Pastor who sexually abused teenage boys for nearly eight years gets 55-year sentence

Pastor John Philani Masilela sexually abused teenage boys from 2012 until 2020 before one of the victims told his parents.
Pastor John Philani Masilela sexually abused teenage boys from 2012 until 2020 before one of the victims told his parents.
Image: Supplied

A Mpumalanga pastor who sexually abused eight teenage boys from his congregation for nearly eight years has been given a 55-year sentence.

John Philani Masilela, 46, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on each of the four counts of rape and five years imprisonment for each of the seven counts of sexual assault.

The Kwamhlanga regional court sentenced Masilela on Friday for a string of sexual-related offences. The court ordered that each count of rape be coupled with a count of sexual assault while the three remaining counts of sexual assault will run separately.

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Col Donald Mdhluli said the court heard how Masilela sexually abused the boys between 2012 and 2020.

The victims were aged between 15 and 20 years.

“According to the record, the pastor would call his victims to the church and say that he wanted to groom and teach them about manhood. When they came to church, he would tell them to take off their clothes and he would molest them sexually,” he said.

The pastor also told his victims to take naked pictures of themselves and share them with him.

“It was revealed in court that he would convince his victims that they were specially chosen. As a result, the victims trusted him as their pastor and church leader as they thought this was how things were done in church,” he said.

One of the boys, aged 16, broke the silence in May 2020 and told his parents about the ordeal he had been subjected to for a long time.

“That was when his elder brother also attested that he too was victimised by Masilela,” said Mdhluli.

He said the matter was reported to the police in the same month. Members of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) at KwaMhlanga investigated the allegations.

During the investigation it transpired that six other members of the same church were also sexually abused by Masilela.

“Additional cases from the other victims were then added against the accused as the number of victims grew,” he said.

The pastor was arrested and charged with multiple counts of rape, sexual assault and child pornography. 

Mpumalanga provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Daphney Manamela lauded the investigation team and prosecution team. 

“We hope that the sentence will send a strong message to those who abuse children that it is just a matter of time before they are caught. This should encourage other victims to break the silence and report the perpetrators. What disturbs the most is the fact that in this instance the young ones were victimised by someone who was regarded as a person who was supposed to shield them as a pastor,” said Manamela.


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