A prosecutor pleaded with the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court yesterday to protect a group of women and children from the pastor who allegedly trafficked and then sexually abused them.
“Just look outside [the court] at what is happening,” state advocate Nceba Ntelwa said, referring to hundreds of protesters holding placards in support of Pastor Timothy Omotoso.
“It really pains me. There are people defending him. They don’t understand why he is here.
“I ask the court to protect the victims by not releasing that man.”
The Nigerian televangelist and head of the Jesus Dominion International Church will hear his fate on June 9.
Wearing a shiny blue suit Omotoso, 58, smiled in the dock as his lawyer accused Hawks investigating officer Warrant Officer Peter Plaatjies of lying, generalising and exaggerating facts.
Defence advocate Alfonso Hattingh said Omotoso, who was arrested on April 21 and faces 22 counts of rape and sexual assault, had given an undertaking that he would stand trial, not interfere with state witnesses and abide by any bail conditions set.
But Ntelwa said Omotoso, who lives in Durban, had been aware of the pending investigation since October and had made it near to impossible for the Hawks to arrest him.
In addition, he had allegedly continued his sexual encounters with young women.
“This just shows you the type of man we are dealing with,” Ntelwa said.
He said there were a total of 10 complainants, four of whom had been aged between 14 and 17 at the time.
“All the victims were vulnerable for different reasons.
“Some had no parents or came from poor backgrounds.
“It was easy to lure them in and groom them with the promise of a better life.”
After referring to previous cases where pastors had, in the past, been convicted of sex crimes, Ntelwa said it was undeniable that such pastors had a controlling power over their congregants.
“I have seen how some pastors make their congregants eat grass,” he said to laughter in court.
“The people working for him are willing to influence and threaten witnesses. He has no emotional ties here.
“His children are UK citizens, he rents his home in Durban and has no fixed property.”
Ntelwa said Omotoso was an illegal immigrant and should he be released, there was nothing stopping him from jumping on an aeroplane out of the country.
“The strength of the state’s case, coupled with the prescribed minimum sentence of life in prison, is incentive enough for him to flee,” he said.
“If he even has top brass from the police in his pockets, who can the victims turn to? All they have is this court.”
But Hattingh said Plaatjies was a dangerous witness who went out of his way to paint Omotoso in as bad a light as possible.
Conceding that Omotoso had known about the pending investigation for months prior to his arrest, Hattingh said Omotoso had travelled to and from Nigeria five times, yet did not flee.
He said it was unfair to keep Omotoso in custody because his congregants “might” interfere with the complaints.
The fact that some of the complainants had also discussed on TV what had allegedly happened to them cast a bad light on the state’s case, with suspicions of collusion.