More than 30 people, including young men and women, have come forward to report sexual abuse by religious leaders since the launch of the Cheryl Zondi Foundation.
Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, deputy chair of the foundation, told SowetanLIVE that the foundation had already started helping young women and men who reported cases of alleged abuse in sacred spaces.
Cheryl Zondi, who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Nigerian televangelist Timothy Omotoso, officially launched the foundation on December 4.
She said it would help people who had been sexually abused in sacred spaces including churches and places of ancestral worship.
Zondi said at the launch that she had started the foundation because “there is a lack of awareness … People out there are warned to be careful when they are out at night, but they are not necessarily warned when they are going to a church, a traditional space, ancestral space or any other kind of religious setting”.
Mkwanazi-Xaluva said several young men and women had come forward saying they were abused in sacred spaces. They included young men from Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, who alleged that a pastor at a church was abusing them.
“The boys have also alleged that the same pastor is intimidating them, so we are taking them to places where they can get help,” said Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.
She said one of the foundation’s objectives was to ensure that male victims of sexual abuse were absorbed by the system and did not get turned away when they went to open cases at police stations.
“The system is not working in their favour. It is not ready to absorb them because there is a stigma attached to men who get sexually abused.”
The foundation, according Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, will embark on nationwide public awareness campaigns.
“We want to reach high schools across the country to warn young people of the dangers they may face in sacred spaces. We will also reach out to communities to raise awareness.”
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said there would be a big fundraising drive in 2019.
“We need resources and we are calling on churches to also donate to the foundation. But that does not mean that we will not call them out when there are allegations of sexual abuse against religious leaders from those churches.”
Zondi will launch an awareness campaign at the University of Johannesburg early in 2019, added Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.
“We encourage people to visit our social media pages for more information and to get in touch with us.”
Omotso’s trial will resume on February 4.