E Cape church to be probed over alleged selling of child brides

AN UNDER-AGE girl was allegedly sold by her aunt to a Zimbabwean man and forced to marry him when she was 12.

AN UNDER-AGE girl was allegedly sold by her aunt to a Zimbabwean man and forced to marry him when she was 12.

The girl, now 15, said she had given birth to a baby in August.

The teen, who hails from Mafikeng in North West, said her parents were members of the church that conducted the marriage.

Police are investigating the activities of a Dimbaza-based church after two more under-age girls were rescued from forced marriages in the last week.

The two girls, aged 12 and 15, claimed in separate police reports that the Gospel of God Church forced them to get married.

Yesterday a senior church leader denied the allegations but suggested that child brides were acceptable in society.

"It's an individual's choice to get married at what age she wants to," said John Sibanda.

"We don't force anyone in our church. This is a disgrace that we will investigate."

King William's Town police spokesperson Captain Thozama Solani said: "This is child abuse. They should have stopped these marriages."

The 12-year-old escaped from her captors last Wednesday.

Four suspects - her aunt, her "husband" and her "in-laws" - were then arrested in Phola Park and appeared in the Dimbaza magistrate's court yesterday.

They were denied bail and will appear again on December 17 to face kidnapping charges. Her "husband" faces a charge of sexual assault.

The girls are being kept at a place of safety while the investigation continues.

The department of social development's Dalindyebo Maxhegwana said more arrests were imminent.

Eastern Cape Aids Council and the SA Council of Churches also planned to look into the cases.

The Aids Council's Reverend Lulama Ntshingwa said: "We'll be looking at what's happening and will save more children." - Daily Dispatch

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