Chaos erupted outside the Port Elizabeth High Court on Wednesday when Pastor Timothy Omotoso’s lawyer, Peter Daubermann, was harassed and followed to his car by a group of angry protesters.
The protesters were among the #TotalShutDown movement at court to support State witness Cheryl Zondi, 22, who was under cross-examination for the third day.
Protesters hurled comments at Daubermann calling him a “rubbish [for] defending a rapist”, they demanded that he drop the case and threatened that they knew where he lived.
Enraged the protesters threw water at Daubermann as police escorted him to his car parked at the back of the building.
Meanwhile, Omotoso’s supporters as well as protesters at court to support survivors of rape, clashed in the street shortly after the trial was adjourned for the day.
Tensions were high and law enforcement had their hands full as both police and metro police officers formed a barrier around the two opposing groups who hurled insults and attacked one another.
Protesters outside court to support Zondi verbally attacked a woman they identified as Zoleka Ncapai. They claimed she was a social worker and called her a “sell out for supporting a rapist”.
Ncapai was seen with the Omotoso congregation and was followed to her car while angry protesters gave her a tongue lashing.
Police also prevented the women from coming close to Omotoso’s co-accused Zukiswa Sitho and Lusanda Sulani as they left court.
The women continued to chant: “Rapist! Rapist! Rapist!”
Omotoso’s wife, Taiwo, used an alternative exit to leave the court as protesters waited for her in the front of the building.
Before the case was adjourned for the day, Judge Mandela Makaula wished Zondi well with her examinations which are due to start on Monday.
Zondi will return to court for the continuation of her cross-examination after her exams. She is studying marketing at the University of Johannesburg.
“On behalf of this court we wish you well in your exams. You must concentrate on yourself and your future. You are not doing this for yourself, you doing it on behalf of justice,” Makaula said.
Makaula advised Zondi to forget about the trial and focus on her examinations and her future.
Earlier in the day, Zondi told the court how she feared police members.
The defence had asked her about her planned escape from the mission house in Durban during August 2015.
Zondi said that she was in communication with her mother in planning her escape from the house. She said she needed money to leave. Zondi said she refused to give her mother the pastor’s address, because she feared her mother would contact the South African Police Service (SAPS).
“How can I trust the police, they were his security protocol at church, they took off their jackets so [Omotoso] could walk over it,” she said.
Zondi said police members adored the televangelist and were instructed by him to wear their official SAPS uniform.
Zondi said she did not trust the police because they escorted Omotoso in and out of the church auditorium.
Daubermann asked her why she never asked her grandmother for assistance or money in planning her escape, at which point Zondi started crying and explained that she felt shame with her grandmother believing she was an “untainted” girl.
Zondi had earlier told the court that she decided to rejoin the church to “get closure”, saying she wanted an apology from Omotoso for raping and sexually abusing her and she was promised by other church girls that things had changed. She was hopeful that the rape and sexual violation of her body was a thing of the past.
But she quickly realised that nothing had changed and claimed she was repeatedly raped and held prisoner upon her return to Jesus Dominion International (JDI) church and the mission house.
Zondi also detailed how she became aggressive and depressed in 2014, a year before she rejoined JDI.
She said she attempted to commit suicide and her mother and brother made her see a therapist for a short period of time.
“I would drink a lot of alcohol, I would be angry and aggressive to my family, I would wear all black, I was just very sad,” said Zondi.
”There was a point I became overwhelmed and tried to commit suicide.”
Zondi joined JDI at the age of 13 in 2009. The following year she said she travelled frequently to a house in Umhlanga where Omotoso would sexually abuse her.
Daubermann however, put it to Zondi, that Omotoso was leasing the property, and a lease agreement showed that he had only taken occupation of the house between February 2011 to January 2013.
Zondi however, maintained that she was raped repeatedly at that house in 2010 and the rape continued for more than two years after that at various locations in the country and around the world.
The Nigerian pastor faces 63 main charges and 34 alternative counts which include human trafficking, rape, sexual assault racketeering and conspiracy in aiding another person to commit sexual assault.
His two alleged henchwomen, Sulani and Sitho are accused of recruiting girls from all over the country for purposes of sexual exploitation.
The 58-year-old televangelist allegedly trafficked more than 30 girls and women who were from various branches of his church to a house in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal, where he allegedly sexually exploited them.
The trial continues on Monday.
Source: African News Agency (ANA)