Witness protection does not protect young victims, says Cheryl Zondi

04 December 2018 - 15:17 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Cheryl Zondi, who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Nigerian televangelist Timothy Omotoso, launched a foundation on December 4 2018 to help victims of sexual abuse.
Cheryl Zondi, who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Nigerian televangelist Timothy Omotoso, launched a foundation on December 4 2018 to help victims of sexual abuse.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo

Cheryl Zondi has laid a complaint with the public protector against the witness protection programme, which she described as "punishment" because it did not support victims of rape and sexual assault.

"In my own experience, the system doesn't work for victims, especially young victims," said Zondi.

She was one of the women who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Nigerian televangelist Timothy Omotoso.

Zondi was speaking at the launch of her foundation at the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of other Rights of Cultural, Religious and, Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

"When a young person helps clean up the country by getting rapists off the street, it is then the responsibility of the state to protect that person and that person's rights. It is neither just, nor is it constitutional, to ask the youth to drop out of school, go somewhere far away and forget their identity... Dropping off the face of the earth and cutting all communication with family members sounds more to me like punishment.

"I want there to be a [shift] in this country. Women and young women, please stop blaming yourself for the evil acts that have nothing to do with you," Zondi said.

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said she had scheduled a meeting with the ministers of justice and police following her meeting with Zondi for an "immediate intervention".

"The matter is so serious and scary. I think it's urgent," she said.

She said she would subpoena the ministers if there was a need to do so.

Zondi made headlines when she faced a gruelling cross-examination from Omotoso's counsel, Peter Daubermann, at the start of the trial in the Port Elizabeth High Court.

Omotoso, a senior pastor of the Jesus Dominion International Church, faces multiple charges. These include rape, human trafficking and racketeering.

Under the harsh, degrading cross-examination, the 22-year old university student told her story of alleged sexual assault that started when she was 14.

She received major support from activists groups around the country.


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