Rape, forced contraception and financial exploitation - CRL hears of church leader's alleged sins

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The CRL Rights Commission probe into allegations of abuse against church leaders.
The CRL Rights Commission probe into allegations of abuse against church leaders.
PHOTO: Azarrah Karrim/News24

WARNING: This story contains strong content not for sensitive readers.

  • Gruesome allegations were made by former congregants against the Heaven International Fellowship church leader.
  • Witnesses were before the CRL Commission on Thursday, detailing what the man put congregants through.
  • One witness who lived at the church's mission with her husband and child told the commission she was raped and threatened.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) has heard explosive allegations of sexual and financial exploitation, and human trafficking, against the leader of Heaven International Fellowship church leader Bahlakwana Moleko, known as Samuel Paul Heaven.

The leader of the church in Meyerton, Johannesburg was at the centre of alarming and shocking allegations from two witnesses, including the church’s former pastor Fabrice Mbikayi.

Mbikayi was the first to take the stand before CRL Commission chair Professor David Luka Mosoma on Thursday, alleging that the "prophet" was so manipulative he could even lead a man to divorce his wife.

READ | CRL Commission investigates sexual abuse allegations against Bishop Zondo

He told the commission that Moleko would "sleep with girls" at the church's mission house and give them morning after contraception pills the next day.

He said the so-called prophet would allegedly even force the girls he slept with to drink the pills without water.

"And most of the time he will sleep with you to make you feel important because these days, because of this one-on-one with the prophet, he will call you and you feel you are very important in the ministry and he trusts you," Mbikayi testified.

Masks sold for R300

The pastor, who is a businessman, said while the country was fighting the scourge of Covid-19, with people suffering due to its impact, Moleko continued to act for his own enrichment.

He said:

Because there is a prophet's face, he sells a mask for R300. R300 during this Covid-19 time. It's very bad, commissioner.

Mbikayi also testified that the "prophet" coerced congregants into quitting their jobs and convinced them to go into business.

He also allegedly claimed people should "take care of the house of God first".

The commission said it had written to the prophet and would call him to give his side of the story.

News24 contacted the church on Thursday to speak to the prophet about the allegations made against him at the CRL Commission, but a woman who answered the phone said he was on a "prayer mountain" and unavailable.

The woman said the church would contact News24 once the prophet returned or when a representative was available.

ALSO READ | 'Beaten until they peed in their pants' - Former KwaSizabantu member testifies at CRL Commission

Mosoma said the purpose of the hearing was to ensure the rights of congregants were preserved and that they peacefully enjoyed worshipping and the environment.

He said such allegations cast the religious body in a bad light, which was why the commission was conducting such hearings – to solve and bring harmony.

Mbikayi said he was assisting the family of the victim who had allegedly been exploited, harassed and raped by the prophet.

He said other alleged victims were still at the church, but feared speaking out.

Another witness, Sonia Tshukudu, told the commission she was allegedly raped by the prophet in 2020.

She said she and her husband Joseph lived at the church because the leader had invited them to live at the mission after noticing they were active in the ministry.

They were allegedly told by the prophet to sell all their belongings and to move into the mission, but that they must bring the money from the sale "to the feet of God".

'Breathe girl, breathe'

"He would teach that the people who are staying in the church are the background. They know things other people didn't know. He would teach us that prophets are people who are strange. If he gives you an instruction, you must follow," Tshukudu said.

She said that on 6 October 2020 the prophet had called everyone in the mission one by one and when it was her turn, he instructed her to go and pray and declare good upon her life.

On one occasion when Tshukudu was frustrated about her school, the prophet called her to his cottage.

She said he questioned her about her frustrations and instructed her to undress and pray with an "incense stick" in her hand.

"He came back and left again. I continued to pray and he came back again and opened the door that goes into his cottage and went inside. After a minute he called me in. I went in there still naked and he told me to close the door.

"I stood by the door and he told me to come closer. He pulled me closer to him and he began putting his finger in my private part and asked me what I was feeling in my stomach and belly button. I told him what you are doing is painful and you are hurting me."

Tshukudu added the prophet then instructed her to lie down and continued asking her what she felt.

A few second later, Sonia said she felt the pastor penetrating her. When she tried to push him away, he pressed her hands down.

She said:

I was trying to scream. He was heavy on me. He kept saying 'breathe my girl, breathe'. I was crying but I was silent. I was not saying anything.

Painful to go to church

An emotional Tshukudu said that afterwards, she was instructed to continue praying outside and pray until the incense stick burnt out as he went to shower.

"He said I must make sure I must not tell anyone about what had happened."

She said the pastor also forced her to take a morning after pill without water, saying she is a "big girl", and can swallow it.

The woman also told the commission the pastor threatened to shoot her and kill her family.

"It's painful for me to go to church. I don't know what to believe anymore. I don't trust males anymore."

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