According to an exposé in The Times, South Africa’s largest newspaper, the South African church Shembe Nazareth (eBuhleni) is accused of beating 50 men for being gay. As if that weren’t bad enough, the men must then pay a “damage” fee for “shaming” the church.
Dumisani Ngcobo is a 43-year-old man from the South African city of Pietermaritzburg and a member of Shembe Nazareth. He and other men were sleeping in a tent at the South African church’s annual gathering at Ekhenana Mountain in the South African town of Tongaat. Ngcobo says he lost his phone during the night, and while looking for it, he accidentally touched another man.
Ngcobo was then called before the preacher and the elders of the church. He said:
The preacher had warned me that if I didn’t plead guilty, he would kill me. I did admit I touched him. I was saving my life. I said I touched him intentionally.
After that I was called into a room. The preacher told me to take off my church robe. I lay down on a straw mat. He took a huge stick and started beating me. I was beaten from the head to the legs. He went on until I was helpless. I was numb and I was bleeding from head to toe. He told me to leave and never look back.
A spokesperson for the church, Thokozani Mncwabe, said that the church doesn’t allow sexual activities during the annual gathering, and church policy is that anyone who goes against the rules must pay the “damage” fee. However, he also said, “People should not be beaten. That is against the church.”
Another anonymous victim who identifies as gay came forward as well, explaining:
They used sticks. We were taken into hospitals close to homes. My family knows but they are silencing everything. They are scared of shaming the church. But we have been silent enough about this. Being gay does not mean we are not humans.
It reminds us of the film Brazil, where after being tortured, you were presented with a bill for the torturer’s time — which was based on a real historical practice during the Middle Ages.
Featured image of Dumisani Ngcobo by Nompendulo Ngubane courtesy of The Times