A civil society group calling itself ‘Nelson Mandela Bay Citizens In Unity’ held a press briefing on Friday calling for the total shutdown of rape accused Pastor Timothy Omotoso’s church in Port Elizabeth. Picture: Raahil Sain/ANA

Port Elizabeth - Local pastor Osugawu Chuks leading the Jesus Dominion International (JDI) church in Port Elizabeth on Friday, vowed that the branch in North End would not be shut down on Sunday.

A civil society group calling itself ‘Nelson Mandela Bay Citizens In Unity’ held a press briefing on Friday calling for the total shutdown of rape accused pastor Timothy Omotoso’s church in Port Elizabeth. 

The civil society group includes members of African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), ANC Women’s League (ANCWL), and Economic Freedom Fighters as well as representatives of unions the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) and the South African Students’ Congress (Sasco).

On Sunday, the group will protest outside the JDI church in North End, demanding that it be shut down permanently on the basis of allegations levelled against Omotoso who is accused of raping and sexually abusing young girls and women. 

According to the group, they believe that people cannot be “manipulated and deceived in the name of God”. 

Citizens In Unity said that they believed Cheryl Zondi and they stood firmly united against “rapists”. 

Chuks said that the JDI church in North End was still operational and had services four times a week. Unlike the branch in KwaZulu-Natal, which saw a massive building for JDI congregants being reduced to a tent, according to eNCA. 

Chuks said that the congregants had freedom of worship and closing the church down would be unconstitutional. 

“Your country must stop being xenophobic and stop sending a wrong message to the world. Nigerians are not known for rape. You cannot close a church because of allegations. It is registered and the church is doing nothing wrong. People cannot take the law into their own hands,” said Chuks. 

Chuks said that Omotoso had been his “father in the Lord” since 2005. He slammed State witness Zondi for “pretending” while testifying at the trial. 

“You see in church pictures she is smiling and rejoicing but she says she was pretending. How sure are you she is not pretending in court?” asked Chuks. 

The Nigerian pastor 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. 

His two alleged henchwomen, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho are accused of recruiting girls from all over the country for purposes of sexual exploitation.

The 58-year-old televangelist allegedly trafficked more than 30 girls and women who were from various branches of his church to a house in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal, where he allegedly sexually exploited them.

African News Agency (ANA)