The youth pastor, 26, formerly of the Rondebosch Common Ground Church, appeared in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court yesterday on charges of possession of child pornography and failing to report knowledge of the commission of a sexual offence with children.
He was not asked to plead and was released on R1 000 bail after the case was postponed for further investigation until October 17.
His name is known to Weekend Argus but cannot be revealed until he pleads to the charges.
A father whose son was allegedly one of the man’s victims said the suspect led the church’s youth group which was made up mainly of young teenage boys from SACS, Bishops and Rondebosch Boys’ High.
Although no longer a pastor at the Rondebosch Church he was, until his suspension, a youth pastor at Common Ground Constantiaberg in Orpen Road.
Police said the suspect’s modus operandi allegedly involved hacking into his teenage congregants’ social media accounts and, using the identity of a teenage girl, coaxing boys between the ages of 14 and 17 to share naked photos of themselves.
When the boys wanted to stop sharing photos the suspect’s girl alias would threaten them with online exposure.
“Most of the boys would then go to the suspect, as a man of the cloth, to seek advice on how to handle the person bullying them online,” said police spokesman Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo.
“He would then advise them to continue sharing photos which constitutes, on his part, failing to report knowledge of the commission of a sexual offence with children.”
The suspect is a University of Cape Town Master’s graduate in environmental and geographical science living in Rondebosch.
He is also a professional sports photographer and is well known on the school sports field, around Rondebosch and the beaches of Peninsula surfing spots.
A father told Weekend Argus that two years ago his 16-year-old son was being blackmailed on social media to provide naked pictures of himself, and the youngster sought advice from his pastor.
“This all happened in 2015, when my son came downstairs one day looking distraught. He told me that a teenage girl was stalking him online, demanding more naked pictures of himself,” recalled the father.
“She was threatening that if he didn’t give her more photos she would post the photo she already had online.
“I assured my son that he had not done anything wrong and told him that my gut feel was that it wasn’t a girl but probably some sicko and that he should just ignore the threats.
“The red light for me was that a teenage girl wouldn’t behave like this and that my son was being blackmailed.
“There were no more messages for a couple of months and then my son started getting hounded again. So I approached his youth pastor at Rondebosch Common Ground Church, who was also known in the congregation as a police reservist. He would know exactly what to do.
“He led the young group, which was made up mainly of young teenage boys from SACS, Bishops and Rondebosch Boys. I told him the story and asked him how to deal with this.
“He told me it was unacceptable but advised me not to go to the police as it could open an embarrassing can of worms. I trusted him when he said he would rather take care of it himself because he was from our church. We often had coffee and breakfast together and he had been to our house for dinner.
“A few hours later the pastor came back to me saying he had contacted the girl and warned her not to message my son again otherwise she would be arrested. And lo and behold she stopped. My son never heard from her again.”
This week the father heard the pastor had been arrested.
The arrest followed a complaint from the parent of an alleged 14-year-old victim which sparked an urgent joint investigation involving the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit, the Hawks and the US Homeland Security.