SHOULD the alleged victims of Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo now be grilled about their earlier evidence before the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Commission)?
This was the question that took up the bulk of Wednesday morning’s proceedings in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, during the rape and sex trial of Zondo.
Prosecutor Jennifer Cronje objected to questioning by the defence of the first witness who took the stand. Advocate Piet Pistorius grilled the alleged raped victim regarding her earlier evidence before the commission.
The main bone of contention by the prosecution is the fact that the defence only has an unofficial transcript of what transpired before the commission.
The latter refused to provide the official transcript.
An earlier application by the Zondo camp to obtain the official transcript of the evidence of the various alleged victims failed.
Pistorius, however, said he should be allowed to question this witness about her evidence there, and if need be, he will launch another application to obtain the official transcript.
Pistorius made it clear to Judge Papi Mosopa that he was set on “exposing” the state witnesses (mainly alleged victims).
Thus, he needed to question them on what they said during the commission.
Cronje, on the other hand, said the commission is a Chapter Nine institution and not a court of law. What they said there should not be held against them in a court, she argued. She also argued that the proceedings before the commission differed from that in a court.
But, Pistorius was adamant that they made damning allegations against his client at the commission, which was widely publicised and that it is only fair and in the interest of justice to question them about it now.
He also read out a letter from the commission, which was recently sent to Zondo, in which the commission said it had concluded its evidence with the witnesses.
He was invited this week to tell his side to the commission. Pistorius was questioning the timing of the commission, given the fact that the trial had now started.
Cronje, meanwhile, also asked that the proceedings regarding the cross-examination of the first witness be held in camera from now on.
She objected to an image of the witnesses that was displayed by a television station (eNCA), while Judge Masopa made it clear on Monday that she may not be identified.
Another reason forwarded by her for holding the proceedings behind closed doors was that according to her information, members of the public in court – mainly the pro-Zondo faction – made comments on Tuesday while the alleged victim testified.
She said this unsettled the witness.
Cronje said, if need be, she would call the investigating officer, who brought this under their attention.
Judge Mosopa responded that while he was facing the public gallery, he heard or saw nothing in this regard.
He added that he also observed the witness, and he did not get the impression that something was wrong.
The judge, however, gave a stern warning to both the media and the public. He warned that he would bar any member of the media from the proceedings if they did not adhere to his ruling about not identifying a witness.
The public was warned, in turn, that although he did not observe them commenting, he would not tolerate it.
Zondo this week pleaded not guilty to 10 charges – mainly rape. The first witness to testify – a woman who claimed she was raped 40 years ago by Zondo while she was around seven or eight, is still being cross-examined by the defence.
The judge will deliver his judgment on Wednesday afternoon as to whether the witnesses can be questioned regarding their evidence before it.