Church shocked by arrest

Canaan Mdletshe

The members of a KwaZulu-Natal church are reeling in shock after one of them was arrested for raping a 13-year-old worshipper.

The incident that has rocked the Nazareth Baptist Church, popularly known as Shembe, took place on Saturday while worshippers were attending a month-long series of services in the Mfanela reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

According to the Umfolozi police, the teenage girl was walking to a neighbour's home when she was accosted by a man who took her into nearby bushes and raped her.

Captain Jabulani Mdletshe said the victim reported the rape to other church members who called the police. A man was arrested.

He appeared briefly in the Hluhluwe magistrates' court, where the case was postponed to November 14.

"Both the victim and the suspect were attending the Nazareth church service at Mfanela reserve," Mdletshe said.

"The victim is from Gingindlovu and the suspect is from Mamfene reserve."

Edward Ximba, a spokesman for the Ekuphakameni faction of the church, condemned the incident but denied that the suspect was a member of the church.

"Our members know the law and would not do something like this. This is not our member.

"This is why we support our culture, which says a man must have more than one wife so he won't rape," Ximba said.