Pastor Paseka Motsoeneg – also known as Pastor ‘Mboro’ – arrested by SAPS for alleged sexual assault of women and girls. The South African Human Rights Commission is following up on complaint against Pastor Mboro submitted by Sonke Gender Justice and People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) in June 2011.
In mid June 2011 Sonke and POWA lodged a complaint with the SAHRC and the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) against Pastor Paseka Motsoeneg or Pastor ‘Mboro’ – a well known religious leader who even broadcasts in TV – for allegations of sexual violence against women and girls under the guise of his apparent spiritual healing abilities. The CGE rejected the complaint in August 2011 and the SAHRC acknowledged receipt of our complaint. The CGE rejected the complaint on the basis that “the CGE respects people’s religious beliefs as they are protected by the Constitution, with the understanding that those people exercised their choice to go to Pastor Motsoeneng’s church voluntarily”.
No further steps were taken by the SAHRC following acknowledgment of receipt of our complaint. However, on 23 January 2013 – one and a half years later – Sonke received correspondence informing us that they are investigating it. The SHRC also informed us that they received other complaints about Pastor Mboro. He has now been arrested and the SAPS is investigating the case. Sonke has consented to the SAHRC submitting our complaint and supporting documents with the SAPS to aid their investigation. The SAHRC has also requested that Sonke staff who watched the episodes on TV wherein Mboro sexually violated women and young girls, depose to affidavits.
We would like to raise once again our concern at the response from the CGE, as they did not take the complaint seriously and did not make any attempt to investigate the allegations of sexual violence against women and girls. Their ill informed interpretation of the right to religious freedom in our Constitution and the CGE failure to act, left women and young girls exposed to potential abuse at the hands of Pastor Mboro.
Although late, we welcome the SAHRC follow up of our complaint and we will fully support the investigation instituted by SAPS. We hope this case pushes our Chapter 9 institutions to fulfil their constitutional mandates to prevent and respond to the rampant sexual violence against women and girls in South Africa. Most importantly, we hope these monitoring bodies and society in general understand that respecting the right to religious freedom can’t be done at the expense of women’s bodies and dignity.