Echoes of Khwezi in church protest
THE university student who staged a protest against alleged sexual abuse at the Methodist City Mission Church in Pretoria said she was embarrassed by what had happened and wanted to move on with her life .
“No one deserves such disrespect,” she said days after her protest caused a social media storm.
In a move reminiscent of the Khwezi protest in 2016, the 20-year-old, her sister, and a friend held up placards during a service last Sunday while the alleged perpetrator, a steward of the church, read notices.
Cellphone footage of the protest went viral on social media and led to criticism against both the women and the church.
The woman, who has not been named, said: “Do I regret what happened on Sunday? Some people say I should regret it because I did it in church, and it is a holy place. But, no. He did all those things to me in the church; he was well aware it is a holy place.”
She said although the steward has been suspended she has lost faith in the church.
“This happened last year, and after numerous letters from my dad, and constant follow-ups and eventually my protest and media attention, the steward has eventually been suspended,” she said.
She claimed the man made inappropriate sexual comments and advances towards her on three occasions. The final straw, she said, was when he grabbed her and pulled her towards him aggressively, before making sexual innuendos.
She reported the incident to her father who wrote to the church several times, alerting them to the issue. Two retired ministers were appointed to handle the matter.
She said the accused verbally admitted to the sexual offences and, on request, wrote an apology. But this was not enough for her family who asked for a proper resolution to the matter. Eventually, she decided on the silent protest. She said she carried the placards in her bag and was initially reluctant to go through with it.
However, when she saw her mother crying, she plucked up the courage to walk to the front of the church. “She was crying because the very same man who abused me was carrying on with business as usual.”
She said she was still undecided about returning to the church, a place she had called home for years. The presiding bishop of the Methodist Church in South Africa, Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa, who supported the alleged victims, said the protest took place out of frustration with the slowness of the disciplinary process, and because the congregation saw that the alleged perpetrator was still a church leader.
He said the reason the process had taken so long was because no formal letter was received. However, the man had now been suspended as investigations continued. The church minister had met with the family, he said.
A student’s silent protest against alleged sexual harassment at the Methodist City Mission Church in Pretoria caused a social media storm.