Cheryl Zondi
Witnesses in the Pastor Timothy Omotoso rape trial are living in fear after receiving death threats.

They include Cheryl Zondi, who was the first to take the stand about the alleged sexual and psychological abuse she endured while living at the Nigerian pastor's headquarters.

This was revealed by Zondi and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane during the launch of the Cheryl Zondi Foundation at Rhema Bible Church in Randburg on Tuesday.

Zondi said the foundation would help sexually abused women and young people by supporting them during the legal processes and encouraging them to "speak out no matter how daunting it may be" because of threats from their perpetrators and their supporters.

“I have laid a complaint with the public protector asking that the witness protection law be investigated and changed.

"I have realised that the system does not work for victims, especially young victims,” Zondi said.

Mkhwebane confirmed reports that a hit had been put out on Zondi and the other witnesses in the Omotoso rape trial.

“As Cheryl has mentioned, the way the system is structured, it is not protecting the victims. It instead victimises them further,” she said.

The 22-year-old University of Johannesburg student was put into the witness protection programme at a secret location until she could testify at the Port Elizabeth High Court earlier this year.

Omotoso faces 63 main charges and 34 alternative counts that include human trafficking, rape and sexual assault. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Zondi said her personal wish was for the state to skill workers to be able to deal with this kind of abuse.

The chairperson of the CRL Rights Commission, Thoko Mkhwanazi- Xaluva, was announced as the deputy chairperson of the foundation.