The trial of controversial pastor Timothy Omotoso resumes in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday. The Constitutional Court recently dismissed an application by Omotoso’s legal team to appeal a ruling that it had jurisdiction to hear all the 97 charges against the leader of Jesus Dominion International church and his two co-accused, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho.
Omotoso and his co-accused face charges ranging from rape and human trafficking to racketeering.
Omotoso’s legal team suffered yet another blow when they lost their bid at the highest court in the land. The Constitutional Court found that there were no reasonable prospects of success and no tangible reasons why an appeal should be heard.
This relates to defence lawyer Peter Daubermann who argued that the Port Elizabeth High Court did not, in fact, have jurisdiction to hear all the charges on the indictment.
The Defence argued that certain merits to the case should be heard in their respective courts.
In November, Dauberman filed an application to overrule the decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal, to give the Port Elizabeth court jurisdiction over all charges.
The trial initially started in 2018
The first witness at that time, 22-year-old Cheryl Zondi, testified that Omotoso allegedly sexually groomed and raped her since she was 14-years-old.
Several organisations and the public supported her in court. On social media people applauded her for being brave and fearless in the way she dealt with the questions.
She was visibly overcome with emotion during her testimony.
2018 court proceedings below:
Zondi told the court she decided to escape as she was fed up with pleasing the Nigerian pastor.
Zondi said she had enough of pleasing Omotoso sexually, could not hide her feelings longer and was continuously harassed and confronted by him.
She broke down when she described how she called her aunt who organised a taxi.
She threw her bag through a window, leaving a lot of clothes behind and later escaped from the mission house while all were sleeping and got into the taxi.
Church leaders slammed Omotoso
Pastor Siyabonga Malinga took to social media at the time to question why South Africa is sinking even deeper into a moral abyss, while apathy prevails.
“There is something that needs to happen from the church’s side to ensure that leaders in churches do what they ought to prevent these things from happening. Leaders must step in and be able to confront what we are dealing within society. Some people take advantage of the situation. The Bible speaks about knowing those who labour among you. We see people coming up in this nation in disguise as men of God,” Pastor Malinga said in 2018.
Omotoso’s Jesus Dominion International Church was shut down due to protests by members of the community, the African National Congress and the Economic Freedom Fighters. EFF Ward Secretary in the Nelson Mandela Bay, Vusumzi Gqalane said it was their aim to shut down the church.
“We’ve said we are going to shut it down and they said to us they won’t shut down. But yesterday we shut down the church and today we are going to court to support the victims. We say that it cannot be business as usual as we must support the victims. We see many women are supporting this man and in our view, the church is not what it says it is. It can’t be that women are the ones that support a person who has committed tragic crimes like this.”
The trial was abandoned in 2018
The judge in the controversial rape trial Mandela Makaula recused himself from the case in the Port Elizabeth High Court. This came after pressure from Omotoso’s legal team accusing him of being biased towards the first witness, Cheryl Zondi.
Judge Makaula’s decision to recuse himself relates to his wife’s ownership of a guesthouse where some of the state witnesses in the trial were accommodated at the time.