Allegations of forced abortions, sterilisation levelled against Universal Church
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Johannesburg - Former pastors and congregants have levelled allegations of forced abortions and sterilisation against the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities heard testimony on Friday during investigations into the church, after complaints were brought before the commission by alleged victims, and congregants.
A former pastor of the Universal Church, Bongani Manyisa, who joined the church in 2002, told the commission that he was a victim of alleged forced sterilisation at an early age.
“A vasectomy is done forcefully because you are not given a chance to question and you are told, ‘If you are here, you must obey,’” he said.
Manyisa said that when he arrived at a hospital for the procedure he hoped to receive counselling prior to it. However, he was not given the chance. He also alleged that pastors’ wives who fell pregnant were pressured into terminating their pregnancy.
“If it happened that a pastor impregnated his wife, that would anger the bishop. Other pastors would then start to advise termination,” he said. He added that there were about 200 complaints against the church.
Manyisa said because congregants were fully dependent on the church, they would not talk to their family and friends and were discouraged from attending family events, including funerals.
“Funerals, you are not allowed to attend. I spent 10 years without going to my family,” he said.
Former pastor Amos Ngququ told the commission that he joined the church in 1994, and initially worked as a translator. He said that in 1995 he was transferred to Joburg where he heard the term vasectomy for the first time.
Ngququ said some time later he returned to Port Elizabeth, where he was allegedly instructed to have a vasectomy as a form of birth control for pastors.
“I was left with no option because they made us understand that they are the decision-makers of everything and that we should obey. They were telling us that a servant has no rights,” he said.
Ngququ, who was 25 at the time, said: “There is no document that … explained what was going to happen. It was only when I (looked in) a dictionary after the operation that I found out that it was a permanent procedure,” he said.
He said that it caused marital problems for him and his wife because they had only one child at the time and she wanted more children.
“The more I was in the system I found myself hating everything and everyone, but I couldn’t do anything about it and I couldn’t show my anger because we were playing in the palm of their hands,” he said.
Ngququ said he ultimately adopted a child and left the church after about 10 years. “I feel that I was abused, my time was wasted; I was denied education and today I am living in an ash-brick house while they are living in luxury and I worked and gave all my life,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God said in a statement on Saturday that its board had received a letter on February 12 informing the church that the commission had received complaints from former church members.
“The church is both willing and prepared to appear before the commission to set the record straight and provide evidence needed to refute the baseless and incorrect statements made during the initial stages of the hearings,” it said.
The church said because the matter had not yet concluded at the commission, it would not provide further information to the public at this stage.