Catholic priest nabbed for sexually assaulting schoolgirls
Police call for more victims to speak out after Eastern Cape priest arrested for allegedly fondling the girls' breasts
Eastern Cape police are investigating two cases of sexual assault after a priest was arrested for allegedly inappropriately touching two pupils at a Catholic school.
The girls, who are both 19, are at the Mariazell Catholic Mission School in Matatiele. The 45-year-old priest has been arrested and is out on R2,000 bail.
Mount Fletcher police spokesperson Captain Raphael Motloung confirmed the arrests, saying the police were calling on other victims to come forward.
The priest’s arrest comes as the world leaders of the Catholic Church gather in the Vatican to speak about child sex abuse cases associated with their church.
“We can confirm that the Avondale police arrested a priest, aged 45, from one of the main prominent churches in Matatiele region or the world for allegedly sexual assaulting two teenage girls aged 19. The incidents happened at different times,” said Motloung.
Motloung said the pupils had reported the matter to their parents. They are both staying at the school’s boarding facilities.
The first incident occurred in November 2018 but was never reported to the police. The second was on January 30 2019.
“It is alleged that on January 30 this year (2019) the church priest called the victim to his office and told her that he had long been proposing or asking for love to her and it was time for her to love him back,” said Motloung.
The pupil apparently refused this proposal. “The priest allegedly decided to put his hands into her underwear (bra), touching her breast in an unpleasant way, and the victim told him that she did not like what she was doing to her. Despite the refusal by the victim, the priest allegedly continued touching the girl’s breasts. Subsequent to that the girl managed to escape, leaving the priest behind, in the office.”
Motloung said the victim later told her parents about the incident and it was later reported to the school’s management.
The priest was arrested and charged, and he appeared in court. “After he got bail and all that, we heard that there was another case similar to this which was opened at the police. He was then rearrested. The incident also happened at the same school.”
The first incident, in November 2018, had also occurred in the priest’s office. “The victim apparently went to the priest’s office and the suspect told her that he romantically loved her. He then allegedly touched her breast but, shocked with this, she ran away. She didn’t believe what she heard from the priest.”
Father Richard Menatsi of the Mthatha Diocese confirmed that the matter was under investigation.
“As soon as I got this first incident from the church I immediately made contact with the parents of the victim telephonically. When I was on my way to Matatiele from Mthatha I heard that the priest has been arrested by police,” he said.
They had to remove the priest because the matter was under investigation by the police. “I was there in court when he first made his first court appearance. We’ve removed him from the place where the incidents happened as we have to respect the law.”
He said that in mid-April one of the parents phoned him to ask about the progress of the case. “One of the victim’s parents asked why we were quiet about this and I explained that we were quiet as we respected the law. First thing we did was to make sure of how the victims were doing. Victims for us are paramount and that is why we rely on proper truth. Whoever is wrong, we must deal with justice and truth.”
Menatsi urged people to come forward if they have information about more victims.
“Immediately such incidents must be reported and we will investigate such in facts presented to us.”
Motloung said the priest is expected back in court on August 28.
“The two cases have been linked together and the suspect is out on R2,000 bail for both cases. Since he’s from a foreign country, his travelling documents are with the police.”