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

Port Elizabeth - Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso and his co-accused charged with human trafficking and the recruitment and rape of young girls were dealt another blow in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday when Judge Irma Schoeman dismissed an application involving their plea of no jurisdiction in relation to the string of charges. 

Defence advocate Peter Daubermann had brought the application arguing that the Port Elizabeth High Court had the jurisdiction to only hear seven rape and sexual assault charges which allegedly occurred in Port Elizabeth. The trio pleaded not guilty to these seven charges but entered a plea of no jurisdiction in respect of the remainder of the charges. 

Omotoso faces 63 main charges, while co-accused Lusanda Sulani faces 35 charges and Zukiswa Sitho 16 main charges. Daubermann argued that the court did not have jurisdiction to try Omotoso and his co-accused for offences which allegedly occurred in Durban, Richards Bay and Bloemfontein amongst other areas. 

Sulani and Sitho are accused of recruiting girls from all over the country for purposes of sexual exploitation. 

Daubermann did not accept a directive from the National Director Of Public Prosecution (NDPP) to centralise the charges which allegedly occurred in other cities. 

However, Schoeman highlighted that Daubermann had written a letter to the National Director of Public Prosecution (NDPP) consenting to the charges in January last year. 

Schoeman said at the time Daubermann did not object to the NDPP letter centralising the charges. Essentially Schoeman ruled the NDPP letter and its wording valid.

“The accused conceded that the directive was valid but not compliant.”

Schoeman said when Daubermann consented to the letter he had a copy of the indictment and his clients had knowledge of the charges set out against them. 

“They were aware of the charges and were not ambushed. The indictment makes it clear. It is clear that the directive refers to the indictment,” said Schoeman. 

Schoeman said in respect of the racketeering charges against Omotoso the court had jurisdiction even without a directive from the NDPP. 

The alleged offences occurred in Port Elizabeth, Western Cape, Free State,  KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. 

Daubermann had argued that Schoeman could not separate the allegations and the court did not have jurisdiction over allegations outside of Port Elizabeth. He wanted the court to uphold Omotoso’s plea of no jurisdiction. 

However, Schoeman said that even if she agreed to no jurisdiction the charges would have to be split to other courts outside of Port Elizabeth. 

In her view that would be a disadvantage to Omotoso as he had been in custody for a long period of time. 

After Schoeman gave reasons for her ruling, Daubermann immediately indicated that he planned to make an application for leave to appeal Schoeman’s ruling. 

He requested a postponement to obtain a copy of the judgment and to formulate grounds seeking leave to appeal. 

The case was postponed until Monday. 

African News Agency (ANA)