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Sex crimes trial of controversial Bishop Zondo stands down for a week

Controversial Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo in the dock at the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria. Picture: Zelda Venter

Controversial Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo in the dock at the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria. Picture: Zelda Venter

Published Aug 23, 2021

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Pretoria - The sex crimes trial of controversial Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo is standing down for a week.

This is to enable his defence team to further locate some workers who were employed at his church at the time when it is alleged that he had sexually abused some of his congregants on the premises.

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His advocate, Khelu Nondwango wanted a couple of months to prepare for the defence case, but Gauteng High Court Pretoria Judge Peet Johnson put his foot down.

The judge said it was not a difficult case and the defence team should be able to prepare their case within the next week.

Nondwango asked for a postponement, saying that the defence only received the case dockets on July 22. He said except for one of the allegations against the bishop, the charges relates to alleged incidents that happened long ago.

He said since most of the alleged sex crimes allegedly occurred on the church premises, the defence needed to consult with office workers who would have been around at the time. Most have left the employ of the church over the years, the court was told, and it was a difficult process to locate some of them.

The defence also said it needed time to speak to the 24 odd witnesses the State intends to call.

Prosecutor Jennifer Cronje who opposed the postponement, made it clear that she would not allow the defence anywhere near her witnesses.

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At the end of Monday’s proceedings, Cronje asked for an order prohibiting Zondo from contacting state witnesses directly or indirectly. She said the prosecution had received information that they had been approached by Zondo - an allegation that was denied by the defence.

The judge ordered that Zondo not approach any of the witnesses. He agreed to a postponement for a week, as Zondo coul be punished for the fact that his defence team only asked for the case dockets at the end of July.

Scores of his Church supporters meanwhile gathered outside the court, holding placards that read: “Hands off Archbishop Zondo”, and “The body of Christ is under attack.” Some also wore T-shirts sporting his face.

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Zondo is expected to plead to several charges, including rape, charges relating to the sexual offences act, and defeating the ends of justice.

It is claimed in the indictment that most of the alleged victims were members of his congregation. Two out of the 10 charges listed, however, pertain to a child who was either eight or nine years old at the time when she was allegedly repeatedly raped by Zondo.

It is claimed that these acts took place between April and June 1980 in a house where Zondo also resided for a while.

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Zondo allegedly used to call her into the house to do chores, and then rape her. The incidents apparently stopped after the child ran away.

The State claimed that after a charge of rape was laid against Zondo, a family meeting was held to discuss the situation. It is said that “during the meeting, the accused admitted the allegations against him and offered to cleanse the complainant by paying her R25 000.”

The State said this was done on the condition that she withdrew the charge against Zondo. The complainant, it is said, declined the offer.

The case will resume on August 30.

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Pretoria News

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