Diehard churchgoer gets 3-year jail sentence for threatening email

2017-03-03 22:23
Koabena Qhobela receiving advice from his legal counsel before his sentence is handed down, clad in a top with a message against the CRL Commission. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

Koabena Qhobela receiving advice from his legal counsel before his sentence is handed down, clad in a top with a message against the CRL Commission. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

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Johannesburg – A diehard congregant who sent a threatening email to the head of a cultural and religious protection commission has been jailed for three years.

The Hillbrow Magistrate's Court in Johannesburg heard evidence on Friday of how Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva - the chairperson of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) - had to hire bodyguards for her protection.

"I no longer felt safe; I had to tighten up security. I now walk around with bodyguards. Taxpayers have to pay such an unnecessary expense. Even the staff in my office is uncomfortable with having me around as they also fear for their lives," said Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.

Koabeng Qhobela, a congregant at the Revelation Church of God, took issue with Mkhwanazi-Xaluva and the commission for opening a case against the church's leader, Prophet Samuel Radebe, in an investigation around the abuse of beliefs and commercialisation of religion. 

A year ago, Qhobela went to the commission to warn Mkhwanazi-Xaluva not to go after Radebe. 

When he was not allowed to see her, he sent threatening emails, warning her that a "dark cloud" would engulf her life if she continued to pursue Radebe. 

'Perpetually petrified'

In an email, he said: "God's anger is going to fall upon [Mkhwanazi-Xaluva]" and that "there is no law that will protect [her]."

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva testified that the threats had affected her work and personal life.  Her blood pressure increased as a result of the threats and they also induced frequent panic attacks.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said she could no longer move around without restriction as she was "perpetually petrified".

Qhobela, who was seated in the dock, nodded and smiled at his friends and supporters around the small courtroom. 

Dressed in a green shirt, grey checkered pants and black boots, Qhobela shook his head and asked to speak after the magistrate handed down his sentence. 

His request was refused.

The CRL Rights Commission deals with community issues around religion, language and culture. Last year it issued summons to a number of churches in an attempt to investigate the abuse of beliefs and commercialisation of religion.

Large church following

Radebe was one of the religious leaders summoned last year as part of the investigation. He was summoned to appear before the commission in order to provide the financial statements of his church. He failed to appear in November last year despite the summons.

Qhobela testified on Friday that he had no intention of inflicting any physical violence on Mkhwanazi-Xaluva or anyone at the rights commission. He said he was just offering her advice and not intimidating her. He said what he was against was the humiliation and confusion caused in the church by the summons issued to Radebe by the commission. 

The Revelation of God Church has a large following with 40 branches in South Africa. International branches include churches in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi; with one being launched in Atlanta, in the US, in April.

Qhobela was sentenced to three years and two months in prison for intimidation, crimen injuria, and violation of the CRL Act.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  crime  |  religion

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