Department of Health MEC, Phophi Ramathuba welcomed the Limpopo High Court ruling of the presiding Judge, George Phatudi, in the case of the so-called ‘Doom’ pastor, Lethebo Rabalago, a pastor of the Mount Zion Christian Assembly in Zebediela, when Phatudi extended an earlier ruling made last year, that Rabalago may not spray any congregant or visitor to his church with the insecticide Doom or use any form of harmful substance or administer orally any harmful liquid or give instructions that such an act must be performed.
Ramathuba said “We believe this will be a lesson to many other pastors who use these unusual practices against the poor and vulnerable members of our society. We will also as the department run various health education programmes with a view of helping our people to understand the effects of some of these practices.”
Blessing Selepe, President of the Limpopo Ministers’ Fraternal (LMF) said the organisation is delighted about the verdict issued by the judge and said it has campaigned since 1999 for a system to be created to hold religious leaders and their entire membership accountable for doctrinal
practices. He said in the past year they saw, heard and noted high levels of religious extremism when witnessing congregants eat grass, leaves, mice, drinking petrol and spraying Doom and thanked the Department of Health for taking the matter to court.
The Department of Health asked for an interdict against Rabalago and other congregants towards the end of last year after photos of him spraying his congregants with Doom went viral on the Internet and in the media.
Phatudi said he did not make a judgment in this first-of-its-kind court case and will reserve the full text of his order to be delivered in due course. The respondent was ordered to pay all costs.
After the applicant and the respondent’s legal representatives had argued their cases Phatudi said both argued quite persuasively for their clients. He said it was a unique case with new facts in the law and democracy and he has to apply his mind carefully on the novelty of the matter.
“The public is looking for outcomes and a judgment will have far-reaching consequences and set a precedent for the entire country,” he said. “It is one of those matters that has drawn huge public interest.”
The arguments about state and law and religion and faith had Phatudi asking questions which had both counsels digging deep for answers to substantiate their arguments, and also made those who attended the case think deeply about beliefs and believing, psychological healing and the law, as discussions after the case were evidence of.
Story: NELIE ERASMUS