Stock baptism image via Pexels.
IN a piece that appears to partially deflect blame for the tragedy that occurred last month, Christianity Daily yesterday carried a report that suggested that South Africans as a whole have not come to terms with climate change.
The Christian news outlet quoted Retief Müller, a South African theologian and a church historian, as saying that people are quick to blame marginal groups as a way of “avoiding complexity and complicity.”
This is not to defend the pastor, but it is important to be aware of the wider context. Given what we know of the history of xenophobia and anti-foreigner sentiment in various parts of South Africa, including in the Johannesburg area, negative feelings against this church leader might have existed even before the tragedy.
The pastor, identified as “prophet” Kind Kupe from neighboring Zimbabwe, was among those rescued after after he led his flock into the Jukskei River in early December.
According to News24, he did a runner after local residents blamed him for the tragedy, which claimed the lives of 15, including a baby aged just three months.
He is now back in Zimbabwe with his wife.
His landlady said in this Opera News report:
That man is so kind, like his name. What happened was truly a tragedy. He is not to blame. It was a natural disaster, but I don’t think that is how many people see it.
She sure got that right.
People had urged Kupe to stop his baptisms
Linda Twala, a resident of Alexandra, said many people had urged the pastor to stop his river baptisms but that plea fell on deaf ears.
Many have called for this pastor to stop what he is doing, but he still continues putting other people’s lives at risk. The entire township has been affected by this.
Twala questioned the rituals performed by the pastor.
I know that baptism is something that has been happening for a very long time, but for someone to be baptised at a river with that heavy flow of water is dangerous.
People are now angry because lives have been lost. Many want to see this pastor to know what exactly happened.
Tefo Raphadu, a ward councillor in Alexandra, echoed Twala’s sentiments. He said:
All of us are concerned. We want to get to the bottom of what happened, and the pastor is the one who can give us those details. There have been posters saying ‘Ukuphi, ukuphi? (Where is he?)’. People are looking for him. He needs to be found so that he can fill in the missing pieces around this story.
Raphadu said it would be difficult to tell if the pastor was genuine or not, but fleeing counted against him.
His actions now don’t go well with him. If he was honest and this was a genuine accident, he should have been here to fill in the missing gaps around this story and be there to comfort the families.
According to Baptist News, Nomusa Bandile lost a teenage daughter in the tragedy. She said:
Our so-called pastor is now on the run, what a cruel fraudster.
There is a growing toll of worshippers losing their lives during flash floods that are now making open-river baptisms deadly in South Africa.
In December 2021, floods swept away a 21-year-old priest and a 41-year-old woman whom he was baptizing in the Free State, in central South Africa.
On the last day of 2022, three more people drowned during a river baptism ceremony gone wrong in Soweto, the most populous Black township in South Africa.
• Please help me keep The Angry Atheist going. You can support my work in three ways: via PayPal, Buy Me a Coffee or GofundMe.
If you spot any typos in this piece, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Use this address to send me links to stories you believe would be a good fit for this site.
Leave a Reply