmed receiving the donation from Marimuthu, its leaders say they were unaware of their congregant’s criminal past, until recently.

They say they cannot return his donations because they have already been spent on the extensions.

“All monies donated by Mr Marimuthu towards the building of the church were used specifically for the building of the church,” said spokesperson Dale Makka, who is also a pastor at the church.

“Monies donated to the church by members of the congregation are done so voluntarily, as donations and not as loans, and therefore it’s unreasonable to expect the church to refund the donation.

“As a community-based church, we accept voluntary contributions and donations through various mediums and from various people, known and unknown to us.

“We had no prior knowledge of the criminal history of the congregant until the articles were featured in the media, which we choose to distance ourselves from. As a church, we do not believe in holding people’s past problems and failures against them as we have a responsibility before God to restore and heal broken people,” said Makka.

The New Covenant Fellowship was founded in 1986 in Durban’s Greenwood Park by pastor Basil Tryon and a handful of people.

According to its website, the church grew and eventually purchased land in Red Hill, building its own premises in 1998.

These, in turn, became too small as the highly popular charismatic church grew in leaps and bounds.

An auditorium that seats 2 000 people and a hall with a capacity for 1 000 people were added in June 2009.

Last year, a gallery that seats 1 500 people was added.

The church runs evangelical crusades across South Africa, and Tryon is a hit on the local and international televangelist circuit.

Tryon’s TV ministry, known as Reigning as Kings, is broadcast on 12 channels and seven radio stations across the world, while he regularly stars alongside big names in the industry, including Dr Myles Munroe.

Tryon has published several books and made a number of DVDs, all of which are for sale on the church website or at the bookstore at its headquarters.

A source in the church said Marimuthu was one of three big contributors who were recognised at the building’s dedication.

The source said: “Pastor Tryon, at the opening event of the new church building, called three of the biggest contributors to join him on stage to give them certificates of gratitude.

“Timmy Marimuthu was plus minus R15 million. I remember feeling dishonoured, because my contribution was recognised only in passing,” the source added.

Marimuthu refused to talk to City Press.

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