PORT ELIZABETH - The case against a Nigerian pastor charged with human trafficking and rape has been postponed to Thursday.
The case was postponed in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Monday when Judge Mandela Makaula had dismissed an application for him to recuse himself.
Makaula ruled that the application by Peter Daubermann, the legal representative for Omotoso and one of his co-accused, was without merit. He did not give full reasons.
Leave to appeal the court’s decision will be argued on Thursday with Daubermann indicating his clients were prepared to take the matter as far as the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Daubermann brought the recusal application based on the argument that Makaula was allowing his humanity to get the better of him and showing a level of bias in favour of State witness Cheryl Zondi.
Before Zondi left the witness stand to travel back 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...remember you are not doing this for yourself but in the interests of justice,” Makaula said at the time.
Daubermann argued these utterances showed that 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 could not show a “hint of bias”.
He said that an impartial judge was crucial to ensure 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 predisposed that Zondi was telling the truth.
“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.
Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Bathabile Dlamini, together with various politicians, gender activists and church leaders held a press conference earlier in the day.
Other government heavyweights included Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and deputy water and sanitation minister Pamela Tshwete, who attended proceedings along with members of the African National Congress Women's League to speak out against gender-based violence.
Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masaulle and Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Mongameli Bobani also added their voices those outraged by Omotoso's alleged crimes.
Singer and gender activist Simphiwe Dana said she was honoured and touched to be at court.
She said she supported rape survivors and and called for all churches in the country to be regulated.
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, 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.
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African News Agency (ANA)