The CRL Rights Commission has started the year with yet another probe into abuse at a place of worship. This time the CRL is holding a hearing into allegations of rape and torture against the leader of the International Heaven Fellowship Church, based at Meyerton, south of Johannesburg.

The preacher is accused of raping women at his church, including underage girls.

Recently, the CRL Commission has been hearing cases of alleged sexual abuse by religious leaders. In December last year, they probed the Rivers of Living Waters Ministry and its bishop, Bafana Zondo.

Yesterday, it started a two-day investigative hearing into the International Heaven Fellowship Church. The church has over 100 congregants, and at any one time, there are eight people living at the church house. Some of them have now come forward to accuse the preacher of rape.

A woman told the CRL hearing that the preacher had told her to take off her clothes so that he could remove bad spirits and then allegedly raped her.

“He told me that I must take off all my clothes and begin to pray to break every attachment that I have with my daughter’s biological father.  I tried to push him away but he pressed my hands down on the floor. He kept saying, breath my girl.”

She told the commission that church used to be a place where she could feel safe and closer to God, but that the preacher had taken all that away from her.

“Now I do not see that anymore. It’s a place that is not safe, it’s traumatic and confusing for me because of the way he just confused us using the word of God. We went to that church thinking it’s a good place but we were robbed of who we are.”

She testified that the preacher would carefully choose his victims and that other women who lived in the church house had also been raped. She says that they reported it to the police, but got no assistance.

“We tried to open a case, but this case of rape was a no go. Even the police could not help us. They could not do anything. It’s really frustrating to see that we are going through so much and yet there’s no one who is helping us. There’s nothing that is being done in our favour.”

CRL chairperson David Mosoma asked the woman how she felt when she had been called into the preacher’s room.

Mosoma: “There’s also a relationship between authority, power, and the powerless, did you feel that?

Woman: “He taught us that when a prophet gives you an instruction you must do as he says. You don’t question the prophet.”

The two-day hearings continue today.

The Live proceedings of yesterday’s hearing are in the video below: