A member of human-trafficking accused Pastor Tim Omotoso’s church will appear in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court today along with two journalists after the three made counterclaims of assault against each other.
The charges relate to an incident on April 20, when three Port Elizabeth journalists visited the Jesus Dominion International Church branch in North End, following the dramatic arrest of its Nigerian pastor.
eNCA reporter Sandy McCowen, 42, her colleague, cameraman Nceba Ntlanganiso, 42, and freelance journalist Norhi Manona, 44, allege they were attacked by a dozen angry church members when they tried to get their comment on the allegations against Omotoso, 58.
While McCowen said she was dragged inside the church by an aggressive mob, Ntlanganiso and Manona were allegedly kicked and hit on the pavement outside.
The three reported complaints of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm (GBH) to the police the same day.
However, Ntlanganiso and Manona were informed last week that they would also have to appear in court today on a charge of assault GBH.
This was confirmed by police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu.
eNCA editor-in-chief Anton Harber said he would be in Port Elizabeth today to support the journalists in court. “I am very concerned about this,” Harber said.
“This is part of a pattern of harassment and pressure on journalists that stems from parliament and the police, and now even ordinary citizens.”
Asked why he felt there was an increase in such attacks on journalists, Harber said he believed it was due to the tense political climate.
“When the authorities, state institutions and the police show a lack of respect for the messenger, the public feeds off that and feels that it is okay to attack the messenger,” he said.
“The question is now whether the prosecution will allow it [the counter-claim against the journalists].
“It is incredibly important for us to stand together.”
Omotoso, meanwhile, will apply for bail tomorrow after he allegedly transported women and girls from branches of his church to his home in Umhlanga Rocks, and sexually exploited them.
He faces two counts of human-trafficking and two counts of sexual assault