South African faith healer and self-proclaimed prophet who sprayed highly toxic insecticide, Doom, to the faces of his followers were found guilty of assault, local media outlet reports.
Lathebo Rabalago, more famously known as the ‘Doom Pastor,’ was convicted of contravening the Agricultural Stock Remedies Act and assault after he sprayed insect repellants to the face and other body parts of his congregants in 2016 claiming that insecticides could heal cancer and HIV among other ailments.
A sentence has yet to be read for the convicted spiritual leader after the verdict by Mookgopong Magistrate Court in Limpopo Province announced his conviction.
According to a report by BBC, Magistrate Frans Mahodi told the court, Friday, that the state has proved beyond reasonable doubt that five people who filed assault charges were violated. He also pointed out the different side effects that victims may suffer in the years to come from exposure to toxic materials.
The magistrate said the fact that the complainants “were sprayed on their faces with Doom makes this offense [the] worst of its kind.”
Rabalogo, who leads the Mount Zion General Assembly, was arrested in 2016 after photos of him spraying his followers with insecticide Doom went viral. Assault charges were also pressed against him by five ex-members of the congregation who came forward after his arrest. Rabalogo claimed that Doom could ‘cure’ his followers of different ailments including cancer and AIDS.
In an earlier report, Rabalogo told BBC’s Nomsa Maseko that a woman who has eye infection was ‘just fine because she believed in the power of God.’
AFRICAN GOVS CALL FOR CHURCH REGULATION
Many African governments and organizations have called for church regulation following the incidents of church-inflicted assaults and abuse were reported.
In Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta recently called for regulation of churches and said that these regulations would help them stomp out bogus religions.
“They are thieves and not preachers. We have to consult and know how to remove them,” the president is quoted as saying by Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria, Evangelist TB Joshua was blamed when his building collapsed killing 116 church-goers. Coroner’s report revealed that the cause of the collapse was the weak foundations of the building citing that it has not met safety standards. Joshua denied this allegation, blaming the collapse to a mysterious plane that has flown over the two-story building before the collapse. Among the killed in the building, 80 were from South Africa, showing the risk brought upon by big religious groups.
Research has shown that Africa is a profoundly religious continent. A study from Pew Research Center revealed that 60% of Africans are Christians while 30% and 3% are Muslims or from traditional and tribal religions, respectively. Among the Christians, 57% are Protestants (including African Independent Churches and Anglicans), 34% are Catholic, and 8% are Orthodox.
Many religious and nonreligious organizations have also called for more stringent church regulation in African countries. According to South Africa’s Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious, and Linguistic Communities (CLR), they summoned 40 churches and church leaders and revealed that ‘commercialization is definitely there… and abuse of people’s belief system.
According to CLR chairman Thoko Mkhwanazi – Xaluvi in an interview with BBC, ‘the sector needs to be regulated.’
“We’ve found that other religions such as Islam and the Jewish religion are systematized for disciplinary codes and monitoring but Christianity, because of its volatility in terms of anyone being able to start up their own church, we feel there is a need for regulation, self-regulation,” she said.
‘FREEDOM OF RELIGION’
In South Africa, the constitution allows for ‘freedom of religion.’ This means that anyone can practice his own beliefs as long as it is within the bounds of the law.
This makes it hard for the South African government to impose regulations on religion – legitimate or not.
Reverend Moss Nthla of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa said that although many Christian families are facing problems, governments cannot be called upon to address spiritual matters.
“It is difficult to see how the government would regulate churches; we’ve got reports of politicians themselves being faithful members of some of these controversial churches – some of which are a law unto themselves.
“There needs to be at the very least, a bare minimum standard that we as Christians can set and adhere to and any church found to be operating outside of that needs to be stigmatized. We would have failed as church leaders if we do nothing,” said Reverend Nthla. /apr