Pastor Timothy Omotoso and co-accused Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho at the Port Elizabeth High Court. Picture: Raahil Sain / ANA

Port Elizabeth - Judgment is expected in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday in two applications brought by lawyers representing rape and human trafficking accused Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso. 

Judge Mandela Makaula is expected to hand down judgment on leave to appeal his refusal to recuse himself, as well as his refusal to quash the charges against Omotoso and his alleged accomplices Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho. 

The defence has already indicated that it wants the matter to be heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. If the applications are not granted, they plan to petition the SCA directly.  

Defence advocate Terry Price had earlier argued that another court may come to a different finding. Price said that the defence was entitled to prepare its defence but the charge sheet lacked crucial detail, specifically the date and locations as to where the alleged crimes took place. 

Price said the charges were vague and the indictment was one of the worst he had ever seen. In terms of Makaula’s refusal to recuse himself, Price said Makaula should have recused himself based on his utterances to state witness Cheryl Zondi. Makaula earlier said the recusal application was baseless and without merit.  

“A reasonable, objective, an informed person would not apprehend bias from the common courtesy shown to Zondi in wishing her well with her exams,” Makaula had earlier said when giving reasons for dismissing the recusal application. 

Makaula said it was too early for him to form an opinion as Omotoso, Sulani and Sitho still needed to put their version to the court. “It’s ridiculous in the extreme, because not a shred of accused's version has been put to me,” Makaula said. 

Makaula added that he was astonished by the defence’s argument that he was overly sympathetic towards Zondi and her cause. “I’m astonished by this argument, there’s nothing to suggest I was consoling Ms Zondi, I don’t know what’s her cause..all I know is that she gave evidence of what allegedly occurred.” 

But Price argued that Makaula could be perceived to be biased by the average accused person. Price said fairness and impartiality must be objectively demonstrated but observers could have perceived bias by the court. He said it had appeared that Makaula treated Zondi very "cosily." 

“You repeatedly asked her are you OK? Do you want to take a break? Accused are thinking, why are you so nice to her? Why are you carrying her?” argued Price. 

The 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 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