Sanco vs tent churches

Bishop Mobi Mollo, of the First St. John's Apostolic Church (right) with Sanco's Zulu Ratswana, the zonal secretary of the Vosloorus branch of Sanco with Bishop Vusi, the president of the Council of Independent Churches in South Africa who will be hosting a church indaba on the 11th of June to discuss the issue of charismatic churches in Vosloorus.

Kathorus MAIL had an exclusive interview with Ratswana outside the Vosloorus Police Station shortly after the civic body handed a memorandum to the acting head of the Vosloorus SAPS, colonel Raymond Buthelezi, during a protest march. It called for the re-arrest of an informal church pastor who is allegedly accused of sodomising a 15-year-old schoolboy. Ratswana blamed the growth of unregistered informal tent churches for what he termed “the exploitation of communities” by illegal church owners in the townships.

Ratswana urged local communities to take a decisive step to rid their townships of these “immoral tent churches” and the pastors that are behind them. He blamed informal churches for what he described as “the degeneration of morals in communities.”

He further called on members of the public to support Sanco’s plans to partner with the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural and Religious and Linguistic Communities (CLR Rights Commission) in a bid to undertake an audit of both formal and informal churches in the townships to sift the “exploitive chaff” of so-called “charismatic” churches.

The CLR Commission was established by the government in 2017 under the leadership of Minister Thoko Mkhwanazi Xaluva. It called for the self-regulation of the legal framework that governs a code of conduct for religious bodies in the country.

According to Ratswana, Sanco plans to draw on the expertise of the CLR to curtail the rapid rise of informal tent churches. “We believe that these churches are nothing but exploitive ventures that prey on the emotions and ignorance of desperate people.

“We as Sanco, support and commit ourselves to eradicating the abuse and fleecing of the poor and disadvantaged in communities. This is often disguised as “healing church services” by the leaders of a number of these mushrooming charismatic churches in the townships. We, therefore, support the recent findings of the CLR commission to regulate the exploitation of these masses by these informal and unregistered churches,” said Ratswana who has also called on the mayor of Ekurhuleni, Mzwandile Masina, to support the initiative to rid Kathorus townships of all illegal churches in the area.

Echoing Batswana’s call, Bishop Vusi Mdlalose – who is also the president of the Independent Churches of South Africa, an affiliated member of the South African Council of Churches – told Kathorus MAIL that on the 11th of June, the ICOSA will be hosting a gathering of all local church leaders to discuss the issue of illegal churches in the townships.

The bishop also lashed out at the alleged claims of sodomy made against the 25-year-old priest as “tarnishing” the image of religion.

“As a result of these claims, all church leaders are now being tarnished with the same brush,” said Mdlalose.

Supporting Mdlalose’s call for a “church indaba” to discuss the issue of informal churches and their links to the emotional and spiritual exploitation of the public, Bishop Aaron Mobi Mollo of the First St. John’s Apostolic Church also told Kathorus MAIL, that “charismatic” tent churches have failed to provide religious guidance.

Both respected church leaders vehemently lamented the negative impact “tent churches” have had on local communities. Both dismissed claims that many of these “informal churches” are providing a positive moral compass to their followers.

“If these claims of sodomy are proven to be true, that will be the reasons why the CLR Commission was established in the first place,” explained Mollo.

Meanwhile, the police in Vosloorus and Katlehong have warned the public not to jump to conclusions about why the alleged perpetrators had not been held in custody after the case was registered with the police on the 18th of May.

Speaking to the angry mob of protesters outside the Vosloorus SAPS, Buthelezi called on the public to give the family, child and sexual offences unit based at the Katlehong SAPS time to investigate and finalise their probe into the matter.

  AUTHOR
Zaid Khumalo

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