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

Port Elizabeth - The State in the human trafficking trial of Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso did an about turn after it initially told the Port Elizabeth High Court it would hand over a new certificate authorising the centralisation of the charges, but failed to do so on Monday. 

State Advocate Nceba Ntelwa did not hand over a new certificate from the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) authorising centralisation of the charges but instead handed in to the court the original indictment emanating from the previous trial. 

Ntelwa intends to use the old authorisation letter signed in April last year together with the original indictment which he argued allowed for the centralisation of the charges. Ntelwa argued that it was not necessary for the letter to contain a description of the charges against Omotoso and his co-accused Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho. 

However, defence attorney Peter Daubermann argued that this was a new trial and the State could not rely on material used at the previous trial heard before Judge Mandela Makaula . 

Daubermann argued that the letter was invalid . 

“The fact that the accused consented to previous centralisation at the initial trial is irrelevant. It cannot make the certificate valid. 

The only question is if the certificate is valid. This is a new trial starting de novo. At the previous trial the accused consented to the centralisation but different considerations apply at a new trial,” argued Daubermann. 

Daubermann said Judge Irma Schoeman could not be certain which version of the indictment the certificate of jurisdiction applied to.

He asked the court to find the certificate signed by former NPA boss Shaun Abarahams as invalid.

Daubermann went on to argue that every count in the indictment which allegedly occurred outside Port Elizabeth, was affected in that the court did not have jurisdiction over offences which allegedly occurred in Bloemfontein, Durban and Richards Bay. 

He asked the court to uphold his clients plea of no jurisdiction except for the several rape and sexual assault charges which allegedly occurred in Port Elizabeth. The trio has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of rape and sexual assault which allegedly happened in Port Elizabeth. 

On the racketeering charges, which allegedly occurred in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State and Gauteng, Daubermann argued that the court could not separate the allegations.

“Those counts refer to areas of which this court does not have jurisdiction and for that reason the court should uphold the plea of no jurisdiction,” said Daubermann . 

Omotoso faces 63 main charges, including racketeering, human trafficking, rape and sexual assault. 

Omotoso’s co-accused, Sulani and Sitho, are accused of recruiting girls from all over the country for purposes of sexual exploitation. 

The case was postponed until Tuesday for the court to make a ruling on the validity of the certificate of jurisdiction. 

It is unclear which indictment will be used at the new trial. 

African News Agency/ANA