Pastor’s victims feared he had supernatural powers

Women demonstrate outside the court where the bail application of Khayelitsha pastor Themba Mathibela is being heard. Photo by Armand Hough.

Johnnie Isaac

10 June 2014

The Khayelitsha pastor accused of rape preyed on needy and vulnerable members of his congregation, the court heard during the bail hearing of Pastor Themba Mathibela.

Mathibela is accused of rape by two women.

The 36 year old pastor who is married with five children was arrested last month after the women laid complaints with the police. He is denying the charges, claiming that the sex was consensual. He also accused a faction that has broken away from his church of orchestrating the charges against him.

The court heard this week that both complainants came from poor homes and that Mathibela supported them while he took advantage of their vulnerability.

He met the first complainant when she approached him for shelter, following a fall-out with the uncle she lived with.

Mathibela approached the second complainant early this year after church and offered to help with her family financial problems.

Opposing bail, the state’s investigative officer, Sergeant Anthenia Leibrand , told the court Mathibela lured his victims to a bed and breakfast place, where he sexually assaulted them.

He aggressively demanded sex from the complainants and threatened to withdraw his support if they failed to comply, she said.

The court also heard that Mathibela threatened both his victims to prevent them reporting that he had sexually assaulted them. The complainants believed his threats because he had been made into ‘this powerful figure’ who could perform miracles and the worst could happen to anyone who didn’t do as he wished.

Both victims said they were shocked, according to the evidence of Leibrandt, when the pastor proposed a relationship with them, because they looked up to him and regarded him as a father. One of them said she had attempted suicide.

Leibrandt said the victims were not the only people who believed that Mathibela had supernatural powers. She had interviewed a female pastor from the congregation who believed that he could prophesy. Members of the Living Water Tabernacle church had testified about his prayers that caused worms to come out of female vaginas.

According to state evidence, the first complainant came from the Eastern Cape in 2011 to study and lived with her uncle in Khayelitsha. She began to attend the church where Mathibela is pastor. When she fell out with her uncle, he arranged accommodation for her with another member of the church.

On the way back from a church service in Muizenberg he suggested a relationship. He took her to Somerset West on another occasion to buy her clothes and then took her to a restaurant. During that trip he kissed her but she felt uncomfortable and went to the bathrooms where she wept.

Leibrandt said the first rape took place in a bed and breakfast in Parow on 12 July 2012.

Mathibela fetched the woman from the church member’s house and demanded sex, threatening to withdraw his support if she refused. The two entered the bed and breakfast and Mathibela ordered the woman to take off her clothes but she refused. He undressed himself and then undressed her, pushed her to the bed and tried unsuccessfully to penetrate her. He stood up and dressed, told her he would be back and fetched oil from his car which he used to grease his penis, while the victim remained in bed weeping. He then penetrated her.

He raped her again, according to Leibrandt, at another bed and breakfast establishment in Eerste Rivier and later moved her from the house where she was staying to a place in Ilitha Park where he visited her.

The woman said they had stopped having sex after she had fallen pregnant and the pastor had arranged for her to move into an adoption centre in Bellville.

Leibrandt said Mathibela had told the woman never to tell anyone that she was pregnant or that he was the father of the child and forced her to give the baby for adoption.

The baby was born in December last year and has been adopted by a German family.

The bail hearing resumes on Thursday.