John Smyth.
John Smyth.

Cape Town church excommunicates alleged child abuser

By Peta Thornycroft Time of article published Jun 5, 2017

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Cape Town – British alleged sexual predator John Smyth and his wife Anne have been excommunicated from the Cape Town church they belonged to and in which both played a leading role.

Smyth, a British barrister, who was also a part of a South African legal NGO, the Justice Alliance of South Africa, left Zimbabwe nearly 20 years ago under a cloud with accusations of sexual impropriety with school boys on the Christian holiday camps he ran for several years.

Smyth went to Zimbabwe after similar accusations were kept under wraps in the UK. Justin Welby, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, was one of those who attended the camps at a famous public school in the UK and said he noticed nothing but apologised anyway.

Some of Smyth’s activities, mostly with schoolboys at Christian camps in the UK, were highlighted in a documentary broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK in February.

Many of the victims claim they were repeatedly beaten while naked by Smyth, who also engaged with them in disturbing sexual conversations.

Church-on-Main released a statement about Smyth last week saying he had been deceitful and said it had excommunicated him and his wife after “much heartache.”

It said its elders came to this conclusions after repeated efforts failed to persuade Smyth to make frank disclosures to the church.

A statement published on the church’s website last week said: ”The lack of response by John and Anne to all parties involved relating to the grave alleged misconduct by John while living in the UK, indicate an unwillingness to have these matters resolved...We find the non-disclosure, or partial disclosure of previous serious actions of misconduct, to have been deceptive and misleading of an extreme nature.."

"We have found that John Smyth specifically deceived us with regard to his dealings with young men he counselled (in Cape Town) in that he repeatedly claimed he would not raise the issue of sexuality in a first meeting."

The church confirmed it had advised Smyth to return to UK after the matter of his sexual behaviour with male youngsters in the UK emerged in a documentary on the UK’s Channel 4 in February.

After the Channel 4 documentary, Zimbabwe lawyer David Coltart, former education minister in the inclusive government, released a file of legal documents and statements collected and agreed to by a group of church leaders in Bulawayo in the 1990’s. 

These statements led to Smyth being obliged to cancel Christian holiday camps he had been holding in the country for several years.

Smyth was advised by Zimbabwean church leaders to seek professional help and analysis as they felt he had unresolved sexual issues.

Parents of several boys who had attended the Zimbabwe camps sued Smyth but the case eventually expired and he then fled Zimbabwe and first went to KwaZulu-Natal and then on to the Western Cape where they settled in a home in Bergvliet.

He became an elder in the Church-on-Main but some of its members were uneasy about him even prior to the Channel 4 documentary.

Smyth raised money from South Africa and the UK and formed the Justice Alliance which took several cases to court. His colleagues in Justice Alliance say Smyth is no longer part of their organisation.

He had been a Queen’s Council member in the UK prior to his departure to Zimbabwe.

The controversy over his father followed his son, PJ Smyth, pastor of a successful Johannesburg Christian organisation, GodFirst Church which had congregations in several Gauteng areas and suburbs such as Douglasdale, Parkhurst, Paulshoff, Benoni and Tembisa.

He went to the US last December to take up the post of Covenant Life Church in Maryland which had itself been previously involved in a child sex abuse scandal.

He was unable to take over his role as lead pastor after the scandal about his father emerged in the international media.

So far there is no indications whether British police will, as they indicated in February, be questioning Smyth when he returns to the UK.

Independent Foreign Service

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