Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso and his co-accused Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho at the Port Elizabeth High Court. Picture: Raahil Sain/African News Agency (ANA)

Port Elizabeth - Judge Mandela Makaula has dismissed an application for him to recuse himself in the Timothy Omotoso rape and human trafficking trial.

Makaula made the ruling in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Monday citing that it was without merit. He did not provide reasons. 

Defence attorney Peter Daubermann brought the application based on the argument that Makaula was allowing his humanity to get the better of him and showing bias towards State witness Cheryl Zondi. 

Before Zondi returned to Johannesburg last week, Makaula wished her the best of luck with her examinations and advised her to forget about the case, focus on her future and leave justice up to the court. 

“You are here on behalf of justice,” Makaula said at the time. 

Daubermann said the court had already accepted Zondi’s version and was overtly sympathetic to her cause. 

Making the application on behalf of rape accused Omotoso and alleged henchwoman Lusanda Sulani, Daubermann argued that the court had already decided to convict and sentence his clients. 

“The honorable presiding Judge has found Zondi as a crusader to justice, the judge is prejudiced against me and the co-accused. They seek a fair trial. I know it will take a while to replace but I ask the honorable judge to step down from this case.” 

Daubermann said a judge cannot show a “hint of bias” adding that the court had already made up its mind to accept Zondi's evidence.

He said that an impartial judge was crucial for a fair trial and pointed out that if Makaula refused the application, another court may come to a different finding, and in that case the trial would have to start from scratch. 

“You allowed your humanity to get the better of you my Lord when you made those comments, unfortunately I had to criticise you for doing that,” Daubermann said. 

Daubermann said Makaula commended Zondi for coming to court in the interests of justice, adding that his comments indicated that the court had already accepted the veracity of her testimony.

“You commended her for testifying. You wished her well for examinations and I have no problem with that...but you were overtly sympathetic with her and openly aligned yourself with her cause. With respect, it’s not your job to console witnesses." 

Zondi has accused Omotoso of raping and sexually abusing her at the age of 14.

Daubermann indicated that he would bring an application for leave to appeal the decision and was under instruction to take the matter up to the Supreme Court of Appeal. 

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