Bishop and church member drown during baptism

Surviving pastor says he will never baptize again

While many churches remembered Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and death and were preparing to celebrate his resurrection on Easter Monday,a terrible tragedy befell the Dipula Tsa Medupe Apostolic Church in Zion; their bishop and a member who was being baptized drowned in the Mmakgodumo Dam in Kanye early Sunday morning. Bishop Ophaketse Keabaitse, 50, of Metlojane Village near Kanye, and a member of the congregation, Johannes Ikgopoleng, of Molepolole, drowned in the dam around 5a.m.; their bodies were recovered by the police’ Special Support Groups (SSG) officers three hours later.
In an interview with The Gazette, a pastor who performed the baptism alongside Bishop Keabaitse and who survived the drowning, Ntuke Mosokotso, said they had already baptized 10 other church members before the horrific incident happened.


He said Ikgopoleng was not scheduled for baptism, but he insisted on being baptized. “He entered the water and when the bishop and I began baptizing him, he started tossing and turning in the water as though having seizure, until I missed a stepand fell down.


“I tried to regain my balance,but he pushed against us and the three of us fell together into the water again. I managed to pull myself up and lifted my arm; fortunately a church member grabbed hold of my hand and pulled me out. This was the first time such an incident had happened in our church,” he said.


Asked what might have gone wrong, Pastor Mosokotso was not certain, “but sometimes if the ancestors are not happy about something, they have away of taking you away,” he said, adding that he will never perform a baptism again.


Interviewed, an eye-witness who is also a church member said on arrival at the dam the pastor and the bishop entered the dam to check the level of the water. After locating a spot, the two men invited seven church members to join them in the water, which they did. “They baptized the fi rst six, then invited the seventh (Ikgopoleng), who was supposed to be the last for the day, to enter the water.


“They immersed the deceased (member) once, but on the second attempt, he started acting strangely as if overcome by spirits. The pastor and the bishop tried to restrain him, but he overpowered them; the pastor gave up and came out of the water,
leaving the two men.” The witness said it was then that the two men drowned in the dam.


Superintendent Baakile Moshashane of the Sejelo Police Station, confi rming the incident, warned people not to go into the dam because it is very deep. He said the deceased men’s bodies were recovered a meter away from the spot they were conducting the baptism.
Bangwaketse Deputy Paramount Chief, Kebapetse Telekelo, told The Gazette that Mmakgodumo Dam has a history
of people drowning inside it during baptism ceremonies, or when they went to swim. He said the dam is very dangerous
and advised people to avoid getting inside it.