The Peniel Seventh day Adventist Church in Mdantsane has been shaken by a rape scandal which saw one of its church elders resigning from his post.
The allegation surfaced that he had been repeatedly over time raping a young woman, now 19, a member of his household and congregant in the church.
The claim was reported to his family and other church elders earlier last month, but the elders are said to have persuaded the teen, who is a relative of the alleged culprit and lives in his home, not to report it to the police.
They had promised to deal with the incident as a church – a promise that apparently was not kept.
According to numerous sources in the church, who were too afraid to be identified, the incident was swept under the carpet by the elders.
Contacted yesterday, the church pleaded ignorance, while the alleged victim refused to speak.
However, the elder yesterday confirmed that the allegations had been levelled against him, though he denied the rapes.
He confirmed he had relinquished his church post “because I could not be an elder with such a cloud hanging over my head”, he said.
“The matter was first reported to my family, and later people from church came through and inquired about it.
“It was discussed and I thought it was over, but I felt I should resign as an elder as such claims place me in an awkward position and will impact on my livelihood and tarnish my image.”
He has avoided church and returned for the first time last weekend.
He spoke of “sleepless nights” and said he’d apologised to the young woman, “not for raping her, but for anything that I had done which had forced her to come up with such false claims against me. I have never raped her and I don’t know why she would come up with such claims,” he said.
The church’s pastor, Y Njingolo, yesterday said: “I am not aware of such a case. In fact, I know everything happening in the church and would have known if this had happened or if any of our church elders tried to intervene.
“There is no such thing. And if it had happened, we would not try and hide it.
“We would report it to police as that is a criminal offence.”
Various sources said the rape incidents had been taking place for some time until a group of women elders in the church were informed about it in early February.
Six elders visited the home in February and he apparently promised to desist from further abuse.
A member of the delegation to his home yesterday said: “The sobbing elder initially denied the rape claims, but later cried hysterically before he apologised for his ungodly actions.
“The girl is a relative who arrived from the rural areas a few years ago to stay with the family.” — firstname.lastname@example.org