Defense in Bishop Zondo’s rape trial disputes expertise of witness

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The defense in the rape trial of Rivers of Living Waters Church founder, Bishop Stephen Zondo, has disputed expertise of a witness on the stand.

It says Investigative Forensic Psychologist, Professor Gerard Labuschagne, should not give an opinion on police-related matters, as he was brought in by the state to give evidence on psychological insights into the delayed reporting of the alleged rapes by complainants.

Zondo faces multiple charges of rape in the Pretoria High Court, as well as attempting to bribe one of his victims to drop charges for offenses committed between the 1980s and 2018. 

Labuschagne interviewed complainants — with each interview at least one-and-a-half hours long. He testified that they feared their alleged assailant because of his standing in the church.

He says they also feared rejection from family and reprisal from church elders, especially after witnessing the treatment of former church members, following sexual abuse allegations against Bishop Zondo in 2012.

He says the complainants, who most were members of his church, viewed him in a God-like status.

CLR Commission hears harrowing allegations against Archbishop Stephen Zondo 12 November 2020:

Senior state prosecutor and advocate, Jennifer Cronje, went on to lead Labuschagne on complainants feeling doubly victimized when reporting the matter to the authorities. But, Zondo’s legal counsel, Advocate Piet Pistorius, objected to this and argued that the witness was on the stand as an expert in psychology, not as a police officer.

“The purpose of this report is to provide psychological insights, now that those psychological insights are introduced, we are now in the realm of the witnesses’ experience as a police officer official, where are we going to stop? I don’t know, it’s inadmissible and irregular.”

However, the state maintains that the professor is qualified to speak on the topic. Labuschagne spent 14 years as the head of the SAPS Investigative Psychology Section. Advocate Cronje says the defense can’t dispute his expertise while it is contained in his CV — which was admitted in court.

“The CV of this witness was accepted by the defense. It was regarded, that the expertise of this witness lay before this court in his lengthy CV has thus far been accepted by the defense.”

The defense continues to dispute Labuschagne’s expertise on police-related matters and says they’re contemplating bringing an Application 173 over the admittance of the evidence.

Bishop Zondo rape trial continues in Pretoria High Court: