Worship leader suspected of grooming young girls

- YOSHINI PERUMAL No names have been mentioned, to protect the identity of the minor victims.

A CHATSWORTH pastor has broken his silence about the arrest of his church’s youth and worship leader for the alleged rape of a teenage girl who he was teaching music.

The 31-year-old man, who is also a guitarist at the Bayview church, made his first appearance in the Chatsworth Magistrate’s Court last week. He is expected to make a formal bail applicatio­n on Friday.

The Hawks KZN tracking team, the metro police task team and the Chatsworth SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Unit arrested the man at his Westcliff home last Thursday.

Police seized several laptops, cellphones, lingerie, sex toys and sexual enhancer tablets from the man’s home.

A police source said the man could face further charges as it had been alleged he was a “sex pest who had been grooming young girls”.

The pastor of the church told the POST yesterday (Tuesday) that the alleged rape took place on January 20.

He said the accused was a co-ordinator of the worship team, and not an ordained pastor.

“He would teach children how to play instrument­s in the church. He was monitored by the seniors in the church and had conducted himself properly and respectful­ly in this role,” said the pastor.

“On the day of the alleged incident, the children in the band had been practising at church. They have never been left unsupervis­ed or alone with the accused. Most times, their parents stayed with them for the practice.

“But on January 20, the victim’s mother said she had allowed her daughter

to go to the worship leader’s home after the practice session. She said he had invited the girl to his home for a meal.”

The pastor said it had been alleged that the accused had sexually molested the girl in his vehicle and at his home, on that day.

It’s alleged that a 12-year-old girl who was a back-up singer in the church band, was also sexually assaulted the same day. She was with the other victim at the accused’s house.

The pastor said he was concerned that the 12-year-old had not given her statement to police as yet.

“I found out about the incident from the girl’s mother last week, after the girl had told her what happened. I then met with the congregati­on and discussed the seriousnes­s of the allegation­s with them.

“I advised parents to question their children and find out if anything similar had happened to them. I asked them to give me informatio­n so I could pass it on to the investigat­ing officer. To date, none of them have come back to me,” he said.

The pastor said he was “disturbed” by the allegation­s.

“Unfortunat­ely, in the Indian community there is stigma to rape. Sadly, judgement from society on any sexual assault matters is prevalent.

“This may be the reason why the others have not come forward. But they don’t realise that they are shielding the perpetrato­rs of such crimes if they don’t speak out,” he said.

He said the accused joined the church in 2017 and became the leader of the praise and worship team in 2019, after he displayed good leadership skills and became a role model for the youngsters at the church.

“Even the elders looked up to him and his wife. They were proud of them. Two years ago, I was the pastor who married him and his wife. His wife was a singer in the band,” he said.

The pastor said the church was saddened that they were in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

“We never thought a case of this nature would come from a dedicated, vibrant, witty man who showed great leadership skills.

“At his evaluation, when we considered him for the job of worship and youth leader, there were no signs of anything suspicious about him. We did the checks and ticked all the boxes before we gave him the responsibi­lity. I had trusted him,” he added.

He said the church leadership had asked the accused and the victims’ families to refrain from attending services until the investigat­ion and court findings were finalised.

He said this was to avoid unnecessar­y tension in the church.

“We have offered the (rape) victim and her family spiritual counsellin­g, but they declined saying they ‘wanted to ‘lie low’.Maybe the hurt is too deep right now, but we will be here to support the victim and her family. We will be in court on Friday,” he said.

Reverend Cyril Pillay, chairperso­n of the Chatsworth Spiritual Crime Prevention Forum, said: “Society must do everything in its power to ensure the safety of all children. We commend the specialise­d investigat­ors from the Chatsworth FCS Unit, who expedited the investigat­ion to bring the alleged perpetrato­r before the criminal justice system, thus ensuring that the victims’ voices can be heard with justice to follow.”

He added that there had been a social and religious outcry from men of the cloth whose spiritual calling had become questionab­le by tainted comments on social media platforms.

 ?? | Supplied ?? POLICE seized several items from the man’s home.
| Supplied POLICE seized several items from the man’s home.

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