Echoes of Kh­wezi in church protest

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS - SAKHILE NDLAZI

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.

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