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WATCH VIDEO: Omotoso trial Judge explains decision to step down

By Afikile Lugunya - Mar 15, 2019
WATCH VIDEO: Omotoso trial Judge explains decision to step down

Port Elizabeth - Port Elizabeth High Court Judge Mandela Makaula on Friday explained why he had decided to recuse himself from the ongoing trial of controversial Nigerian televangelist and Senior Pastor of the Jesus Dominion International church, Tim Omotoso.

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

Judge Makaula had 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.

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.

Reasons why Omotoso defense wanted Judge Makaula gone

Judge Makaula had been accused of protecting the first witness on the Omotoso case, Cheryl Zondi, while she was being cross-examined.

“I can see that you are crying or emotional, are you still okay? Do you need a break? Do we wish that we adjourn so that you may compose yourself,” Makaula once asked Zondi.

When she appeared for the last time after days of cross-examination by the defense, the State revealed that Zondi has missed an exam while she was in court.

In the following week, Zondi was expected to write more tests and Judge Makaula took an opportunity to wish her luck.

The Judge told her not to worry about what is going on in court, but to focus on her exams, that’s what triggered Daubermann to want Judge Makaula gone.

He added that the meaning of what judge Makaula said can be easily interpreted as "meaning that you go and write exams and I'll sort this man out."

Daubermann said that Makaula had to go “because it is clear that his client will not get a fair trial”.

Judge Makaula allegedly linked to Omotoso trial State Witness accommodation 

It was revealed that 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.

Judge Makaula then slammed the media for reporting incorrect information.

"It is concerning that the media has reported me as having been requested by Mr Daubermann to recuse myself.

"The media has further referred a letter addressed by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions as the basis of such information," he said.

"The information is not correct because a Judge is prohibited from corresponding directly with legal representives, who are appearing before him in a matter.

"I further place it on record that the letter has nothing to do with my office."

Judge Makaula said that the perception was now that he will be favourable to guests staying at his wife's guesthouses, thus he had decided to step down.

"Because of the independent opinion of the parties or their legal representatives, I am of the view that the appropriate thing to do is to recuse myself, which I hereby do.

"The future product of this matter will be determined by the judge president with the parties involved," Makaula said as he left the chambers for new presiding Judge, Selby Mbenenge.

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