Tue Sep 02 06:16:04 SAST 2014

The devil in our midst

Mar 25, 2012 | Madala Thepa |

IT was mass hysteria on Human Rights Day in Evaton on the Vaal, minutes after the fires were put out in Sharpeville.

MONSTER: Community members in Evaton, Vaal, beat up a man in full view of the police, in a display of what is described as public rebellion against satanism. Picture by Elvis Ntombela

 I could not go to the police because they cannot be trusted 

Stephen Zondo, the Bishop of Rivers of Living Waters Ministries was accused of being a Satanist.

The youth put out a full scale witch hunt on the streets and clashed with the police. A dark energy permeated the township.

Cars were stoned, petrol bombs thrown at the armoured vehicles and police ran out of ammunition.

120 boxes of rubber bullets with 32 rounds in each were expended within hours, and another batch was requested but still the young turks would not back down. They were incensed.

The rumours that started last year in December of Satanism, apparently fuelled by local station Theta FM, came to fruition on Tuesday and spilled over to Human Rights Day.

The only thing that could calm the mob down was to see out the day's task - to burn down the church and have Zondo crucified in what will be the final "an eye for an eye" morality act.

The church, situated at the corner of Baltimore and Old Golden Highway road, is an unremarkable huge structure of brick and mortar and does not offer much in terms of the look except that it is flourishing.

The church has more than 7500 members, according to a statement issued in response to the Satanism claims.

Zondo is allegedly a member of a satanic social network which is said to possess "knowledge of the paranormal". High on the list of charges is the alleged kidnapping of young people and turning them into "religious slaves" - basically manipulating them through purported elaborate rituals.

And the proof of satanic practices, says the youth, lies in the last digits 666 on the church's phone number displayed in the yard. The biblical symbol known as the Mark of The Beast found in Revelation 13:16-18, is the first proof, according to the community, that Zondo is a Satanist. The youth also list other "occultists" or "Satanists" who include other pastors around Gauteng.

A man who did not want to be named says the pastor gets his powers from a sacred mountain in QwaQwa, and that on Monday one of the members turned into a snake in full view of the community. A child was allegedly kidnapped and left for two days without food. Fact or fiction, the recurrent theme in the community is that this is true.

Four young people were allegedly shot execution-style by members of the church after they burned down another church on Short street just off the Old Golden Highway road.

Teboho Tsehle says her 12-year-old daughter Palesa was taken away from school by elders of the church under the pretence that her parents were waiting for her at the church.

"They hypnotised my child. A man who prayed for her suddenly developed a third eye on the forehead. He counted the numbers 1 to 7 and my daughter started to speak in tongues. And since that day there is an unexplained behaviour that I see in her," says the 40-year-old father.

Asked if there are noticeable changes in the child's behaviour, Tsehle simply said her demeanour has changed.

"They gave her instructions to kill me and my other child." He says he took the child to the local Child Protection Unit.

"I could not go to the police because they cannot be trusted," he says.

Word on the street is that pastor Zondo has allegedly corrupted the police with bribes and anything on him will not work.

The church has denied everything said about it.

"Thetha FM, which is entrusted with informing, educating, entertaining and uniting the community created a platform by dedicating a better part of airplay in spreading the rumour that Bishop Zondo is practising witchcraft and kidnapping people.

"But what is strange about these allegations is that not a single criminal case has been laid against the leader of the church with the SAPS. On February 16, the church and its leadership met with the radio station to try to resolve the matter. After intense deliberations, the management of the radio station made an undertaking that they will cease broadcasting these defamatory allegations against Bishop Zondo, but they never stopped," the statement says.

"The church denies these rumours and we are saddened by what occurred in the past two days. Our condolences to the families that lost their loved ones."

In the evening after a Human Rights Day church service, the congregants were trapped in the yard, unable to leave until they were escorted by the police. Those with no cars had to face the prospect of running into the young men who lurked in every corner of the township.

People simply voicing ANC's betrayal

THURSDAYS are suitably boring at the Snorting Grunter - that youth-compatible drinking hole where even the dullest of men can hold an opinion and be stubbornly arrogant about it.

\You can always find someone in your bracket, someone to ferment rebellion with. Everything goes. We clear the cookies from the browser, if you know what I mean.

The debates are more open than the post-coital "so-what-do-we-call-this" chat. We see the seamier side of democracy or, as it were, the dystopian harbingers of this country after downing a few. Suddenly the ugly picture of the simmering witch appears.

The topic was Sharpeville and the enthralling public meltdowns in the townships, famously known as service delivery protests.

The randomness of the strikes says something about the state of the nation.

Batho Pele remains a scripted gimmick. Every day is a stark reminder that the poor do not fit into this fluid "masterpiece" called democracy.

The impression is that to be welcomed into this bus you will have to be bound and gagged. But the question remains. Why was the Sharpeville commemoration moved to Kliptown, a place where the Freedom Charter was adopted?

What is the link, in case we are missing the point? To some the Freedom Charter is a vague document that symbolises the ruling party's grave compromises and ineffectiveness.

Kliptown reminds us that there were flaws in the liberation narrative of the ANC. It reminds us that freedom remains a scare tactic of our times. To the few who still live off the proceeds of Black Consciousness and its philosophy, Sharpeville will always be synonymous with the PAC and its late leader Robert Sobukwe.

For as long as acknowledgements are not done, the people of Sharpeville are justified to grind the socio-politics grievance machine.

Here is the thing. The commemoration was purely moved to erase memory - to deny the survivors and victims of Sharpeville a chance in the sun. It is a cheap, nasty insult and a fine example of how power has become more user-friendly in the so-called democratic South Africa.

And since we are munching down on the ANC's history and its reputation, it will be interesting to get hold of the classified minutes of the Codesa talks to see how this land was divvied up and how far the compromises run.