The women who claimed that they were raped or fell prey to the alleged sexual advances of controversial Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo are expected to take the stand this week in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.
Zondo’s trial stood down for a week, but it is set to kick off today after Judge Peet Johnson last Monday made it clear he will only grant the defence team a week to prepare for their defence.
The defence asked for a postponement of several months in which to consult with witnesses – including some expert witnesses. While the prosecution objected to the postponement, they also questioned why experts were necessary to testify.
The prosecution said it was a straightforward s.e.x-crimes trial and prosecutor Jennifer Cronje said the State’s witnesses were all ready to testify.
They were at court last Monday as it was expected that the trial would go ahead.
Cronje told the court that some of the witnesses had to endure “hostile stares” from some people in the public gallery and they had to be removed to another room as they felt uncomfortable.
While the defence did not indicate what the nature of the evidence is that their expert witnesses were due to present, they did tell the court that they only received the case dockets at the end of July and that they noticed that the State had about 24 witnesses on their list.
The judge was told that the defence also wanted to consult with some of these witnesses, but Cronje said there was “no way she would allow the defence near her witnesses”.
Zondo made it clear he will plead not guilty to all the charges, including rape, contravention of the Sexual Offences Act and defeating the ends of justice.
It is claimed in the indictment that most of the alleged victims were members of his congregation.
Two out of the 10 charges listed, however, pertain to a child who was either 8 or 9 years old at the time when she was allegedly repeatedly raped by Zondo.
The State claimed that after a charge of rape was laid against Zondo, a family meeting was held to discuss the situation.
It is said that “during the meeting, the accused admitted the allegations against him and offered to cleanse the complainant by paying her R25 000”.
The State said this was done on the condition that she withdrew the charge against Zondo. The complainant, it is said, declined the offer.
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