A priest in South Africa is facing trial for animal cruelty after he fed his congregation live snakes in a bizarre ritual to test their faith.
Penuel Mnguni quoted verses from the Bible as he told his followers that mouthfuls of the reptiles would taste like chocolate.
In extraordinary pictures the controversial priest, 27, performed ‘miracles’ by turning one parishoner into a horse and climbing on his back, he fed a young girl the hair of another worshipper and put a purple rag into the mouth of another.
Scroll down for video
Protected species: The priest was arrested after South Africa’s largest animal charity, the SPCA, brought charges of animal cruelty against him
Delicious: The popular pastor told his congregation that the snakes would taste like chocolate, before telling them to eat the live snake. He told another believer to eat a fellow worshipper’s hair (right)
Mnguni calls himself ‘Prophet Penuel’ and his congregation boast he is a ‘man of God’ with the power to perform miracles.
They said he has the power to put worshippers into a trance and turn them into horses – and turn live snakes into chocolate.
The self-styled ‘prophet’ was arrested after South Africa’s biggest animal charity, the SPCA tipped off police.
SPCA inspector Andrew Kekana said that Mnguni had caught protected snakes from the bush near the End Times Disciples Ministries Church in Shshanguve, north of Pretoria, South Africa.
‘He was doing a lot of things that were unacceptable, both to his congregation and the snakes,’ he told MailOnline.
‘But our jurisdiction only relates to animals, so we can only lay a charge against him for that.
‘The pictures are evidence of illegal possession of indigenous protected snakes and cruelty to them.
‘We have asked other pastors to help raise awareness against animal cruelty, and if snakes or other animals are abused in this way, the SPCA will act.’
‘Prophet’ Penuel Mnguni STANDS on a woman during service
Test of faith: Pastor Penuel Mnguni fed live snakes to his congregation at the End Times Disciples Ministries Church, north of the capital Pretoria, in South Africa
Spiritual food: Controversial priest Mnguni also feeds his congregation with pieces of paper and items of clothing including this piece of purple cloth
‘Miracles’: The ‘Prophet’ boasts about being able to transform his congregation into horses by putting them in a trance-like state, and riding them around the room
The last reptile to be eaten, which prompted the SPCA to act, was a Striped Skaapsteker.
The protected species, which grows to around of 60cm, is indigenous to South Africa and does not pose a threat to humans.
On the church’s Facebook page, there are disturbing photos of worshippers performing humiliating acts to prove the strength of their belief.
On the site one parishoner wrote: ‘Those with little faith eat only vegetables but the ones with a great faith eat everything.
‘During the service the Man of God commanded a snake to change into a chocolate and it obeyed. People ate it and enjoyed it.’
Another commented: ‘The Man of God summoned a guy called Thabiso and by the power of God he commanded him to turn into a horse and indeed it happened. The man of God then rode on it. To God Be The Glory.’
One added: ‘The Man of God held a woman’s braid church and people ate it. Its taste was more delicious than cake.’
But the ‘Prophet’ has been accused on social media of being ‘satanic’.
Last mouthful: The last reptile to be used was the Striped Skaapsteker. The protected species of snake is native to South Africa and poses no threat to humans
Morongwa Thapelo Chiloane wrote on Facebook: ‘Eating a snake with a holy Bible in your hand? Satanic.’
Calvin Mokabane added: ‘This young man is out of his mind. We should condemn this kind of satanic behaviour.’
Gift Murwisi added: ‘You mustn’t call him a pastor. People just want to be famous even if it means working with the devil. Jesus fed the hungry using common food. These people need spiritual food not snakes.’
Arno Naude, from Snake Bite Assist and Transvaal Herpetological Association, said he was pleased police had moved to stop the ‘heinous crimes committed by the pastor’.
Mr Naude told the Cape Times: ‘We were dismayed at the sheer arrogance displayed by the pastor by being able to con people into killing a live snake in such an inhumane way.
Dismayed: Facebook comments about the service claim that the ‘Man of God’ transformed the flavour of the snake so that it would taste like chocolate
‘Satanic’: A number of Facebook users have called Mnguni’s ‘miracles’, which include sending his followers into a trance-like ‘sleep’ and walking on them, the work of Satan
‘The capturing, selling and certainly killing of indigenous snakes is illegal and we want to make sure that he is stopped in his tracks.
‘We spend our whole lives trying to capture and remove the snakes from people’s homes and set them free in a safe environment. Can you imagine how it would be to eat the snake bit by bit while it is alive?’
Following a brief court appearance, Mnguni was released on a bail of £75 and will reappear at a later date