Controversy, court battles dog clergyman

IN THE late 1980s, Paul Verryn was accused of sexual abuse in Soweto. Several boys were removed from the Methodist Church in Orlando West, among them Stompie Seipei, the child activist. Stompie was later abducted, severely beaten and dumped in the veld.

But Verryn was later cleared.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had also accused him of sodomising the boys in his care.

Madikizela-Mandela, her friend Xoliswa Falati and Jerry Richardson were convicted for Stompie's murder. Madikizela-Mandela was sentenced to six years in jail, which was reduced to a fine on appeal.

Falati and Richardson went to jail, while Verryn was later cleared by the Supreme Court and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Recently, Verryn has been at loggerheads with the Gauteng provincial government and the Johannesburg City Council over the overcrowding at the Central Methodist Church in central Johannesburg.

He has been accused of harbouring criminals at the church. In 2008, sexual abuse allegations at the church surfaced. That case was, however, thrown out of court early last year. Again, unsubstantiated allegations of sexual abuse surfaced late last year, prompting the provincial government to accuse him of being irresponsible and putting the lives of children at risk.

"I have on numerous occasions told the police to conduct civil raids and searches at the church and to date they have not taken me up," said Verryn.

Businesses in the city centre and the municipality have also hauled him to court complaining about crime and grime. There is also a pending case in the Johannesburg high court in which Verryn's lawyers want to outlaw the arrest of people on loitering charges.

In November last year, Verryn resigned as bishop but continued to serve the church as an ordinary minister, still stationed at the Central Methodist Church.

He was replaced by Bishop Peter Witbooi.