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Cape Town – A George woman has been moved to a place of safety after allegedly being targeted by congregants of the controversial Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) for opening a rape case against their pastor.

Accused Goodwins Mwalughali, 31, a pastor at self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri’s church in Thembalethu, remained in custody yesterday after he made a brief appearance in the George Magistrate’s Court, where the case was postponed to January 13 for a bail application.

The courtroom was filled to capacity with congregants and Thembalethu residents in attendance.

His church was reportedly torched hours before Mwalughali appeared in court.

The national office of the church in Pretoria has since announced that it has indefinitely suspended Mwalughali.

Southern Cape police spokesperson Christopher Spies said the George Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual offences unit (FCS) arrested Mwalughali on a charge of rape of a 23-year-old on January 3.

Spies said circumstances leading to the incident were still under investigation.

A resident who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation said Mwalughali had invited the woman, whose name is being withheld, for an evening prayer session on December 28 at the church, where he allegedly raped her.

“She said that during the ‘so-called’ session he was questioning her about her love life and previous relationships. He then forced himself on to her on a couch they were sitting on,” she said.

The next day, the young woman shared a picture of herself on social media in a hospital bed.

“Pastors who take advantage of their congregants and rape young women in church!

“Do you think they should be treated differently from other rapists because they are pastors? He took a piece of me. He raped me at church,” she posted.

When she opened a case with police, congregants allegedly threatened to attack her in attempts to force her to withdraw the charges.

Before his arrest, Mwalughali denied raping her in an open letter to the church, saying they had consensual sex.

“I write to let you know that it is true that I have been implicated in a rape case. I didn’t rape her whatever happened between us was a mutual agreement.

“I tried to take full responsibility by apologising to her when she started feeling bad and guilty of what we did. Unfortunately it escalated into this big issue now. 

"Both of us know no rape took place,” he wrote.

For the church’s national office, Pastor Samuel Dulungana said: “The suspension is in relation to the investigation and subsequent arrest on rape charges against the pastor.

“ECG South Africa has a zero tolerance policy against Gender-Based Violence and, as a church, we have systems in place to ensure that women and children are protected and safeguarded.

“In this vein, we are following this case with strong interest to ensure justice at the end of the day.”

Meanwhile, Khayelitsha pastor Siyabulela Matini, accused of raping three girls, will appear at the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court next month.

The 42-year-old head of the Worship of God Church faces three counts of rape of girls aged between 10 and 14 years. Two of the children are siblings.

Cape Times