ANC heavyweights Fikile Mbalula and Pule Mabe this weekend formed part of the Zondo congregation in the Vaal.
CONTROVERSIAL televangelist and alleged rapist Bishop Stephan Zondo of the Rivers of Living Water Church has become the latest election campaign “gimmick” for the ANC, triggering an outcry from gender-based violence activists.
The ANC’s head of elections, Fikile Mbalula, and the party’s spokesperson, Pule Mabe, this weekend formed part of the Zondo congregation in the Vaal. The event was a holy communion service at Unitas Park in Vereeniging on Saturday.
Zondo has been accused of multiple cases of rape by members of his church.
Activists from People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) said the governing party should not have graced the occasion.
Powa spokesperson Thandiwe McCloy accused the ANC of not taking the high levels of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country seriously.
“The governing party must not be seen to be aligned to those who perpetrate abuse, especially against women … They are not sending a message that is helping to fight gender-based violence, which is a pandemic in the country,” McCloy said.
She added that although Zondo was not convicted of rape, the allegations were disturbing and the ANC should have distanced itself from individuals who stand accused, convicted or not, of gender-based violence.
“They are not showing enough political will in terms of ensuring that the national strategic plan on gender-based-violence and femicide is implemented as effectively as possible,” she said .
Activists from the Sister Keepers Movement said this was a desperate move from the governing party to garner support in the run-up to the local government elections on November 1.
Sisters Keepers Movement activist Lebo Moemisi said the governing party is desperate for votes.
“They shouldn’t be [associating with people like Zondo], especially as the leading party, they are hypocrites, how do the victims feel, how should the victims feel?” Moemisi said.
“Gender-based violence is a pandemic like Covid-19 in this country. The ANC should not be associating with people like Zondo.”
Before his court appearance, Zondo made it clear he would plead not guilty to all the charges, including rape, contravention of the Sexual Offences Act and defeating the ends of justice.
It is claimed in the indictment that most of the alleged victims were members of his congregation.
Two out of the 10 charges listed, however, pertain to a child who was either eight or nine years old at the time when she was allegedly raped by Zondo.