“The last time I saw Sikhumbuzo was earlier this month when I was asked to phone his parents so they could go and fetch him.
“He had a runny tummy and the people there [at the church] said they’d had to tie him up because he was a problem,” Tshangisa said.
“He was [allegedly[ stealing food and stuff.
“No one is forced to come to the church, it is voluntary, so you can’t blame anyone for what has happened to [Sikhumbuzo].”
His parents said they were speaking out to alert the public to the dangers of referring epileptic and mentally challenged people to faith healers.
Eastern Cape health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said: “People should take responsibility for their relatives, especially mental healthcare users.
“They should not take them to untrained individuals but to health facilities for assessment and treatment [and] stop the myths of believing their relatives may be bewitched.”
Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said police were aware of Sikhumbuzo’s case and that an investigation was under way.
“We understand the victim was severely dehydrated in addition to his injuries,” Beetge said.
“We will await the doctor’s report before taking any further action.”
Dora Nginza social worker Pamela Rubushe said there had been at least two other similar cases previously allegedly involving the ZCC.
“One was an epileptic [woman] who was rescued by a councillor in Kwazakhele to whom she ran for help after she was [allegedly] tied up and beaten [last year],” she said.
“In another incident, a teenage boy was allegedly assaulted at the ZCC in Kwazakhele early this year.”
The ZCC had initially promised to respond to detailed requests for comment by midday yesterday.
However, a church spokesman, the Rev Emanuel Motolla, did not respond to several calls, e-mails and messages sent throughout the day.