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Court hears church leader Zondo offered alleged rape victim R25 000 to withdraw charges

Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo in the dock in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo in the dock in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Nov 24, 2021


Pretoria - Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo offered his alleged rape victim R25 000 with the instruction that she immediately withdrew the charges against him, the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, heard yesterday.

Jabu Zondo, the brother of the woman who claimed she was raped by the preacher 40 years ago while she was aged 7 and he about 14, was the second witness to take the stand in the criminal trial.

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Judge Papi Mosopa ordered that the media may not take pictures of Jabu, although his name may be published.

According to the woman, Jabu was also the first person whom she told about the “dark secret” she had carried with her since childhood.

Jabu yesterday testified that his sister, who may not be identified, told him in around 2011 that she was raped by Zondo. He said she never gave details about what exactly happened.

He said it came about as he wanted some “fatherly” advice about a relationship he had.

His father was by then dead. He then contacted the bishop, who told him that if he needed to see him, he had to make an appointment at the church.

“His response had hurt me very much and the only person I could speak to about it was my sister. I told her what he had said, and she responded by saying ‘stay away from that person, I beg you. He is not a good person. He raped me’.”

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Jabu said he was shocked and they both cried. He did not know what to say to her, as he came to her with his problem only to realise her problem was much bigger.

“I told her that God is here and that He will help her. She then assured me that it will all be fine.”

Jabu told the court that he later asked her why she had kept quiet all these years about her ordeal.

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“She responded by asking me who I think in the family will ever confront him (Zondo).”

Jabu said he only realised the full extent of what happened after he saw video clips of an interview his sister had with a radio station last year.

He broke down in tears and the court had to adjourn for him to compose himself, as he testified that he had to face his mother, who was distraught about what had happened to her daughter.

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In May last year, shortly after the interview and criminal charges were instituted, the family called a meeting.

Jabu said the purpose for his uncles calling the meeting was to “resolve and fix the damage” which the interview had done.

According to him, Zondo broke down in tears after the alleged victim told the meeting what had happened to her.

“He said he could not recall doing such things to her.”

He also testified that Zondo offered that his medical aid would pay for psychological help for the complainant.

While the uncles promised her a horse, cattle, a goat, and other goods, Zondo said he only had cattle to offer, Jabu said.

He added that the bishop then said she would be paid R25 000, provided that she withdrew the charges the first thing the next morning.

“She said she did not want these things. All she wanted was for the accused to apologise to her,“ Jabu said.

Zondo earlier pleaded not guilty to 10 charges, which included eight of rape.

He claimed that the complainant and her family were lying about the rape accusations, because they knew he was a wealthy man and they wanted to extort money from him.

Pretoria News