Limpopo pastor arrested for rapes waits to hear if he will get bail

Pastor James Thubakgale
Pastor James Thubakgale

Support has been intensified for controversial Limpopo pastor James Thubakgale as judgment in respect of his bail application gets under way in the Seshego magistrate's court.

Members of Thubakgale's Devine Deliverance Church of Christ came in large numbers to listen to the judgment being delivered. Wearing white T-shirts and singing songs in support of their spiritual leader, the members arrived in a sizeable number of minibus taxis and private cars as they are anticipating a favourable outcome for their leader to be freed.

The man of the cloth had been incarcerated since his arrest on February 11. He was charged with five counts of rape, one of fraud and another five of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

The 57-year-old had been awaiting his fate as state witnesses, including investigating officer Colonel Malesela Mogale, testified against him. It is expected that magistrate Michael Mamabolo will deliver judgment today, ending weeks of speculation on the pastor's future. 

A large contingent of police officers were deployed to ensure that no disruptions occurred during the court proceedings. Those opposed to the pastor also made their presence felt. Control measures had been put in place to ensure that court attendees (supporters and non-supporters) were allowed to walk inside the courtroom without any difficulties.

The judgment was delayed as the court wanted to deal with postponements of other cases before Mamabolo resumed with the delivery of the fate of Thubakgale. The tiny courtroom was packed to capacity, with members of the media allowed to occupy the front desk to capture the proceedings unhindered. 

The proceedings have just begun, with defence lawyer Johannes Papole reading out a statement in mitigation of sentence in respect of the bail judgment. He said that it would be in the interest of justice for his client to be released on bail.

"The charges were brought against my client as a form of revenge by his opponents as they were no longer members of his church. The complainants sought to tarnish the reputation of my client, hence he has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him," said Papole.

Thubakgale still has pending cases in the Mankweng regional court in relation to the alleged rapes of two minors,for which he was arrested in 2012. He was released on R2,000 bail for the alleged rapes of the two girls, then aged 14 and 16.

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