Africa

South Africa police investigate 'snake pastor' church raid

A woman attacked at church service Image copyright Oupa Mokoena/Pretoria News
Image caption A woman was attacked apparently because of a belief that she had food in her hair

South African police are investigating the raid of a church run by a self-styled prophet accused of making his followers eat snakes, rats and hair.

Opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party activists disrupted a service near the capital, Pretoria, and a tent was burnt down in the fracas.

Pastor Penuel Mnguni gained notoriety after photos showed him dangling a live snake into a man's mouth.

However, police withdrew charges of animal cruelty against him.

Police spokesman Mathews Nkoadi said in July that there were no witness statements and insufficient evidence to bring a case.

Dubbed the "snake pastor", Mr Mnguni runs the End Times Disciples Ministries in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria.

The EFF said that they had raided a service on Sunday because they wanted Mr Mnguni to "lead by example" and eat snakes and rats.

But EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi tweeted that the pastor "ran away" so they were unable to confront him. Mr Mnguni has not commented on the raid.

Image copyright Oupa Mokoena/Pretoria News
Image caption People at the service on Sunday ate leaves
Image copyright Oupa Mokoena/Pretoria News
Image caption They were also offered toilet paper

EFF activists advanced on the church carrying mice and small lizards, South Africa's Pretoria News reports.

"We are fighting corruption and this man is [allegedly] a prime example of that," EFF official Mandisa Mashego is quoted as saying.

'Heretical'

EFF activists left after a tent from the church was brought down and set ablaze; the congregation then continued with the service.

In one instance, a young man attacked a journalism student and tried to bite her hair after being told by a preacher that there was food in it, Pretoria News reports.

Image copyright Oupa Mokoena/Pretoria News
Image caption The church's activities have been condemned by mainstream church leaders

Last week, the mainstream South African Council of Churches condemned such churches as "heretical".

"There are people who are trying to make money off the desperation of people, and that is exactly why you need some sort of mechanism for serving a standard on how churches are run," said its general secretary Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana.

South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with a high rate of unemployment and poverty.

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