“He took a huge stick and started beating me.”

A South African man says he was beaten by his pastor for being gay and then forced to pay damages for “shaming” his church.

Dumisani Ngcobo, 43, says he’s one of 50 gay men who have been brutally attacked by his pastor at the Shembe Nazareth (eBuhleni) church in Pietermaritzburg, the capital city of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province.

During a church retreat, Ngcobo was sleeping in a tent with other men from his congregation. While reaching for his cell phone, he says he accidentally touched another man, who assumed he was making a pass.

The man reported Ngcobo, who was called before his pastor and other church elders.

“The preacher had warned me that if I didn’t plead guilty he would kill me,” he told Ground Up. “I did admit I touched him. I was saving my life. I said I touched him intentionally.”

After pleading guilty, Ngcobo says he was savagely beaten.

“He took a huge stick and started beating me,” he added. “I was beaten from the head to the legs. He went on until I was helpless. I was numb and I was bleeding from head to toe. He told me to leave and never look back.”

He was then told he’d have to pay a “damage fee” for “shaming” the church, and was suspended from attending other church gatherings.

Ngcobo’s brother, Sipho, says he’s angry at how the situation was dealt with.

“If my brother is gay, they should have dealt with that like a church. The South African Constitution supports gay men… Beating a person because of his sexuality is a crime.”

Founded in 1910, the Shembe Nazareth Baptist Church has approximately four million members throughout South Africa. A spokesperson for the church denied the allegations. “People should not be beaten, that is against the church.”

South Africa has among the highest rates of anti-gay violence in the world, including the “corrective rape” of lesbians: In January, eight suspects were charged with raping and murdering a lesbian couple near Pretoria.

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