Some congregants of a Durban church have come out in support of a pastor who has been accused of sexual exploitation of young women.
The Hawks confirmed this week that they were investigating charges related to human trafficking and sexual exploitation related to the church.
Yesterday Hawks spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Robert Netshiunda confirmed to The Mercury that the pastor was not on the run.
“We have this under control. That is all we will reveal. We do not want to destroy our case by revealing too many things.”
The pastor, who is not being named owing to the nature of the charges, came under scrutiny after his church featured on a Special Assignment episode on SABC3 on Sunday.
The programme spoke to women who claimed that they were lured into performing sexual favours for the pastor.
Yesterday, The Mercury attempted to find the pastor. At a branch of his church in Umhlali, a service in a tent went ahead without him.
Church members who spoke to The Mercury on condition of anonymity said the pastor was a “good man”, but they admitted that they had not seen or received an explanation from him since the scandal broke.
One member questioned whether the people making allegations about the pastor had been “rejected” by him.
“I have been a member of his church for 16 years, during that period he has helped a lot of people. He is a man of God. His name is being dragged through the mud.”
She said she had last seen him at an event in Bloemfontein at the weekend.
A senior leader of the Durban branch church, Happy Michael, said: “I was shocked by the allegations, but I have not spoken to the pastor about this.”
Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities said they would be visiting the church in two weeks.
She said pastors needed to be regulated.
“We also need to dislodge our people from the thinking that pastors are godly. They are human and some are sinners like us.”
She said what was sad was that if a pastor was found guilty of wrongdoing, he could finish his jail sentence and continue working as a pastor without being barred.
“This thing of pastors being solo practitioners needs to stop; they need to belong to a bigger body that will regulate their conduct,” she said.