The Limpopo High Court has sentenced 58-year-old Pastor James Thubakgale to life imprisonment on Wednesday for rape, common assault and calling a person a witch.
According to National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Mashudu Malabi Dzhangi, Thubakgale of the Devine Deliverance Church, based in Seshego, presented himself to his congregants as a powerful man of God who was able to heal the sick and cast away the devil.
He claimed he had been sent to this world to save them.
Dzhangi said: "He demanded to be called a judge as he was going to be a judge with God on Judgement Day. He instructed congregants to bring all their money and even their retirement savings to church."
"The congregants respected and obeyed his orders as they believed that he was part of the Holy Trinity and was closest to God. Whatever he wanted they would do for him," Dzhangi said.
Thubakgale would target young girls who were under 16 years of age and promised them marriage, telling them it was God himself who wanted them to marry him.
He raped the girls in his motor vehicles, at a lodge and also in rooms which he rented.
Thubakgale induced fear on his victims and told them if they refused to marry or sleep with him, God would punish them for disobedience and there would be death and sickness in their families.
The victims obeyed his rules and when they defied him he would scold them and call them witches who were possessed by evil spirits.
Thubakgale also assaulted them in full view of other fellow congregants.
All these incidences happened between 2010 and 2017.
He is currently in jail after the Mankweng Regional Court sentenced him to two life terms for the rape of two minor girls in 2011 and 2012. He was sentenced on 30 September 2020 for these offences.
State advocate Eric Mabapa asked the court to remove the pastor permanently from the community as he had abused his position of trust.
The court sentenced him to life imprisonment plus 10 years on two counts of rape, common assault and four months for calling a person a witch.