Eastern Cape church founder faces charges of sexual assault, human trafficking

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  • On Tuesday, an apostle and his assistant were denied bail by Zwelitsha Magistrate Eras Venter.
  • They stand accused of running a sex and human trafficking operation inside a church outside Qonce.
  • The charismatic church leader, who doubles as a traditional healer, looks after sickly people including women and children at his compound. 

"Talking about the Big Boss is a dangerous move sir, and no one is going to talk in this entire village."

That is how frightened residents of Quzini Village outside Qonce in the Eastern Cape responded when asked about a local traditional healer doubling as a church leader, whose arrest on sexual offence charges made headlines recently. 

The Hawks arrested the 52-year-old founder of a church on 13 November alongside his 37-year-old assistant for sexual assault and human trafficking.   

The apostle and his assistant stand accused of recruiting and preying on vulnerable women and girls brought to the church for healing. 

READ Eastern Cape granny, pastor in court for arranged marriage of girl, 15

Church members travel from across the country seeking spiritual, mental, and physical healing and spend days, months, or even years staying at the apostle's compound.

News24 can reveal that some of his patients are school-going children.

Teenagers who play for his soccer club refused to talk to News24 when stopped on the way from a midday practice on Friday.

The team also stays in his well-secured compound, which stands out from the other houses in the dusty Quzini Village.

The gates of the property were locked when News24 visited.

The church building and a cluster of other houses that accommodate his patients are on the same grounds as his double-storey house.   

Only two people talked to News24 in the village but asked not to be named, while a former member of the church who apparently had a relationship with the apostle, refused to talk. 

ALSO READ Three life terms for Eastern Cape pastor who raped, infected 3 teen congregants with HIV

A resident said: 

Only a fool would talk openly to a stranger about Big Boss. I don't even trust you. What if you are working for him to identify those who snitched about him to the cops?

News24 established that locals of the village situated along the R346 road between Qonce and the apostle's hometown of Stutterhim, are united in fear of the man.

Another resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, told News24 how the man came to the area after he was forcefully removed from Kwa Nonkcampa Village along the N2 outside Qonce by angry community members. 

"They forced him to pack up and leave over serious allegations. The community did not want him there," said the resident. 

An impeccable police source close to the investigation said: "The two accused were found by cops together in the bedroom. It is believed they are also romantically linked and his wife knows about that and she was sleeping in a different room within the compound."  

lonwabo tede
The apostle's compound situated outside Qonce.

Former women congregants at the church, said to be mostly the apostle's jilted partners, blew the whistle to the Hawks, News24 was reliably informed.

On Tuesday, the apostle and his assistant were denied bail by by Zwelitsha Magistrate Eras Venter. 

Delivering the bail judgment, Venter said both accused failed to prove that they will not interfere or intimidate witnesses.

Petitioning for his release, the apostle's defence team argued that keeping him behind bars will make no difference because he had many loyal followers who can carry out his instructions even if he is in jail.  

Venter denied the bail application and added that if released, the apostle could be a danger to other members of his church remaining behind at his compound. 

ALSO 80-year-old Eastern Cape man jailed for 6 years after raping, impregnating daughter 38 years ago

The matter was postponed to 30 November while the pair remain behind bars. 

During his ruling, Venter noted that while the apostle declared that he owns a R4 million home, R2m worth of cars, R500 000 worth of furniture, R50 000 jewellery belonging to his wife and a transportation business that earns him R38 000 a month, he was only willing to pay R1 000 bail. 

The apostle had tried to convince Venter to release him on bail, saying his transportation business needs him to operate. 

But Venter said the business won't suffer due to his absence because his wife can help run it while he is in custody.

The accused were arrested after the Hawks' Serious Organised Crime Investigation team received complaints in September 2020 about sexual abuse of vulnerable people, allegedly trafficked from different areas.

At the time of the arrest Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said: "The investigation was conducted. It is alleged that sick and poverty-stricken women were brought into the church mission house as if they will be assisted instead, they were sexually assaulted. The apostle, 52, and his female accomplice, 37, were arrested.” 

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