Long legal road ahead in rape trial of church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo
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Pretoria - There is still a long legal road ahead in the rape and sexual offences trial of Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo.
The matter, initially set down for two weeks this month, had to be postponed after the prosecution managed to call just two of its 26 witnesses cited in the indictment. Proceedings will now resume on July 18.
Only one of the alleged victims – a woman who claimed she was raped on three occasions by Zondo 40 years ago – concluded her evidence.
Her brother was the second witness to take the stand, following several days of cross-examination by the defence.
He too, was grilled for two days by Zondo’s advocate Piet Pistorius.
Zondo earlier pleaded not guilty to 10 charges – eight of which are rape.
While he did not provide an explanation of his plea, it was clear from the defence’s line of questioning of the first two witnesses that it believes the charges were trumped-up in a bid to extort money from the wealthy Zondo.
Both the first complainant to testify and her brother were grilled by Pistorius as to why they had remained silent about their allegations all these years.
The alleged victim, who was 7 years old when she claimed she was raped by the then teenage Zondo, claimed she was afraid of him and had therefore carried her “dark secret” for nearly four decades before going public with it.
Now, she said, she was an adult and a mother, and no longer afraid of Zondo.
But Pistorius maintained she had seen an opportunity to make money.
He said Zondo denied ever touching her as a child. According to him, the woman and her family wanted R1 million from the bishop in return for withdrawing the charges, which she had only instituted against him last year.
But both the woman and her brother insisted that it was Zondo and “the uncles” who, during a family meeting, offered her a host of gifts in return for withdrawing the charges.
The woman, who broke down in tears several times while testifying, said all she wanted from Zondo was an apology.
It is expected that the seven other women who claimed they were Zondo’s sex victims will take the stand when the trial resumes in July.
Most of the seven – who have been members of his congregation – claimed they fell prey to the bishop at his church office in Evaton.
According to the indictment, he allegedly called them to his office to pray for them.
Instead, it is alleged, he either raped or sexually abused them.
Zondo made it clear he would vehemently defend these “false” allegations.
A large contingency of supporters were at court over the past two weeks – some whom sat in the public gallery and others who remained outside, continuously singing hymns.
They made their support for Zondo clear and displayed large banners reading “hands off our bishop”.