Timothy Omotoso, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho at the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday. Picture: Raahil Sain / ANA
Timothy Omotoso, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho at the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday. Picture: Raahil Sain / ANA

#OmotosoTrial: You're a good actress, defence attorney tells Cheryl Zondi

By Raahil Sain Time of article published Oct 16, 2018

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Port Elizabeth - Defence attorney Peter Daurbermann, for Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso aired a video in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday depicting Cheryl Zondi in high and happy spirits after she rejoined the Jesus Dominion International (JDI) church in 2015.

Zondi, 22, testified that she had decided to rejoin the church to “get closure”, and said she wanted an apology from Omotoso for raping and sexually abusing her. 

She earlier told the court that she was promised by other church girls that things had changed. Zondi said she was hopeful that the rape and sexual violation of her body was a thing of the past.

Zondi said that upon arriving in Port Elizabeth, she quickly realised that nothing had changed when she came into contact with Omotoso.

At Omotoso’s expense, Zondi said she had travelled to a guesthouse in Port Elizabeth before attending a church service. 

Cheryl Zondi breaks down in tears when watching herself perform in the “Grace Galaxy” group for the Jesus Dominion International Church. Video: Raahil Sain/ANA

While driving to the service Zondi said that Omotoso was pressuring her, he wanted a commitment that she would agree to perform sexual acts and return to the church as a member. 

“I asked him why is this necessary why do we have to do this.”

Cheryl Zondi in Port Elizabeth when she returned to JDI during May 2015. “I pray my story inspires others to never leave this place, there’s no place like home.”. Video: Raahil Sain/ANA

Zondi agreed by saying “okay” to Omotoso and expressed she knew she would be raped later. She said she could not reject Omotoso because he had threatened that if she were to leave again, the punishment would be double or even death.

In the video aired before court, Zondi is seen at the Port Elizabeth service crying and expressing her gratitude for the JDI ministry and the “man of God” referring to Omotoso. 

“I am so happy to be here, so so happy. When I left there was that void and nothing could fill it, nothing what so ever. I thank God for this ministry and I thank God for this man of God,” she said in the video. 

“I pray my story inspires others never to leave this place, there’s no place like home,” Zondi said in the video between sobs. 

Daubermann told Zondi that she was a “good actress” and her demeanour at the service was in contrast to what she had testified in court when she called Omotoso a narcissist.

Zondi retorted that she was only saying loving and positive things out of fear and to please Omotoso. 

She said that she concealed her real emotions very well while addressing the congregation. 

Daubermann wanted to know, why at 19-year-old Zondi, chose not to object to Omotoso. 

“You were older and wiser?” he asked.

Zondi responded saying: “He still had a hold over me and I blame myself every single day for putting myself in that same situation.”

She said when she returned to JDI she was treated like a “prisoner” and her movements were monitored. 

Subsequent videos were played in court showing Zondi at the tender age of 13 at a church service in Secunda, talking about the “power of darkness”.

Another video documented the formation of her church singing group “Grace Galaxy”. 

Zondi appeared happy and devoted to Omotoso. In one video she said that her personal mentorship with the televangelist was “awesome and great”.

The videos also documented travels to Israel and Nigeria where the girl group would perform. 

Earlier on Tuesday, court proceedings came to a halt when Judge Mandela Makaula reprimanded Omotoso’s wife, Taiwo.

“You sitting between those two gentleman, stand up,” said Makaula. 

“Please stop making comments and gestures while this witness is testifying.” 

Taiwo has been seen throughout the trial laughing and smiling while Zondi gave evidence on the stand. 

Omotoso 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.

The trial continues on Wednesday. 

* Read more on the #OmotosoTrial here

African News Agency (ANA)

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