Action Story: Congregation of women and children sexually assaulted in church over Easter weekend

By Kaylynn Palm

What was supposed to be a day of prayer ended in extreme trauma for the congregants of the Blessings Zion Church in Khayelitsha – when 19 women were sexually assaulted by two men over the Easter weekend.

The men entered the church and instructed the women, including pensioners and teenagers, to strip and perform sexual acts. The women and their children slept over at the church while preparing for morning service when attacked. They’ve been doing this for five years.

According to police, the men robbed congregants of cellphones and money and sexually assaulted the women – holding a gun to their heads.

One of the women, a pensioner, said that when the men forced their way inside the church, it was loadshedding, around 5 am. “When they came in, they broke the loadshedding lamp and told us to take off our clothes; they even forced some of the clothes off the people inside. They also beat us up with the tables and chairs,” she said.

The woman added that they proceeded to do sexual acts in full view of those in the church. “I was completely shocked when I saw what was happening; I didn’t know what to do. It was like I was in a horror movie. I am still traumatised,” she said.

The men selected two women, a young girl and an elderly lady, to suck their penis and penetrated eight young women using their fingers.

Another woman who was also told to strip naked said they even offered to give the men the three-burner stove to stop what they were doing. “We told them to stop traumatising us, but they didn’t stop. The ordeal took about one and a half hours, which was very long for us,” she said.

She said when the power came back on, they smashed the light on the roof and walked outside with one of the teenage girls. They then ran after him, and the community members were alerted.

The men were arrested and appeared in court on 17 April 2023. The charges against them include three rapes, eight sexual assaults, housebreaking, intent to rob and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

The two men are expected back in court on 14 June. The state finalised testimony to oppose bail this week. The matter has been postponed for arguments.

“The tears were rolling down my cheeks as I spoke to these women, and I was extremely emotional. I am shocked, angry and utterly disgusted by what had occurred,” said Palm.

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