RIVERS of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo in the Gauteng High Court. | Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)
RIVERS of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo in the Gauteng High Court. | Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)

Pastor Bishop Zondo pleads not guilty to rape, sex crimes

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Nov 15, 2021

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CONTROVERSIAL Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo yesterday pleaded not guilty to 10 charges against him, including rape.

The 55-year-old Zondo’s much-awaited sex trial eventually kicked off in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.

While Zondo did not give an explanation of plea, his advocate Piet Pistorius said his defence will become clear during the trial.

The bulk of the proceedings was spent by an application by the prosecution for the complainants to testify behind closed doors.

Prosecutor Cornelia Harmzen told Judge Papi Mosopa that the events the women had to relive in court were still very traumatic for them.

She said it would be in the interest of justice to testify behind closed doors, as they will have to talk about very intimate details.

The Zondo faction, however, would have nothing of this. Pistorius said his client wanted the witnesses – or at least those who testified in open court earlier before the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Commission) – to face him in open court.

Pistorius questioned why these witnesses were willing to openly testify earlier before the commission, but now they wanted to do so behind closed doors.

Judge Mosopa ruled that the first witness to take the stand – a now 46-year-old woman – had to testify in open court. However, he ordered that the media may not identify her.

The judge said that this was not a blanket order that all the alleged victims had to testify in open court, especially those who earlier chose to testify in camera during the commission.

Each witness’s case will be evaluated when they are called to the stand, he said.

The first alleged victim testified that she and her sibling were staying with her grandmother at the time when she was raped in 1980 by Zondo, whom she said was her uncle.

The woman broke into tears as she told of the first time that he had allegedly raped her.

She said she was playing outside with her friends, when he called her into the house to wash his socks.

“He said ‘Meisie, come and wash my socks…’ He then told the children not to come looking for me. He then locked the kitchen door.”

The witness said nobody else was home at the time and she went to the bathroom, but could not find the socks. She said Zondo then came out of the bedroom, dressed in shorts and a vest and he called her into her great-grandmother’s bedroom.

He told her to get on to the bed and dragged her by her feet closer to him, where he was standing at the foot end of the bed.

She said he pulled her panties off as well as his own shorts.

She then demonstrated to the court how he played with his private part and asked her if she knew what it was.

“I said no… I was shocked and confused and did not know what was happening.”

According to her he raped her and she shouted out in pain.

“I said uncle, you are hurting me… afterwards he told me it's just our secret.”

“He gave me R1 and said I must spend it at school.”

The witness said as she was leaving the house to join her friends, he also gave her a handful of sweets.

This was allegedly the start of many more such incidents.

The trial is proceeding.

PRETORIA NEWS

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