Link between Omotoso and Hawks investigated
Links between Hawks officials and Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso will be investigated after he allegedly received a tip-off that helped him evade arrest last month.
This was revealed in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court yesterday, where 18 more charges – all relating to sexual offences or human trafficking – were added to the four charges Omotoso was already facing.
The Durban televangelist, who is a senior pastor of Jesus Dominion International, was arrested at the Port Elizabeth Airport last month.
He had allegedly trafficked women and girls from various branches of his church to a house in Umhlanga Rocks, KwaZuluNatal.
While hundreds of supporters sang and prayed outside the court yesterday, details of how Omotoso allegedly lured teenage girls into sexual relations were revealed inside.
Omotoso, 58, would allegedly have girls rub petroleum jelly on their thighs while instructing them to recite Psalm 51 – a bible passage that deals with sin and being cleansed.
The details were contained in a statement made by Hawks investigating officer Peter Plaatjies.
His statement was read out by state prosecutor Advocate Nceba Ntelwa during Omotoso’s bail application yesterday.
Plaatjies said in the statement that Omotoso would often tell the girls that if they spoke about their encounters they would be cursed and die.
Senior congregants were in charge of recruiting new members – mainly vulnerable and poor young girls – who, if they had the right look, would be taken to Durban to be “interviewed”.
Up to 40 girls would be kept in a room for up to five months at a time with little or no contact with their families or outside world.
Omotoso was arrested on April 20, following a botched plan to arrest him in the Free State over the Easter weekend.
Testifying in court later, Plaatjies said it had been decided to arrest Omotoso in Bloemfontein during an “Easter Crusade” on Good Friday.
But during a stakeout at a hotel where Omotoso was meant to be staying, the pastor was nowhere to be seen.
Plaatjies said officials had then gone to look for him at the Bloemfontein City Hall where he was meant to give a sermon.
“There was no service conducted, only a video was shown,” he said.
“After the service, a member of the congregation went onto the stage and addressed the audience.
“He identified himself as a member of the Hawks and told [congregants] that other members of the Hawks were present as well as members of the defence force [to arrest Omotoso].”
National Hawks spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Netshiunda said the specialised unit would investigate allegations that Omotoso had been tipped off.
“We cannot have our own members working against us,” he said.
Netshiunda said there was a possibility that even more charges would be added.
Omotoso’s defence, led by attorney Alfonso Hattingh, asked the court to bar the media from publishing the identities of two Port Elizabeth complainants as well as those who had submitted supporting affidavits for the pastor.
Magistrate Thandeka Mashiyi granted the request.
Hattingh said Omotoso denied any wrongdoing and intended to stand trial to prove his innocence.
He said Omotoso had no previous convictions or pending warrants and had handed in his two passports.
Ntelwa said the state would oppose bail because Omotoso was a flight risk, had no permanent residential address and would intimidate and interfere with state witnesses.
“He [Omotoso] has the propensity to commit the same crimes.”
The media and public were instructed by tactical response team members to switch off their cellphones and recording devices during the proceedings.
Meanwhile, supporters and protesters sang struggle songs outside the court in North End, with the two sides separated by police.
Jesus Dominion International church Pretoria branch Pastor Edmore Muzavazi said: “Everything I have is because of this man.
“I came to South Africa [from Zimbabwe] in 2006. I was a drunkard and a womaniser. But when I met this man, he changed my whole life.”
But Jabu Benton Ntuleni, 35, of Walmer who has two daughters aged 11 and four, said he did not want Omotoso to get bail.
“No normal person would do something like that,” he said.
“It is uncalled for what he [allegedly] did and, as a South African, I would never ever tolerate a person like this.”
ANC Women’s League provincial chairwoman Bukiwe Fanta said the league wanted justice to be served.
“We understand that everyone has his or her rights, but we want to say that the justice system must please help us,” she said.
Eastern Cape social development spokesman Mzukisi Solani said: “We are against anything to do with women abuse, especially young girls.”
The bail application continues today.