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2023/09/05      |  Written By:  Colonel D Mdhluli   |   Province:  Mpumalanga

Nelspruit: 05 September 2023  - The Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela has welcomed a hefty sentence imposed upon a Pastor by the name of John Philani Masilela (46). The accused was sentenced on 01 September 2023 by the Kwamhlanga Regional Court for a string of sexual related offences. The court heard how the accused sexually abused about eight teenage boys from his congregation between the year 2012 and 2020. The ages of the victims range between 15 and 20 years.

According to the record, the Pastor would call his victims to the church and said that he wants to groom and teach them about manhood. As they came to church, he would tell them to take off their clothes and that was the time he would start to sexually molest them.

Thereafter he often told his victims to take naked pictures of themselves and share them with him. It was further revealed in court that he would also convience his victims that they were specially chosen therefore they were supposed not to tell anyone about the abuse. As a result, the victims trusted him as their Pastor and church leader as they thought this was how things were done in church.

One of the young boys, aged 16 became brave and broke the silence in May 2020 by coming out of the pain he was subjected to for a very long time. He did this by informing his parents about the ordeal and that was when his elder brother also attested that he too was victimised by Masilela.

The matter was reported to the Police that month (May 2020). Members of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) at Kwamhlanga were assigned to probe these atrocious acts. It was during the investigation when it transpired that other six members of the same church were sexually abused by him as well. Additional cases from the other victims were then added against the accused as the number of victims grew to join the queue. Thanks to the boy who took the first step which encouraged his fellow peers to also come out and tell their stories.

The accused was then arrested in the same month of May 2020 then charged for multiple counts of rape, sexual assault as well as child pornography. He was taken to court and because of the overwhelming evidence presented by the state against him, he was convicted hence sentenced as follows:

The accused got ten (10) years imprisonment on each of the four counts of rape. He was further sentenced to five years imprisonment for each of the seven counts of sexual assault.

The court ordered that for each count of rape will be coupled with a count of sexual assault meanwhile the remaining (03) counts of sexual assault will run separately. This implies that the accused will serve effective 55 years behind bars. However, the accused was acquitted on four counts of pornography or sexual exploitation.

The Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela applauded the investigation team for the job well done and further admired with much appreciation the hardwork by the Prosecution team as well as the Judiciary which culminated into the hefty sentence imposed upon the accused. "We hope that the sentence will send a strong message to those who abuse children that it is just a matter of time before they are caught. This should also encourage other victims to break the silence and report the perpetrators. What disturbs the most is the fact that in this instance the children were victimised by someone who was regarded as a person who was supposed to shield them as a pastor, " said the General.