Congregants of Timothy Omotoso‘s Jesus Dominion International Church, have for the first time spoken out about the closure of the church. It comes in the wake of dramatic evidence this past week in the Port Elizabeth High court.
Pastor Omotoso is standing trial on 63 charges including racketeering, contravention of the Sexual Offences Act, human trafficking and rape.
His co-accused are alleged recruiters, Zukiswa Sitho and Lusanda Sulani. The church has been mute since their pastor’s arrest last year.
They’ve finally broken their silence in an attempt to dispel what they say are misconceptions about the Ministry.
The Church, which is led by Omotoso and is based in Port Elizabeth, did not have a service last Sunday after an outcry by the public to shut it down; but church members say the constitutional provisions of freedom of religion allow them to worship as they see fit.
Congregant Madoda Cingo says he is happy with the church.
“To be honest with you I’m happy there. I’m just worried when people say they are going to close the church, they want to save us, what are they saving us from? They didn’t save me selling liquor to young kids in those years, how can they help me now. That makes me… I don’t want to say angry.”
Omotoso, the self-proclaimed Prophet of God, came to South Africa some 17 years ago.
Branches of the church attracted thousands of followers. While critics have pointed out narcissistic traits and cult-like behaviour, church members continue to back their leader. Ex-convict, Luyanda Njabula, followed news reports on Omotoso from St Albans Prison.
“The first time I met Tim Omotoso I met him in prison; I was serving a sentence as a detainee but I was working at the visitor side. We usually discussed him inside the cells – each and every time we saw him on the news we called him names and I wanted to beat him up the first time I saw him. But the first time I met him I just shook his hand and asked him I want to write a book about you. He asked me what are you going to write because you don’t know me – but write whatever you want to write – then I went to my cell and wrote a book about him.”
The CRL Rights Commission which deals with religious practices says people have the right to associate with any form of religion but should not have unrealistic expectations.
“This thing that we have been talking about, that there are violations happening in churches, that now the whole country realises that it was not a figment of our imagination and a lot of others have been coming to us and saying ‘I am not fit to go through the criminal justice system but this has happened to me’ we have had to call in psychologists to assist those people” says CRL Rights Commission chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.