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Omotoso’s arrest – one of biggest stories in SA in 2017

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The arrest of the Nigerian Pastor Timothy Omotoso by the Hawks in Port Elizabeth earlier this year on charges of human trafficking, a schedule 6 offence grabbed the interest of the nation.

The self-proclaimed prophet and leader of the Jesus Dominion International Church remains in custody as two attempts for bail have failed due to the nature of the charges .

He is facing a total of 48 charges. These include sexual assault, human trafficking, rape and an additional five charges relating to the contravention of the Immigration Act.

Omotoso, a 58 year old Nigerian Pastor, is believed to have moved to South Africa in 2001

Omotoso and the Jesus Dominion International came under scrutiny after a news feature on the SABC current affairs programme, Special Assignment, contained claims of sexual abuse from several women at the hands of Omotoso under the pretext of healing.

Some of his alleged victims were as young as 14 years.

The pastor also allegedly evaded arrest by the Hawks several times. He tried to avoid his arrest at the Port Elizabeth airport by first lying about his arrival time and then hiding in a toilet when he found the Hawks and armed members of the South African Police Service’s Tactical Response Team waiting for him.

His dramatic arrest was met with shock by the community and anger by his congregation. His bail proceedings delivered shocking revelations.

The court heard detailed affidavits of victims and that the pastor was in possession of fraudulent travel documents.

There were many discrepancies within the bail applications process.

The state called Ivan Klassen, a departmental official from Home Affairs who told the court in a sworn affidavit that Omotoso was in possession of six passports, but only handed in five of those passports after he was arrested.

The court also heard that an illegal work permit was obtained for the pastor by a member of his church who was working at the Department of Home Affairs and that a senior official within the Hawks were in cahoots with the prophet to get him out of the country.

“The allegations made about the Hawks members or senior officials being involved, or part of the church or having disturbed our operation … we are busy investigating those because we cannot have members inside the Hawks working against us. (Regardless) of the rank; as long as you are standing in front of the law, you will be investigated and if there is a strong evidence that leads to arrest that will be done,” said Hawks Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Robert Netshiunda.

However, the flamboyant pastor enjoys huge support. The allegations against him have not deterred those who believe in his innocence.

His supporters are always present at his court appearance.

They are calling on God to assist the man they call “Daddy”.

He is hailed as a righteous leader by his congregants and a God-fearing man.

Women’s rights groups have also come out to stand for the alleged victims.

“We do believe that we have a case as a country, as a world against the so-called man of God. We will be here until the finality of the case,” said MEC for Social Development Nancy Silwayi.

The state believes Omotoso is a flight risk.

The alleged victims have also been threatened.

“At the moment, we have been informed that there is a serious threat against these girls and the root to follow in situations like that as the NPA is to ensure that all the people being threatened are protected,” said Regional National Prosecuting Authority Tsepo Ndwalaza.

Religious leaders are also making their voices heard calling on elderly church members to become more active in the church.

“People must not run just for miracles. They must know if the church is registered because if you register a church you have to tell the congregants what your church is going to do; what it is going to contribute; how it will be beneficial to the people and the community. And that alone is going to help our people understand if the church is performing the right things and if they are victimising anyone,” said African National Council of Bishops Bishop Nkosinathi Regan Lubuzo.

The massive support Omotoso enjoy has been labelled as worshipping and is apparently not uncommon.

“It’s interesting that they call him daddy, because in their eyes his a perfect father figure. It doesn’t fit that he can have any flaws. So, they deny his flaws to keep him good,” said Clinical Psychologist Louise Malan.

The SABC also secured an exclusive interview with people from the Jesus Dominion Church. They believe it is a spiritual attack.

“Mostly, what I have seen in the ministry, it is a youth ministry. It does not reject people. It is a ministry for people who feel like they have been lost; people who feel like they have been rejected,” said church member and resident at mission house Anelisa Venge.

The Port Elizabeth church has moved a number times as it grew. It finally bought premises in Govan Mbeki Avenue in North End in Port Elizabeth in 2011. It has branches in many other cities in South Africa. The church has become a safe haven for many.

Luvuyo Nyongoma is a reformed gangster who says the pastor brought him closer to God.

“It hurts. I don’t want to lie. If Tim Omotoso is removed from my life I am zero. I would either die or go back to jail, or go back to where I came from. It hurts me a lot, because if it was up to me, and you can replace someone’s place, I would volunteer in court, take him out and put me in,” said Reformed gangster Luvuyo Nyongoma.

The Hawks have also arrested two women in Port Elizabeth in connection the case. They were allegedly recruiting young girls for sexual exploitation.

The said “hench women” are linked to Omotoso.

The state says they allegedly lure young girls to a house in uMhlanga, north of Durban, to be sexually exploited by Omotoso.

One of the accused is eight months pregnant and will return to KwaZulu-Natal to give birth

The second suspect in the matter gave birth five days before she was arrested by the Hawks.

The two women are both out on bail.

The case against Omotoso and his two female co-accused will continue in January 2018.

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