Omotoso defence reprimanded for asking 'unfair' questions
Gruelling cross-examination of the state’s first witness in the trial of charismatic Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso and his co-accused saw the defence tearing into Cheryl Zondi’s evidence during the fourth day of court proceedings.
During Monday’s cross-examination of Zondi‚ Port Elizabeth High Court Judge Mandela Makaula reprimanded Omotoso’s legal counsel Peter Daubermann on several occasions because of the nature of questions he put to Zondi.
At one stage Makaula stopped Daubermann from questioning Zondi about how far Omotoso had penetrated her when he raped her when she was only 14.
Daubermann asked Zondi more than twice how many centimetres Omotoso had penetrated her after she specifically said he had only partially penetrated her vaginally.
Zondi had initially said Omotoso was cautious not to “go all the way” because she was still a virgin at the time.
This was followed by loud gasps and comments from the public gallery as Daubermann continued questioning Zondi about Omotoso’s actions.
“I have been patient up until now‚ I will not allow you to ask unfair questions‚” a clearly agitated Makaula said.
Daubermann accused Makaula of interfering in his questioning and said that he would take the matter further as he felt Makaula was hampering his cross-examination.
Last week Zondi‚ 22‚ of Gauteng told in graphic detail how she was groomed by Omotoso to perform lewd sexual acts on him after she started attending his Jesus Dominion International (JDI) church.
Zondi‚ a second-year marketing management student at the University of Johannesburg‚ remained confident throughout cross-examination by Daubermann but was visibly upset when Daubermann pushed for why she had not included details of the assault in her initial statement to police.
“I put it to you that you are fabricating your evidence‚” Daubermann said to Zondi.
“With all due respect‚ that is one of the most absurd things I have ever heard in my life. I don’t know how this man [Daubermann] thinks. I was there‚” Zondi said.
Zondi was 13 when she first started attending the JDI. At the age of 14 in 2010‚ Zondi went to Durban to attend a national meeting of the church where she first met Omotoso.
“I was impressed with his preaching and how he played the piano. It all seemed legitimate but I don’t believe it is a legitimate church anymore‚” Zondi said.
Zondi testified last week how after her first visit to Durban she was given Omotoso’s cellphone number and she was told to contact him daily.
Zondi attended another national meeting later in 2014 when she was allegedly sexually assaulted by Omotoso at the church’s “mission house” in Umhlanga Rocks.
Omotoso and two other accused‚ Lusanda Sulani‚ 36‚ and Zukiswa Sitho‚ 28‚ face a litany of charges amongst them ranging from human trafficking to sexual assault and rape.
The 97 charges are for crimes allegedly committed between 2009 and 2017 before Omotoso’s dramatic arrest at the Port Elizabeth airport in April 2017.
Twice before the lunch adjournment Daubermann asked the court to adjourn early so that he could canvas statements made by Zondi‚ however Makaula made it clear that the matter must continue.