Reverend Thembelani Jentile, who heads the Mamelodi Baptist Church in Pretoria, says all the former pastors of Rivers Of Living Waters Ministries, who have been testifying against Church leader Stephen Zondo, should also be held accountable for the abuses they allege to have witnessed at the church.
Jentile made the remarks during an interview on VOW FM’s Breaking Ground programme on red flags of churches led by false prophets.
It was in response to evidence submitted by those who used to work in prophetic ministries and with Zondo before the CRL Rights Commission.
They testified, among others, how prophetic church leaders use witchcraft to solicit money from the congregants.
“It is very difficult, but as a pastor and religion scholar a true prophet would be someone who predicts that something would happen and it happens. If you say to people give and you will be blessed or do this and you would receive money and then that doesn’t happen, then people would judge you and that is what the old testament is struggling with,” says Jentile.
He says true prophets should be able to help people with socio-economic challenges. “Everyone who prophesies and doesn’t deal with the socio-economic issues and political issues that people are going through to me is a false prophet because this world dictates what we must go through and I think God is concerned of what people are going through.”
“So in South Africa there are people who are dealing with spiritual things and others deal with day to day issues and separating them creates a serious problem,” he adds.
Jentile believes it would be difficult for the CRL Rights Commission to solve matters of faith and spirituality.
Although he commends all the pastors who say they have repented from duping people for coming out to testify at the commission, he believes all of them are thugs. “All of them should be held accountable, they can’t come and say Zondo did this, they are also as guilty as Zondo; they were part of the crime that was robbing people and they didn’t do anything about it, they knew that what Zondo was doing was wrong,”
“Zondo is a thug according to them but they are also thugs, the little thugs are now exposing higher ranking thugs,” says Jentile.
‘Zondo not a real prophet’
Meanwhile, Reverend Andile Mali who was Zondo’s right-hand man says when he joined the church, he was made to believe that he was serving under the Kingdom of God.
Sharing his experience on VOW FM’s Breaking Ground, Mali said Zondo appointed him after he saw his spiritual gift.
“His wife asked me to go and preach at one of his branches because when I was at the Vaal I was also a preacher and people saw the potential and the gift that God bestowed on me. When I came back with the report he appointed me as a pastor who can be able to pray for people because other people when they came to church they were possessed by demons,” said Mali while explaining how he ended up in Zondo’s church.
He says when he prayed, people were receiving the healing, deliverance and restoration. “He decided that he needed me next to him.”
Mali says Zondo was not a real prophet but he was getting messages from other gifted people. “When the holy spirit blow, we would get messages and we would give all the messages to him and he would write them down, that is why when he comes to church he would read all the prophecies from the book those are the prophecies that he would take from us when the holy spirit is flowing.”
“I was not alone and we thought we were submitting under the kingdom of God, so that whatever that was happening people would receive correct prophecies.”
‘False prophets prey on the vulnerable‘
Solomon Izang Ashoms, who is a journalist and the founder of Movement Against Abuse in Churches, also weighed in on the matter during the Breaking Ground discussion.
He touched on the Bushiris’ escape to Malawi, saying the couple ran away from South Africa because they are afraid of spending time in jail.
Ashoms, who has been investigating high profile pastors for over 10 years, says what he saw is a total abuse of power by certain church leaders.
“There is muthi in the pulpit to activate the supernatural powers. The congregants don’t even understand they think anytime that using the supernatural in churches is a miracle,” he alleges.
He says many church leaders have taken him to court for exposing their ways.
“I have met Bushiri, I told him you cannot go on doing this you are going to be in trouble. They look for people who need jobs and tell them they are going to be blessed, that is a lie and then they look for people who are also sick and promise them healing. Even single women who are looking for a spouse have been victims of the fake and manufactured miracles and before you know it you have lost money,” says Ashoms.
Ashoms says some people have evidence against Bushiri and they just need proper channels to present it to the court.
Bushiri, Zondo and many other so-called miracle pastors are also dogged by allegations of rape and some – even murder.
He was testifying at the CRL Rights Commission in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, on Wednesday amid allegations of abuse levelled against the church leader of Rivers of Living Water Ministries.
The commission is currently investigating the church following abuse complaints from congregants.
It heard evidence from several witnesses on Tuesday and Wednesday, including Mali who was at some stage Zondo’s right-hand man.
Mali says Zondo forged a relationship with him because he was a radio presenter at Thetha FM in the Vaal.
He accused the bishop of plotting against him and told the commission how he lost his wealth and vehicles through the church.
“We were always giving to the church with the hope that when we give our property and wealth is safe because we are giving for God to protect our wealth. When you give, he promises you wealth and big houses; he promised to change lives of church members within four years. That is why some people will give offering with the last money for transport,” Mali explained.
He adds that the spirit always told him to give to the church. He says Zondo uses the spirits of dead people to take over people’s bodies and control them.
“That is why when we pray for people they fall and others after falling they don’t even remember what they have been saying, because the snake is in charge of your body. He can call your family members who are dead to come and speak through you,” Mali alleges.
He says Zondo easily controls those who love to be prayed for by pastors.
Mali adds that Zondo wanted his wife to be operated in a hospital and he reversed the curse to Zondo’s wife. He informed the church that more than 1 000 marriages in church were destroyed.
“In order for him to control your lives, if the bishop sleeps with your wife half of the job is done, many marriages are dead,” he said.
The hearings continue on Thursday and Zondo is expected to testify. – Report by VOW FM News’ Anastasi Mokgobu
Hearings into allegations of abuse against Rivers of Living Waters Ministries leader, Bishop Stephen Zondo, are underway in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Commission) is conducting the probe.
Wednesday is day two of the hearings. On Tuesday, five witnesses took to the stand.
Former member of the church Solly Poopedi accused Zondo of using umuthi (traditional medicine) to gain power over his believers. He says the muthi also helps him exploit them sexually and financially, among other things.
Poopedi alleges that Zondo is highly connected and works with high ranking politicians, like MECs and Ministers who also bow down to him.
Zondo’s niece, Meisie Raename, was the second witness. She says the Bishop raped her when she was less than ten years of age. Zondo is said to have been between 18 and 19 years old at the time of the crime.
Raename described the incident as traumatic, as Zondo would call her among other children to come wash her socks but she would know “here comes pain.”
Bishop Zondo’s sister, Khabo Zondo, has accused the Rivers of Living Waters leader of murder, saying he killed her father and two other people who knew about his shenanigans whom she could not reveal names.
Former youth member at the church, Bongi Mofokeng, is among other women who say they were raped by the Bishop. She says she was promised R75 000 after being sexually violated by Zondo at a hotel in Southgate, near Soweto.
“If you tell anyone about what happened here your marriage will end and your closest family member will die,” Mofokeng says Zondo told her.
Former secretary of the church, Sizakele Poopedi, was the last witness to assume the hot seat. She says Bishop Zondo uses offerings of the church to fund his lifestyle not the organisation.
“The minimum fee for consultation with the Bishop is R10 000, just to say.”
The hearings continue at the CRL Commission in Braamfontein and Bishop Zondo is expected to tell his side of the story between today and tomorrow, when the proceedings wrap. – Reporty by VOW FM News’ Buhle Mbele