The arrest of the Nigerian Pastor Timothy Omotoso by the Hawks in Port Elizabeth earlier in 2017 on charges of human trafficking – a schedule six offence grabbed the interest of the nation.
The self-proclaimed prophet and leader of the Jesus Dominon International Church remains in custody as two attempts for bail, due to the nature of the charges have failed.
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 as young as 14 years old, 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.
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.
Hawks spokesperson, lieutenant colonel Robert Netshiunda says investigations are underway.
“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.”
But, the flamboyant pastor enjoys huge support. The allegations against him have not deterred those who believe in his innocence.
His supporters are always in support at his court appearance. They are calling on God to assist the man.
He is hailed as a righteous leader by his congregants and a god fearing man.
The state believes Omotoso is a flight risk.
Tsepo Ndwalaza the Regional National Prosecuting Authority 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.”
Religious leaders are also making their voices heard calling on elderly church members to become more active in the church, bishop Nkosinathi Regan Lubuzo, African national council of bishops elaborates.
“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 going to contribute and that alone is going to help our people understand if the church is performing the right things and if they are victimising.”
Louise Malan Clinical Physcologist says the massive support Omotoso enjoy has been labelled worshipping and is apparently not uncommon.
The SABC also secured an exclusive interview with people from the Jesus Dominion Church.
They believe it’s a spiritual attack. Anelisa Venge a church member and resident at mission house says the church is their home.
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