- A Limpopo pastor will appear in court on charges of animal abuse.
- He allegedly poured oil and salt over the head of an owl found at the church property.
- The pastor allegedly claimed the owl was an evil spirit, as it had appeared during the day.
A Limpopo pastor faces animal cruelty charges after allegedly capturing an owl – claiming it was an evil spirit – and covering it in anointing oil during a church service.
Pastor Charles Mudau of the Potter’s House Word Church, situated at Muduluni village in the Kutama area, along with three congregants, was taken into custody by police in Tshilwavhusiku after a report was made by the SPCA, said National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi.
The accused reportedly appeared in the Tshilwavhusiku Magistrate’s Court on 11 August.
Mudau referred News24 to his lawyer, Andani Matumba. She declined to comment as the matter is before the court.
Malabi-Dzhangi said the pastor was accused of “deliberately torturing and abusing a barn owl accused of evil practices”, after a video of the abuse was shared on social media.
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Louis Trichardt SPCA inspector Lawrence Khodobo said he had been notified of the videos on social media, which showed the animal being “anointed” and having salt poured in its eyes.
He visited the church, where he confirmed that congregants had spotted the juvenile barn owl on a pole around 10 metres from the church on Sunday 16 July.
The owl had then flown onto the roof of the church, and congregants had used a ladder and wooden pole to knock it to the ground. It was then pinned down with a pole, before being carried into the church.
According to the Limpopo Mirror, a livestream video shared on the pastor’s social media pages, which has since been removed, showed a congregant holding the owl while Mudau carried out a “cleansing ceremony”. It appears the abuse was filmed by another congregant.
The owl, which was being held down, appeared distressed and attempted to escape. The video showed the owl being held by its wings. It was later released and struggled to walk or flap its wings.
According to Khodobo, based on the video footage, the bird’s wing had probably been broken.
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He visited the church, where he confirmed the incident through interviews. He said the churchgoers, who had been surprised to see an owl during daylight, had claimed it was “an evil spirit”.
Khodobo said that while owls were predominantly nocturnal, they were sometimes active during the day.
In some cultures, an owl is viewed as a bad omen.
Khodobo said that it was unclear what had happened to the owl after the abuse, adding that he was worried about its safety.
It’s very wrong of them to release the animal without any care. It was wet from the oil, so it probably couldn’t fly and you could see it was struggling to walk. You can imagine, if you had salt poured into your eyes, that it must have been very painful.
Khodobo urged the public to leave owls alone, or to report sightings to the SPCA if they were concerned over the bird’s welfare.
He added that if Mudau and his co-accused were found guilty, they could face fines of up to R40 000 or 12 months imprisonment.
“Those animals are also God’s creatures. What are they teaching their followers and children?”
According to Malabi-Dzhangi, all the accused were granted free bail and the case has been postponed to 31 October to allow for further investigation.