At least two women have made startling allegations of r_pe against the religious leader of the Rivers of Living Waters Ministries during hearings into allegations of s_xual abuse at the church in Evaton, south of Johannesburg.
The CRL Rights Commission heard testimony yesterday from two women who accused Archbishop Stephen Zondo of r_pe dating back decades. One of the victims accused Zondo of repeatedly raping her when she was only seven years old.
The victim, who cannot be named, said the first time she was r_ped allegedly by Zondo, he was about 18 years old and a popular photographer and wedding videographer. He was not yet a pastor.
“I was playing with my friends and he called me into the house to wash his socks. He locked the door and I went to the bathroom to look for the socks. There was no socks to wash. He called me into the room and was dressed in his underwear and a white vest.”
Zondo would not comment on the allegations yesterday. Go talk to the people who are talking badly about me,” he said before hanging up. He later responded to text messages asking for comment, saying, Ask professor David Mosoma, he’s got all the answers.”
The commission said Zondo had been notified about the hearings and would be given an opportunity to appear before it to respond to them at a later stage.
In tears, the woman told the commission she screamed and told him he was hurting her but he told her to stop screaming. “I will never forget that day. I can still smell that room, ” she said.
She said after the first r_pe she was told to go back outside to play and never tell anyone what was done to her. “He gave me a R1 and sweets to give to the other children. But I couldn’t play, I was in pain.”
She said she has been traumatised by the incident her whole life. I was very smart and a happy child but things changed. I became slow in school. I couldn’t focus and do what I used to do like to write the simplest words.”
She said she started dressing like a boy because she wanted to protect herself from further harm. “I was so stressed that by 13 years old I was put on medication.” According to the commission’s chairperson Prof David Mosoma, five cases of r_pe have been opened against Zondo, four at the Evaton police station and one in Booysens.
The commission is holding hearings into allegations of s_xual abuse, among other things, at the church in the Vaal. The first witness to give testimony on crimes and human rights violations allegedly committed by Zondo said the church was run like a cult. Solly Poopedi, who was a staunch supporter of Zondo, said he left the church at the beginning of last year after hearing about and witnessing financial abuse and money laundering. “We realised over time we are not in a church. We are in a cult.”
Poopedi, who was in the church for five years, said many women told him they had been r_ped. “People are afraid to open cases because nothing seems to happen with the cases,” he said.
Commissioner Richard Botha asked Poopedi how he can prove that some women were not willingly having affairs. Poopedi said Zondo “is using his power to solicit s_x”.
Poopedi made further allegations about financial abuse whereby Zondo demands large amounts of money from his congregants.
“He once asked us for money and we raised R45,000 in one day. That’s nothing because we have even raised R3.5m for him in one night. The only family that prospers is his. There are people who are bankrupt because of him.”
The hearings continue.