About 10 men and women who claimed to be congregants at the church led by rape-accused pastor William Emeka prayed for him to be released on bail at the Bronkhorstspruit Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
The group prayed shortly after Emeka appeared in the same court for a formal bail application. The 43-year-old Emeka, who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo, faces four counts of rape and two of sexual assault.
Congregant Maria Sithole told African News Agency (ANA) that she believed Emeka was innocent.
“I will always pray for him to get bail,” said Sithole.
Wilson Ngobeni, another follower, described Emeka as a polite person.
“Our pastor cannot rape members of his congregation in his church,” said Ngobeni.
Investigating officer, Sergeant Matlou Mabusha, earlier told the court that the alleged rapes took place at Emeka’s two unnamed churches in Bronkhorstspruit and Ekangala, east of Pretoria.
He said records from the department of home affairs showed that Emeka left South Africa for Eswatini in May 2015. The details of his return were not reflected on the same system, said Mabusha, who was responding to questions posed by state prosecutor Ntando Humana.
The state is opposing bail.
“He can easily leave South Africa if granted bail and not come back to this court,” said Mabusha.
“I think he will also interfere with the investigation. Some witnesses said they are scared of him because they are also members of his church.”
Defence attorney Andrew Maoba told the court that Emeka would not desert his unemployed wife and their two children to flee the country. He called Mabusha’s claims “biased”.
“I put it to you that the accused person is in this country legally because he has a valid passport,” said Maoba.
Magistrate M.K. Chauke postponed the matter to Friday for judgment.
Emeka was arrested in November last year. He is alleged to have asked four female congregants to take off their clothes before “anointing” them with oil. He then allegedly raped them. The alleged crimes took place in Bronkhorstspruit.
– African News Agency (ANA)