Sex trial of church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo set to take place in November
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Pretoria - The sex trial of controversial Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo is set to start on November 15 in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria and to last until November 26.
The case was back in court today so that the newly appointed defence advocate could indicate whether he has concluded his consultations with Zondo.
Judge Peet Johnson, however, issued a directive last week to the parties that he wanted the trial to start this week. The prosecution said while they were ready and had two witnesses at court, it would only be fair to grant the defence a further postponement to prepare for the trial.
Zondo has secured the services of one of the country’s top advocates, Piet Pistorius SC, who has also served on numerous occasions as an acting judge.
Pistorius told the court that he wanted to launch an application to force the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities to hand over the transcript of proceedings before it.
The commission earlier heard evidence, mostly behind closed doors, from the alleged victims. Pistorius said it was vital for the defence’ case to hear what the witnesses said and to obtain their affidavits before the commission.
The defence tried on several occasions to obtain these documents, as well as the transcript of the evidence by the alleged victims, but the commission refused to hand it over until they had concluded their work.
Pistorius said this was important for the defence, especially when the alleged victims are being cross examined by the defence in court later.
The prosecution, on the other hand, said the commission’s work had nothing to do with the criminal trial. Prosecutor Jennifer Cronje said the State is not relying on anything before the commission, as the prosecution’s case is built on the SAPS case dockets.
Judge Johnson refused to entertain the application, especially as the commission is not a party before this court.
Zondo’s following is meanwhile getting bigger at court, as scores of his congregation supported him both inside and outside court. A crowd was singing and dancing outside the court, holding placards saying “Hands off Bishop Zondo.”
Some of his followers also wore T-shirts sporting his picture. Mavis Musi sat outside the court building, proudly displaying his picture on her shirt.
She told the Pretoria News that her bishop is a good man, who is innocently being accused.
While scores of Zondo supporters dominated the morning at court, a handful of supporters for the victims gathered across the road. Mainly dressed in white, they held posters questioning why Zondo is “playing delaying tactics.”
Zondo is expected to plead not guilty to 10 charges in November, the bulk of which is of a sexual nature. It is expected that the alleged victims will testify behind closed doors and that the public, members of the congregation and the media will not be allowed inside during their evidence.