NPA tight-lipped on Methodist Church sex abuse matter

2010-01-22 11:13

THE National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) remained tight-lipped

today regarding its investigations into allegations of sexual abuse at the

Johannesburg Central Methodist Church.

NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga admitted the NPA was asked to

investigate acts of sexual abuse at the church last year but declined to divulge

details of a report compiled following its investigations.

“There was indeed a complaint submitted to us, which we considered

and presented to the SAPS. A decision was then taken on the matter...

unfortunately we can’t disclose that decision to the media until such is

communicated to the affected parties,” said Mhaga.

He could also not be drawn to indicate if the suspension of Bishop

Paul Verryn earlier this week had anything to do with the NPA report.

“I can’t comment on the bishop,” he said.

Allegations of sexual abuse at the church, which mainly houses

hundreds of refugees from Zimbabwe, were made last year when teenage girls said

teachers at the church were coercing them into performing sexual favours with

promises of toiletries, clothes and food.

One of the teachers was suspended last September and told to leave

the church premises after being twice accused of sexually abusing children

there.

The church said at the time: “We, the Methodist Church of Southern

Africa, are gravely concerned about the situation at the Central Methodist

Church and are committed to doing everything within our power to assist the

investigations and redress the situation.

“The church has been aware of these allegations and has acted and

fulfilled all fiduciary and statutory obligations by reporting these said

accusations to the department of social development and the National Prosecuting

Authority.”

On suspending Verryn, the church said he was “charged in an

internal process“.

Bongani Khoza, an attorney working for a firm that acts on behalf

of the Methodist Church, declined to disclose reasons for Verryn’s

suspension.

He said Verryn would appear before a church disciplinary

committee.

Verryn could not be immediately reached for comment this

morning.

However, the Democratic Alliance (DA) today released a statement

saying the suspended bishop should be recognised for his humanity.

“The suspension of Bishop Paul Verryn is a new twist in the

long-running saga of refugees who crowd the Central Methodist Church in central

Johannesburg,” said Gauteng DA spokesperson Jack Bloom.

“I hope that it assists the resolution of this thorny problem in

which Verryn was increasingly seen as a stumbling block.”

The Methodist Church announced Verryn’s suspension yesterday

without disclosing any reasons for the decision.

“He has been suspended and charged in an internal process,” said

attorney Khoza.

The Central Methodist Church has given refuge to a number of

Zimbabwean immigrants and has been at the centre of controversy involving the

situation of woman and children at the church in central Johannesburg.

Bloom said: “The fact remains, however, that the church is involved

only because of the failure of local, provincial and national government to

adequately cater for these refugees. Whatever his faults, Verryn’s humanity

should be recognised.”

The Star newspaper, without citing any sources, today reported that

the National Intelligence Agency and the NPA had been investigating activities

at the church.


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