CANNOT IDENTIFY UNTIL PLEADED123 23.11.2012 62 year old priest Anthony Tshabalala makes his way at Protea magistrate court on charges of rape, Soweto. Picture:Itumeleng English

Johannesburg- A 62-year-old Soweto priest has been remanded in custody after appearing briefly at the Protea Magistrate’s Court on Friday on charges of rape and sexually assaulting a number of young girls.

According to police spokesman Kay Makhubela, the Zola man, who cannot be named until he pleads, had allegedly raped a 12-year-old girl and sexually assaulted two others, aged 13 and 15.

He said the two other girls came forward after the 12-year-old reported the matter. The girls told the police that the man had fondled them.

“There is a spaza shop in his yard and that’s how he [allegedly] managed to get the girls when they came to buy.

“He allegedly raped the 12-year-old last weekend and [allegedly] gave her money to silence [her], but she told her parents,” said Makhubela, further describing what the girls had said happened around the spaza shop.

Magistrate David Mhango said a minimum sentence was life imprisonment if the priest was convicted of the crimes.

Before court proceedings began, the priest walked into court with a smile and waved to his family.

Among his family was his sister and his daughters, who sat in the gallery.

The man will remain in custody until December 4, when he is expected to file for a formal bail application.

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The Star