- The CRL Rights Commission on Friday heard allegations of abuse at the Universal Church of Kingdom of God.
- Some witnesses told the commission how they were humiliated and ill-treated by the church.
- One of the witnesses said they were told to "forget about our families because they would not understand our calling".
The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) has heard startling testimonies from former Universal Church of Kingdom of God pastors.
From being humiliated and getting married at a young age to being forced to undergo a vasectomy - these were some of the experiences at the church that witnesses shared with the commission on Friday.
The hearings arise out of allegations and complaints of abuses at the church.
One of the former leaders who testified on Friday, Pastor Zenzi Sekwena, told the commission how he was forced to undergo a vasectomy after he got married.
Sekwena got married at age 20 while his wife was 18.
He said what qualified him to get married at such a young age was due to his "dedication" and ability to "grow" the church.
"That impressed the bishop and he said, 'this guy is good' and he said, 'let's find him a girlfriend'."
Shortly after he was married, Sekwena said, he was told to undergo a vasectomy.
He added his seniors also asked the wife if she wanted to have kids, to which she said no.
Sekwena said although he had questions about why he had to undergo the procedure he could not ask out of fear.He added:
"You can't buy a house or buy furniture because the little money they give you which is the stipend … they make sure that once you are in, it is difficult to leave," Sekwena told the commission."
"Those who are in prison now are far better than those who are at Universal Church."
Another witness, a former employee at the church, said for the past 18 years of his life, he was not allowed to study or to have jobs.
"We were not allowed to have a house of our own, we were not allowed to have children, we were forced to have a vasectomy," the man added.
"We were told to forget about our families because they would not understand our calling. We were forced to have a vasectomy because we were told we had no rights."
He claimed some pastors were now living in shacks and "eating in dustbins".The man said:
"He said when a pastor was ill, he would be dismissed and thrown outside without proper medication.
"Today, I am not a father because we were told that the church cannot take care of you and your children. You must give birth to spiritual children, so they told us."
A woman, who also testified at the commission, said the church had "deprived" her from having children.She added when her husband underwent the procedure, they were in their early twenties.
"As a wife in the Universal Church you don't have rights, you are told what to do. They tell you how to live your life. Our will was taken … we were told not to [attend] funerals. A lot of things happened that are really painful," she said.
The woman alleged when she asked to go study, she was told she must "be in a camp because there was a time when God told the Israelites that they must stay and camp".
Former pastor Goodwill Ndaole said he joined the church at age 17 and became a pastor when he was 21.
When he got married at age 27, he was told to undergo a vasectomy but the procedure failed, resulting in his wife falling pregnant, he added.
Ndaole said his wife was worried that he was going to get into "trouble" because of the pregnancy.
"We were not excited [about having a baby] … I didn't know how we were going to report this case," he told the commission.
Ndaole said when he reported the matter to his seniors, he was told to "pack our bags".
He added the church later told him to undergo another procedure - which he did.