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Cheryl Zondi claims there is a R500 000 bounty on her head for testifying at Omotoso trial

Mar 19, 2019
Cheryl Zondi claims there is a R500 000 bounty on her head for testifying at Omotoso trial

Johannesburg - The State's key witness in the trial of controversial Nigerian televangelist and Senior Pastor of the Jesus Dominion International church, Tim Omotoso, on Tuesday told journalists at a media briefing in Johannesburg that she is ready to testify against Omotoso under a new judge.

Omotoso and his co-accused, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho, face a total of 97 charges related to human trafficking and sexual assault - 63 of which are the main charges and 34 are listed as alternative charges.

"I must admit that I did underestimate the impact that the trial would have on my life and on me," Zondi told journalists.

"I was oblivious to the fact that the people of our country hadn’t seen arape case inSouth Africa unfolding in real time with the actual accuser exposing herself on the stand.

"I had the witness protection programme, after waiting for them to contact me for weeks, telling me to change my name and move to the middle of nowhere and drop out of school. Reinforcing this lousy victims must hide mentality."

Zondi detailed how she joined the church and was later sexually abused by Omotoso at his Durban home.

She also linked one of Omotoso's co-accused, Lusanda Solani, to the abuses.

Still, the accused refused to plead to all the charges against them.

'Brutal cross-examination at the hands of Peter Daubermann'

There had been doubts that she might want to again take the stand after what was described as a brutal cross-examination by Omotoso's Defence lawyer, Peter Daubermann.

"I got a badgering defence lawyer. Asking me about centimetres. Telling me that I wanted to get raped and basically making me feel like I was the one on trial," Zondi said.

She said that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is yet to reach out to her officially to explain how this recusal is going to affect her.

"But I do read the news and the bottom line is that I’m likely going to have to start testifying all over again from scratch as if nothing happened last year," Zondi said.

"I certainly expect the process to be even worse and more amplified than before.

"The defence lawyer is wanting to have cameras removed from the court and that just goes to show that these people want to dictate how I tell my story. They want to dictate how victims tell their stories.

"If I have to go through secondary victimisation to get justice, then so be it. The thing is that I know that the truth is going to trump all of these lies."

Last year, she was praised for her bravery and fortitude by the Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency and the Ministry.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) also commended Zondi for being brave enough to be able to face Omotoso - her alleged abuser, in open court.

Zondi told journalists that she will not give up in her quest for justice.

"It is much bigger than all of us and it is about justice. So the struggle is going to continue."

Zondi claimed that the State had also not protected her when she returned form the Omotoso trial.

"I’d been back home for just a few days when I was told that there was a hit out on my head for R500 000, because I dared to speak my truth. All of this was happening and the state did absolutely nothing," she said.

Judge Makaula steps down

Judge Makaula raised eyebrows when this year, he announced that he would step down from the trial.

Makaula recused himself even before the Constitutional Court could hear an application by Omotoso's lawyers, who since last year sought his removal from the trial - delaying the trial by many months, over alleged bias.

This is also despite the defense - led by attorney, Peter Daubermann, losing its bid in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in December, to have Judge Makaula step down.

Makaula had also dismmissed an application by the Omotoso lawyers for leave to appeal his decision to not recuse himself from the trial.

Reports also emerged allgeding Judge Makaula was linked indirectly through a company he owns to an accommodation establishment that has been used to house unnamed State Witnesses in the Omotoso trial.

On Friday, he said that the media reported false information when they said that he owned a building was used by the State Witnesses.

Makaula said that his wife has financial interest in the building through her various business ventures, which include a guesthouse which is registered in closed cooperation.

He maintained that he, however, has no financial interests in the businesses and plays no role in their affairs.

"The only place I’ve seen the judge is in the courtroom… I stayed in a guest house that was arranged by the state. To my knowledge I didn’t know who it belonged to," Zondi said.

Port Elizabeth High Court Judge Mandela Makaula on Friday explained why he had decided to recuse himself from the trial.

The Chief Justice's office also said that there's no way Judge Makaula would have known about state witness accommodation.

Drama at the Omotoso trial

The Omotoso trial has so far not been without its drama after two women were thrown out of court after claiming to be Omotoso's security detail:

Daubermann was also confronted by an angry mob over his cross-examination of Zondi:

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