The CRL Rights Commission has heard more shocking and disturbing claims of church abuse, this time, congregants implicating the Universal Church.
Some former members of the church have told the commission about sterilisations, forced abortions and financial exploitation – to denying education and family visits during bereavement.
Known in the townships of South Africa for its message of hope, Stop Suffering, the Universal Church boasts an estimated membership of at least a million and is known for outreach projects since opening its doors in the early 90s.
Amos Ngququ says he was recruited in 1994, shortly after the country’s first democratic elections.
The 51-year old worked as a translator and says there was never a day off. “I lost weight in a way that you’d think I was sick,” he says.
Ngququ says he was transferred from a Port Elizabeth branch to the Johannesburg headquarters a year later.
“This is where I heard the term vasectomy for the first time. I was told this is what we do as birth control for pastors. We just obey and servants have no right. I depended entirely on them. I’m 100% in the palm of their hands,” he charges.
Ngququ says the entire saga affected his marriage.
“I didn’t like it. My wife said if you do this, we have one child and I want to have a second child. But I said other pastors are doing it.”
A 1995 journey to Pretoria changed his life.
“I don’t know what they did. They gave me a drink and suddenly I’m on the bed. You wake up in pain. Then, they tell you it’s a permanent procedure that you shouldn’t have a child. My life is terminated that way,” says the former Universal Church pastor.
He says he was once told that he would one day be sent to a far country where there won’t be a need to take care of children. “That’s when I realised I sold myself here,” Nguqu says.
Ngququ says he had to adopt and left the church after a decade.
His colleague Bongani Manyisa joined the church in 2002. He told the commission about arranged marriages.
“After getting married, they introduced something called vasectomy. If it happens that the pastor had impregnated the wife, it would anger the bishop; they would start to send other pastors to advice termination,” Manyisa says.
He says there are over 200 complainants.
“I’m 41 years now, it’s been years. I’m married but this is not good for me. It’s a bad thing for me because they knew that once you are done this, you’ll be ashamed to speak out,” he says.
SABC News’ Maageketla Mohlabe reports on this story:
Being part of family bereavement was allegedly discouraged.
“Funerals; you are not allowed to attend. I spent 10 years without going to my family,” revealed Manyisa.
“They said let the dead bury the dead. We were denied to attend family bereavement,” added Ngququ.
Allegations of racism, financial exploitation and being denied education were also detailed.
Ngququ says he wants his vasectomy reversed as he has never asked for it. “I cannot have children, I don’t have money and I don’t have an education,” he concludes.
The commission has its work cut out.
“The women who are said to have been forced to abort will be invited. The doctors will be invited and the details will also be given to Parliament,” says CRL Rights Commission Chairperson, Professor David Masoma.
With more alleged victims expected to take the stand soon, the church will also be given a chance to respond.