John Philane Masilela (46), a pastor of the Good Shepherd Church in Suncity, KwaMhlanga in Mpumalanga, was sentenced to 55 years in prison on charges of rape.
“He was found guilty in the KwaMhlanga Regional Court on four charges of rape and seven charges of sexual assault of youth members in his church between 2012 and 2018,” says Monica Nyuswa, spokesperson for the national prosecution authority.
“He presented himself as a prophet of God. He would pray for his victims and touch their private parts under the pretext of preventing them from leading immoral lives. He told the victims that he could see their future and was instructed by God to pray like that. He said if they refuse, bad things will happen to them.”
Masilela pleaded not guilty in court and argued that the victims had given their consent.
State prosecutor Bianca Harmse led seven victims’ testimony in court. The court heard how Masilela would quote scriptures and argued that the victims would be protected from wrong women if he touched their genitals.
The state argued the defendant abused his power and abused the victims’ faith in God to break down any resistance they showed.
Magistrate Merlene Greyvenstein said the accused was a sexual predator who harassed the youth of his parish. She found him to be a “blatant liar who told his victims bad things would happen to them if they didn’t do as he said”. “He argued that he was a Christian, but did not think it was wrong to act immorally.”
Masilela was sentenced to 10 years in prison on each of the four charges of rape and five years in prison on each of the seven charges of sexual assault. Four of the sexual assault sentences will be served concurrently with the rape charges related to the same victims. He was also declared incompetent to own a firearm.
Nyuswa says the NPA welcomes the sentence.