Timothy Omotoso, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho at the Port Elizabeth High Court. Picture: Raahil Sain / ANA

Parliament - Minister for Women in the Presidency Bathabile Dlamini and the portfolio committee overseeing her department have objected to the aggressive cross-examination of Cheryl Zondi in the sex crimes trial of Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso.

"The committee and the minister expressed outrage at the particularly brutally inhumane and unnecessary style of cross-examination advanced by the defence counsel, Advocate Peter Daubermann," the committee said in a statement on Thursday morning. 

"They jointly agreed that although lawyers possess the obligation to act in their client’s best interests, such burden is subject to the supreme duty of all legal practitioners to the criminal justice system and the court."

“It is the behaviour of council such as Advocate Daubermann, and other insensitive officials of justice, that dissuades survivors of sexual violence from breaking their silence on this psychologically traumatising form of abuse."

Daubermann was targetted by women's rights protesters outside the Port Elizabeth High Court this week after his relentless questioning of Cheryl Zondi, the first state witness in the trial.

Omotoso faces 63 main charges and 34 alternative counts which include human trafficking, rape, sexual assault racketeering and conspiracy in aiding another person to commit sexual assault.  Along with two accomplices, Omotoso is accused of recruiting girls from all over the country for purposes of sexual exploitation.

Dlamini and MPs noted that the Criminal Procedures Act placed an obligation on the judges to set reasonable limits on cross-examination to protect state witnesses by objecting to inappropriate or irrelevant lines of questioning.

"In anticipation of the tens of young women due to testify during this trial, the committee and the minister plead for an attitude of civility amongst all inside the courts and those observing from outside. 

"In line with this principle, Advocate Daubermann is required to be fair and courteous towards every person during the exercise of his professional conduct, particularly the survivors of sexual violence."

The minister and committee saluted Zondi's courage in taking the stand.

The marketing student accuses Omotoso of sustained sexual abuse over a period of years.

'We salute the bravery and fortitude of Cheryl Zondi.  She is an inspiration to millions of young women who have broken the silence on sexual harassment," the committee said. 

* Read more on the #OmotosoTrial here

African News Agency/ANA