How Ngcobo cult kept its sex slaves

2018-03-11 06:00


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They had at least 40 “wives” – one as young as 12 – who felt “honoured” when it was their turn to provide leaders of the Mancoba Seven Angels Ministry with sexual satisfaction.

When police took the young women and girls away for questioning after a deadly shoot-out two weeks ago, they asked to be allowed to grieve after “losing their husbands”.

Sordid details are now emerging of the killer cult in the Eastern Cape town of Ngcobo, whose leaders and members allegedly murdered five officers at the local police station last month.

Now a commission of inquiry into the Ngcobo massacre is on the cards.

City Press has learnt that the CRL Rights Commission will meet Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize tomorrow, to table a resolution for a commission of inquiry.

On Friday, the commission will meet police in Limpopo, where six cult-like churches similar to the Mancoba Seven Angels Ministry have been identified.

Willing sex slaves

Police officers and two senior Eastern Cape social development department officials told City Press the women and girls were willing sex slaves. One of the officials sat in on interviews conducted with those rescued from the Mancobas.

At least 40 of those rescued from the cult were under the age of 25. One is around 15.

One of the social development officials said the young “wives” did not believe they had been abused.

“We have identified underage girls, some 15 years old and they have had sex with the Mancoba men,” the official said. Some of the girls were believed to have had sex with the Mancoba brothers since the age of 12.

“We are working with them one by one and trying to get as much information from them, so we can establish how old they were when they were first made to have sexual intercourse with these men.”

The official said interviewing the women was difficult, because they appeared to love their abusers.

“The first thing they said to us when we engaged with them, was that they needed time to grieve because they had lost their husbands.”

The official painted a picture of a group of women and girls who were groomed to accept the cult’s sexual practices as their way of life.

“Even though they were very secretive and arrogant initially, with the help of social workers and relevant social services, we were able to make a breakthrough.”

The official said the department had established that 10 of the babies and toddlers taken with the “wives” were fathered by one Mancoba brother. Some of the other children have been linked to the other brothers.

“The findings of our ongoing investigation have revealed that the girls had been made to understand that they were to be of service to the seven brothers for their sexual satisfaction,” the official said.

“As and when it pleases the brothers, they would call the girls to provide sexual favours to them. Even though they had their own wives, they still wanted to sleep with these girls and the girls take pride in providing their bodies for the pleasure of these men.”

The official said the girls felt special when it was their turn to pleasure the Mancoba men.

“From what they said, they did not even question why they would not be called back or why the men would go back to their wives the following day,” the official said.

“They just felt honoured to have been the best among the rest, for that specific night. They see nothing wrong with being lined up and used for the sexual satisfaction of their leaders. This is typical of groomed minds. It is all normal to them.”

The official said the cult leaders did not have to resort to violence to get the sex they wanted.

“Remember, some of these girls were born in the cult and some arrived at a tender age, so they were prepared over time to accept that pleasuring their leaders was part of their lives and there was nothing sinister in what was happening,” the official said.

How the 'wives' were kept

Another official said it was a big deal to be a “wife” in the Mancoba cult.

“The wives received special treatment and lived in one of the 10 shanty structures at the cult’s compound. But theirs was cleaner and more well looked after than the rest,” the official said.

Eastern Cape police spokesperson Captain Khaya Tonjeni said the women enjoyed elevated status at the cult’s compound and were better looked after than the other women.

“The space they used was cleaner, had good beds. It was more orderly and they dressed better. They each had one or two toddlers linked to them directly.”

And when the police took the young women and girls away for questioning after a deadly shoot-out a week ago, they asked to first be allowed to grieve after “losing their husbands”.

Sordid details are now emerging.

‘Why we left the cult’

Meanwhile, members of a family who left the cult told City Press this week that they longed for 11 of their relatives who remained there to come home. They have had no contact with them because cult members are forbidden from maintaining relationships with outsiders.

Sisters Thabisile* and Rethabile*, who joined the cult 21 years ago, say that their 11 relatives are their cousins and their children.

“Our first encounter with the Mancoba Church was in 1997, when our brother died,” said Thabisile. At the time, her mentally ill brother was a student at the then-University of Transkei, and the only member of the family to go to university. Unwilling to accept his death, her shattered parents went to the cult where leaders promised he could live again.

“The church was still in Umzimkhulu at that point. In 1998, the first tent in our area was put up in our home. They infiltrated our area through our family,” she said.

Thabisile says alarm bells began ringing for her when cult leaders urged the children to leave school.

“I became suspicious and because I was in the completion stage of my college studies, I opted out,” she said.

Officials told City Press this week that Nombongo Mancoba, the mother of the seven brothers, known to their followers as the seven angels, and their three sisters, conducted all midwife duties at the compound and delivered the babies that would become the cult’s next generation.

Rethabile said Nombongo is a “strong figure, a leader, she provides direction and gives instructions”.

“She can hear or feel things that happen from many miles away; she has a strong spiritual connection that enables her to do this,” she said.

Rethabile said she left after a child died after being molested by the organisation’s founder, the father of the Seven Angels, Siphiwo Mancoba.

“We were in a bitter fight with the leaders, because of these allegations and charges,” she said. “After the death of the child, we were caught up in a bitter fight with the Mancobas. I eventually left and I have since then been an enemy of the cult.”

Action from the CRL Commission

On Friday, the CRL Commission will begin a dialogue at their headquarters in Braamfontein with experts and church leaders about what constitutes a cult.

CRL chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva told City Press on Saturday that the dialogue’s resolutions would help because the country currently has no protocol to deal with them.

She said her commission decided on Friday to propose an inquiry to Mkhize to establish who should be held accountable for what happened in Ngcobo.

“There needs to be an investigation into who dropped the ball...Everyone now is ducking and diving,” she said.

“We have read in the media with shock that there are allegations of sexual misconduct and child sexual abuse. As the CRL we have always said that children should have been removed and the church monitored.

“We hope that there will be proper investigations so that there could be full accountability all round.”

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said there was nothing stopping any aspiring cult leader to found a church of their own.

“The surviving Mancoba brothers can start another church... There is no law that stipulates that religious practitioners should be registered, monitored, or if needs be, removed from being a religious practitioner.”

Mzukisi Solani, spokesperson for provincial social development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi, confirmed that among those removed from the cult were 40 women and girls believed to be “wives” of the Mancoba brothers.

Solani said they have already reunited some with their families, while others were placed in places of safety across the Chris Hani District.

“A number of them came from Cape Town, so we bought them bus tickets so they could go back to their homes,” he said. – Additional reporting by Msindisi Fengu

*Not their real names

Read more on:    east london  |  crime  |  ngcobo massacre  |  religion

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