- An Eastern Cape pastor who repeatedly raped three teenage congregants has been sentenced to three life terms.
- The girls kept their abuse a secret as the pastor threatened to cast a spell which would have them struck by lightning if they reported him.
- The rapes came to light when the girls were taken to hospital simultaneously with a suspected sexually transmitted disease.
An Eastern Cape pastor who repeatedly raped three teenage congregants in 2018 and infected them with HIV, has been sentenced to three life terms behind bars.
Elliotdale Regional Court magistrate Sizakele Sihlahla showed no mercy to 29-year-old pastor, Lubabalo "Payi" Sabhawu on Thursday.
In 2018, Sabhawu, who was also a practising traditional healer, preyed on his victims, who were 14, 15 and 16-years-old at the time.
The teens had been sent to him by their parents for healing. One of the victims was epileptic, said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
The rapes took place at a homestead provided to Sabhawu by the church - at Zikolokota village in the Elliotdale district.
The NPA said Sabhawu raped the girls on numerous occasions at the homestead.
It also said that Sabhawu had duped his congregants into believing that he was a "man of God with supernatural powers".
The terrified victims kept their abuse a secret after Sabhawu threatened to cast a spell which would have them struck by lightning if they reported him.
But their ordeal came to light when the girls were taken to hospital simultaneously by their parents after contracting what they believed was a sexually transmitted disease.
At the hospital, the teenagers confided in the nurses that they had been raped by Sabhawu.
Following his arrest, Sabhawu pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutor Siphokazi Maarman-Fipaza led the evidence of eight witnesses, including the victims and the first persons to whom they reported the rapes.
The victims all testified that they tested HIV positive after the rapes and were now on anti-retroviral drugs.
After the State had closed its case, Sabhawu changed his plea to guilty.
Sihlahla agreed with the prosecution's submission that Sabhawu had abused his position to inflict the worst physical and psychological injuries on the young girls.
"They were raped by their pastor, the person they expected protection and counselling from in their time of need. That can never be tolerated by our courts," the magistrate added.
The court ordered Sabhawu's name be added to the National Register for Sex Offenders.