Port Elizabeth - Three people who claim to belong to the controversial Jesus Dominion International Church (JDI) headed up by rape accused Pastor Timothy Omotoso have launched an urgent application in the Port Elizabeth High Court in an attempt to interdict protest groups from gathering outside the local branch in North End.
The respondents in the matter are cited as the African National Congress (ANC) Women's League, ANC Youth League and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
Last month, tempers flared when a group of protesters made up of various political parties and civil organisations gathered outside the JDI church demanding that it be shut down.
At the time, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality said that no church in the city had been closed and a programme would be implemented to inspect all church sites to ensure they were operating in accordance with bylaws.
In court papers, the congregants claim that the political parties were violating their constitutional right to practice religion. The congregants are asking the court to interdict political parties from protesting within 200 metres from the church situated in Govan Mbeki Avenue.
An affidavit, deposed by Nthombo Mbaza, denies that JDI was a cult and said that rape and extra-marital sex was completely contrary to the doctrine and belief of the members of JDI.
Mbaza said that the political parties had simply decided to shut down a church which had not been charged, "without Omotoso being convicted of anything or the church being found guilty of any improper conduct."
She said that police had done nothing to prevent "intimidation" and congregants were being "forcibly prevented" from attending church.
In responding papers, the ANCWL claimed that the three individuals who launched the application were not entitled to do so.
They claimed that the individuals were not JDI members, nor JDI management, they did not own the church property and lacked property rights.
The ANCWL said that the protest action dated back to last month and questioned how the application was urgent when weeks had passed and they had sought no action.
"This application has been brought on the basis that members of the crowd were wearing ANC and EFF t-shirts, which on the applicant's own version, those are all separate legal entities and the crowd was not made up of members of the ANCWL."
The ANCWL also said the applicants had failed to lay criminal charges of intimidation with the police.
According to the affidavit of ANCWL Regional Coordinator, Nontombi Nama, the ANCWL did not close the church, rather that was the doing of the SAPS and metro police, who she believed should be joined in the matter.
The EFF has not submitted papers responding to the application.
Judge Thembekile Malusi postponed the case until next week Tuesday for the congregants to submit replying papers.
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.
The criminal trial has since come to a halt after Judge Mandela Makaula dismissed an application for leave to appeal his earlier decision not to recuse himself and not to quash the charges against Omotoso and his alleged accomplices Sulani and Sitho.
Defence attorney Peter Daubermann indicated that he would now follow a process to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal.
The trial was postponed provisionally until December 10.
African News Agency (ANA)