Omotoso trial judge raps ‘unfair’ defence
The defence lawyer for charismatic pastor Timothy Omotoso – facing a string of charges including rape and sexual assault – was rapped over the knuckles on Monday when a Port Elizabeth High Court judge found some of his questions unfair and unjust.
Judge Mandela Makaula told attorney Peter Daubermann on at least three occasions to change his line of questioning or to simply not ask certain questions.
When Daubermann put it to state witness Cheryl Zondi, 22, of Gauteng, that she was prepared to be raped by Omotoso when she returned to Durban to attend a national meeting of his Jesus Dominion International church after previously being sexually assaulted, Makaula stepped in and reprimanded Daubermann.
“How can you be prepared to be raped? I don’t think that is fair,” a clearly agitated Makaula said.
In response, Daubermann said to Makaula that he (the judge) was protecting the witness and interfering with his cross-examination.
“This question is wrong and unfair – if you take it as me protecting the witness, then so be it,” Makaula said.
“I am not going to allow that question. You haven’t heard me clearly because you keep going back to it. You know the consequences of that – I have made my ruling.”
Earlier in the day, Makaula reprimanded Daubermann during his gruelling cross-examination when Zondi had to recount her evidence-in-chief, which she delivered last week.
When Daubermann questioned Zondi about how far Omotoso had penetrated her when he allegedly sexually assaulted her at the age of 14, Makaula put his foot down.
Daubermann had asked Zondi an extremely specific question on the issue at least twice after she had stated he had only partially penetrated her vaginally.
This was followed by loud gasps and comments from the public gallery as Daubermann continued questioning Zondi about Omotoso’s actions.
Zondi made it clear during her testimony that Omotoso was allegedly cautious not to “go all the way” because she was still a virgin at the time.
“I have been patient up until now, I will not allow you to ask unfair questions,” the judge said.
Daubermann submitted that Makaula was interfering in his questioning and that he would take the matter further as he felt Makaula was hampering his cross-examination.
Last week, Zondi, a second-year marketing management student at the University of Johannesburg, told in graphic detail how she was allegedly groomed by Omotoso to perform lewd sexual acts on him.
Zondi remained confident throughout cross-examination by Daubermann though she was visibly upset when the attorney pushed for why she had not included details of the alleged assault in her initial statement to police.
“I put it to you that you are fabricating your evidence,” Daubermann said.
Zondi said: “With all due respect, that is one of the most absurd things I have ever heard in my life – I don’t know how this man [Daubermann] thinks. I was there.”
Zondi was 13 when she first started attending the church and was 14 in 2010 when she went to Durban to attend a national meeting of the church where she first met Omotoso.
Zondi testified last week how, after her first visit to Durban, she was given Omotoso’s cellphone number and told to contact him daily.
Omotoso and his co-accused, Lusanda Sulani, 36, and Zukiswa Sitho, 28, face a litany of charges, ranging from human trafficking to sexual assault and rape.
At the beginning of the trial, all three accused refused to plead, saying the state had not furnished them with sufficient information on the charges.
The 63 main and 34 alternative charges against all three are for crimes allegedly committed between 2009 and 2017 before Omotoso’s dramatic arrest at Port Elizabeth International Airport in April 2017.
On Monday, Zondi detailed how on her third visit to Durban she was allegedly instructed by Omotoso to “try something new” when he sexually assaulted her.
According to Zondi, Omotoso allegedly told her to use her hands and mouth.
Zondi said after the alleged assault she was again instructed to clean herself and go back to Omotoso’s bed.
He then allegedly prayed and asked for forgiveness on behalf of both of them.
“It was the same prayer every time. I did nothing wrong,” Zondi said.
She claimed she initially did not report the alleged assaults to police as there were police members who were part of the church’s security detail.
The case continues.