Johannesburg – Allegations of sexual abuse, rape, money laundering and exploitation against Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo of Rivers of Living Waters Church were laid bare on Tuesday at the the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural Religious and Linguistic Communities.
About seven former members and affiliates of the church testified before the rights commission. The commission is currently investigating the church following complaints that were brought before it by victims and congregants. The commission heard seven witnesses on Tuesday, which included the bishop’s sister, who accused him of being a manipulative leader.
“He’s a murderer and a rapist, he has raped a lot of children in the church. When he prays for you, you’ll wake up naked and he will make it seem like it’s your fault,” Khabonina Zondo said.
She told the commission that, like her brother and many other relatives, she was also gifted and had been shown about her brother’s ungodly activities in her dreams.
Meisie Reaname, a Zondo relative, and Sibongile Mofokeng, a congregant, told the commission how the bishop allegedly took advantage of them and raped them.
Reaname alleged Zondo raped her when she was 7, while Zondo was in his late teens.
She and her brother went to live with Zondo in the Vaal because their mother had had gone to stay with family for a few months after giving birth to them.
“I remember we were playing in the yard with my friends and he (Zondo) called me inside the house to come wash his socks. When I got to the bathroom there were no socks. I waited for him to bring the socks but he came back a few minutes later and called me to the bedroom that belonged to our grandmother,” Reaname said.
She said he instructed her to lie on the bed before he removed her underwear.
“As I lay on the bed, he removed his pants and I remember clearly he was wearing blue underwear. He removed his underwear and applied Vaseline on my genitals as well as his and proceeded to rape me,” Reaname said.
This happened three more times before she ran away.
“This really affected me. I was a smart child but after the incident I couldn’t pay attention in school. I even stopped attending family gatherings as I was afraid of him even when I was older,” she said.
Mofokeng was introduced to the church by her aunt in 2008.
Mofokeng said she joined after being in an abusive relationship and she was starting to get over the trauma until she was called to come to the church.
“The day I went to the church, I was made to wait in the room and then one usher came in and told me to undress so that they could lather me with the anointing oil. I was shocked but I undressed,” Mofokeng said.
She claimed this led to her having sexual dreams about Zondo and would regularly consult with him for guidance. In one of their meetings, Zondo allegedly raped her at the Formula 1 Hotel in Southgate and allegedly offered her R75 000 for her silence.
Also at the hearings was Sizakele Poophedi, the church’s secretary, who claimed the church was involved in fraud and money laundering activities.
“There is money laundering fraudulence. The church has many financial streams that brought money to the church through fundraising but the money does not go to the church but to Zondo’s pockets.
“Zondo has made the church his cash cow, which he uses to fund his lifestyle and his family,” Poophedi said.
Commission chairperson Luka David Mosoma said Zondo had been notified about the hearings and would be given an opportunity to appeal before it to respond to the allegations at a later stage.
The hearings continue on Wednesday.