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Second alleged victim set to testify behind closed doors in sex trial of Bishop Stephen Zondo

Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo in court. Picture: Zelda Venter

Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo in court. Picture: Zelda Venter

Published Jul 25, 2022

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Pretoria - Another woman who claimed that she was a victim of Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo will give her evidence in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria behind closed doors.

The court today ruled that the witness may present her evidence in camera in order to protect her privacy in light of the graphic evidence she is due to give.

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Judge Papi Mosopa said she is entitled to testify without the media and the public present.

She is the second alleged victim to take the stand with only the accused, legal teams and the judge present. The first alleged victim gave her evidence in open court.

The woman earlier, during the application by the prosecution for her evidence to be heard in camera, expressed her wish to do so without the public and the media, as she said it was a private matter and it was emotional and embarrassing for her to relive her alleged ordeal in public.

She made it clear that while she had no problem facing Zondo in court, she wanted her privacy to be protected.

Judge Mosopa said in allowing her to testify in camera, will not prejudice the accused. He said looking at the nature of the charges in relation to which she must testify, and the fact that she will have to give graphic details regarding her alleged ordeal, it is justified that her evidence be heard in camera.

The judge said the dignity of both the witness and the accused are at play here. He referred to an incident during the cross examination of the previous witness, who also testified in camera. The judge said even the accused was emotional during the woman’s cross examination by the defence.

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Judge Mosopa said while the public has the right to know what is happening in the trial, the National Prosecuting Authority had a spokesperson available, who can keep the media updated.

The judge further commented that although the present witness has agreed to face Zondo in court, she may have a change of heart if she had to testify in open court. That can have grave consequences, the judge said.

He also referred to the earlier behaviour of the public attending the trial, who earlier had to be reprimanded for making comments while a witness was testifying. The judge said this case is attracting a lot of attention, with the public gallery always being full. He also referred to the two factions in court - those supporting Zondo and those against him.

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The media also came under the spotlight, as the judge said despite an order by him that victims were not allowed to be identified, a camera crew still went ahead and screened footage of one of these women. To date the media house has not forwarded an explanation or apology, the judge said.

It is not clear at this stage how long the witness’ evidence behind closed doors and subsequent cross examination by the defence will last. This leg of the trial is set down until August 5.

Zondo earlier pleaded not guilty to 10 charges, which include rape and sexual abuse allegations.

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