Cape Town - Criminals who steal church money must face severe punishment.
This is the view of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP)’s leader, Reverend Dr Kenneth Meshoe, in response to R5 million of the Dutch Reformed Church's funds being stolen.
This week, George Schutte, 35, made an appearance at the Bellville Magistrates’ Court on charges of theft and money laundering.
The Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (The Hawks) said Stephanie van der Merwe, who is now deceased, was employed as the church’s Pension Funds Administrator and had transferred in excess of R5 million from the church’s bank account to various accounts between October 2018 and May 2020.
It is understood that Schutte had not been one of the congregants of the church but had apparently known the deceased.
Lieutenant Colonel Siyabulela Vukubi of the Hawks said, via a thorough investigation, van der Merwe had deposited money into two bank accounts of Schutte, who allegedly allowed the transactions to take place.
Vukubi explained during a year period of April 2019 and May 2020, a total of R1 955 100.00 was allegedly deposited into his bank accounts.
Schutte was granted R5000 bail and is expected back in the dock on November 24 2023 for a Regional Court date.
Weekend Argus made attempts to reach Pastor Marinus Theron, one of the regional chairpersons of the Dutch Reformed Church (NGK), but was told he was engaged in a conference with other chairpersons.
Reverend Bossie Minnaar, the Principal Officer for the Predikant Pensioenfonds, said he was not authorised to speak to the media but confirmed that the money which was stolen belong to the church: “It is not the pension money but the church’s money.”
Meshoe, ACDP Leader and Member of Parliament, said the latest incident placed emphasis on those involved in criminal activities within the church or if they were linked to the congregation and that they should be punished for their crimes.
“The ACDP is concerned about the reports that point to the fact that criminal activities within the church were on the rise,” he said.
“We are disappointed to hear that money that was supposed to be the priest’s pension has been stolen, money that they say are in the excess of R5 million has been shifted by a person who was supposed to be the pension fund administrator to other accounts illegally.
“There are also people within the church that allowed their accounts to be used for money laundering.
“The ACDP believes there should be no mercy for church people, religious people, who steal church money.
“The church is supposed to be a place where people will trust , where people will feel safe, where people will know, not only, their lives, are supposed to be safe and particularly their funds.
“We propose that the government should hold those who steal within the church, people who should know better, people who should know the law of God and not only the law of the land, that they must consider severe punishment for church people who steal and who are corrupt.
“Criminal activities should not be allowed within churches.”