Pretoria - Controversial Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo was yesterday warned by the court not to directly or indirectly contact any of the State witnesses in his sex crimes trial.
This came after the prosecution told the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that it had received information that Zondo had attempted to contact some of the witnesses.
The defence team, however, has denied this.
Some of the witnesses, including alleged victims, were in court yesterday, as well as a host of Zondo’s followers.
Prosecutor Jennifer Cronje said the witnesses were “subjected to stares” in court and that they were then removed and placed at a secure place.
Zondo’s trial was postponed for a week to enable his defence team to locate some workers who were employed at his church at the time of the alleged incidents.
His advocate Khelu Nondwango wanted a couple of months to prepare for the defence’s case, but Judge Peet Johnson put his foot down.
The judge said it was not a difficult case and the defence team should be able to further prepare their case within the next week.
Nondwango asked for a postponement, as he said the defence had only received the case dockets on July 22.
He said apart from one of the allegations against the bishop, the rest related to incidents that allegedly occurred a long time ago.
The court was told it was claimed that most of the alleged sex crimes occurred on the church premises in Evaton.
The defence needed to consult with office workers who would have been employed at the time.
Most have left the employ of the church over the years, the court was told, and it was a difficult process to locate some of them.
The defence said they noticed that there were about 24 witnesses that the State wanted to call and they also needed to speak to them.
Cronje, who was opposed to the postponement, said she would definitely not allow the defence near her witnesses.
She also frowned upon the fact that the defence wanted time to consult with “expert witnesses”.
She remarked that it was a straightforward sex trial and questioned why experts were needed.
Judge Johnson said he would allow a postponement for a week, as Zondo could not be punished for the fact that his defence team only asked for the case dockets at the end of July.
Scores of Zondo’s church supporters gathered outside the court, holding placards which read, “Hands off Archbishop Zondo” and “The body of Christ is under attack”.
Some also wore T-shirts sporting his face.
Zondo was expected to plead to several charges, including rape, contravention of the Sexual Offences Act and defeating the ends of justice.