Pics: EFF, church do battle
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Pretoria - The streets of Soshanguve’s Block 13 were transformed into a free-for-all on Sunday as blows were exchanged after members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) descended on the infamous snake-eating church, tore down a tent, and set it on fire.
Congregants fled as angry residents vented their anger on them.
Some of the churchgoers, among them a young preacher, flung themselves over a fence and ran away, while others engaged in physical altercations which left some women floored with bruised hands and knees.
“This has been a long time coming,” community member Phanuel Mavundathanda said.
He and a couple of other young men explained they had gone to the church on Sunday hoping to see for themselves the antics of the pastor who fed his congregants snakes, rats and ants.
“The problem is, this man fed a boy from my street a snake recently, so I thought I should come and see him do it live,” the young man said.
There was also a moment of shock when a group of young congregants attacked a female journalism student from the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and started “eating” her weave, after a preacher told them he saw food in her hair.
EFF members from the community, led by provincial and regional structures. arrived at the church on Sunday morning, armed with mice and small lizards.
They wanted to ask Pastor Penuel Mnguni to eat those in the same way he had been feeding snakes, mice, ants and an assortment of items to his congregants over the past few months.
The church shot into the news – and notoriety – when it emerged that its young pastor employed unorthodox ways to encourage worshippers to believe.
“He is corrupt and right now he is preying on black women, taking advantage of their vulnerability and promising them a better future, and that we will not allow,” EFF acting Tshwane chairwoman Mandisa Mashego said.
The party, she said, had a social responsibility and would fight social ills.
“We are fighting corruption and this man is a prime example of that,” she said.
Mnguni had been chased away from his hometown in Mpuma-langa and from other Soshanguve neighbourhoods before he settled in Extension 13, she said.
When the EFF arrived, singing political songs and advancing to the church, they were joined by curious residents.
When Mashego explained that they would give the pastor five minutes to emerge from a house next to the tent so that they could feed him the rodents, there were loud cheers from all the spectators.
The pastor failed to come to the tent, prompting the community and EFF members to pull it down and burn it.
Some pursued the preacher, who had continued preaching. They wanted him to eat the rodents instead.
The EFF left the church after just more than half an hour, its members explaining they had Women’s Day celebrations to attend, leaving it to residents to ensure operations did not continue.
In the aftermath of the fracas, the faithful congregants gathered in the yard and continued with their prayers, vowing to uphold the teachings of their “father” and to pray for political parties.
From the streets, neighbours watched as young people threw themselves on the ground at the command of preachers.
They watched in amazement when the preacher fed them toilet paper, and sent them to a tree, telling them it was food.
“This is utter nonsense. Which Bible do they read from?” one angry woman asked.
She was among many who expressed their disgust at the activities of the church.
“Unfortunately our children have rights these days, if you refuse that they attend the church they threaten to report you to some or other authority,” said another, whose daughter is a member of the church.
A number of young people gawked as youths their age fought each other for pieces of toilet paper dangled by the preachers.
“I am not sure what these girls are trying to achieve, but they need urgent intervention,” said an 18-year-old who identified herself only as Kea.
A 16-year-old who gave her name only as Sabelo said the pastor was clearly more toxic than nyaope.
Others voiced their suspicion that Mnguni used an alternative power to win the attention of the mostly female congregation.
“You cannot tell me they can blindly do what he tells them to do, everyone knows nothing in the gospel talks of eating snakes,” Selinah Mabizela said. Many said he used witchcraft while others said he was a devil himself.
Said Petros Mkhaliphi: “It is powerful and scary. The sooner something serious is done the better, before he disappears with our wives and children and we will never know what hit us.”
Members of the church refused to speak to the Pretoria News, saying all communication from the church was made through the pastor.
But they did prophesise to the News photographer, telling him he was a man of God who would receive a promotion within days.
At the preacher’s command
A young man from the End of Times Disciple Ministries in Soshanguve’s Extension 13, on Sunday encapsulated everything that the church has become infamous for. During a two or so hour session he participated in everything the preachers commanded, including attacking a young student journalist and trying to bite the weave off her hair.
He was initially in the circle formed after the tent was removed and burnt to ashes by members of the EFF and community members, but quickly removed himself to roll around on the ground as prayers were said.
He jostled for space when the preacher offered them toilet paper to eat, and joined a group of young women who ran for a nearby tree when they were told it had food.
He chomped away at dry leaves before being slapped across the face by a pastor, who asked “Do you feel any pain” after each slap and to which he responded “no”.
He performed cartwheels which looked like they could break his neck, and fell flat on his face when commanded to “go to sleep”. When one of the two preachers walked around with a brick in his hand, threatening to turn it into food, the young lad followed him sheepishly, seemingly ready to grab and devour it once it had transformed into something edible.
He did not flinch or move a muscle when a preacher jumped on his back, and sped ahead of the pack when the congregation was told that the weave on the head of a female journalism student was food.
He got to her, grabbed her and squatted behind her, grabbed clumps of the hair in both hands and bit it.
Seemingly dazed most of the time and switching between awkwardness and being almost comatose at the instruction of either of the preachers, the boy displayed the perfect example of a disciple whose role was to listen and obey.
At the end of the session and when the spectators started walking away from the show of faith, he was left lying on the ground, covered in sand, leaves and grass and looking more like a vagrant than a young man who had come to a church service.