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Mzansi stands by heroic Cheryl Zondi as she stands her ground in Omotoso trial

Police officers had their hands full yesterday as supporters for and against controversial televangelist Timothy Omotoso clashed outside the Port Elizabeth high court.
Police officers had their hands full yesterday as supporters for and against controversial televangelist Timothy Omotoso clashed outside the Port Elizabeth high court.
Image: Werner Hills

Cheryl Zondi is rapidly rising as the face of South Africa's rape survivors as she stoically faced three days of unrelenting cross-examination following her testimony in the Timothy Omotoso rape trial.

Zondi, 22, has spent three gruelling days on the stand in the Port Elizabeth high court intimately detailing her rape, allegedly at the hands of the charismatic televangelist.

She has also fended off a barrage of questions from defence attorney Peter Daubermann - many of which have outraged the public - about Omotoso's penis size and how far she was penetrated .

Yesterday, members of anti-gender based violence campaign #TotalShutDown called on activists to mobilise outside the Bird Street courthouse.

When court started yesterday morning, Daubermann registered a complaint with the court, saying prosecutor Nceba Ntelwa had not furnished him with psychological reports on the alleged victims as well as a comprehensive report.

Daubermann told judge Mandela Makaula that he was only given the reports before court started and needed time to peruse them and consult with a private psychologist.

Makaula said he would allow Daubermann time to consult with the necessary experts and his clients in this regard but refused to postpone the matter.

During the morning session, Daubermann presented Zondi with various photographs of her and other members of the church during a trip to Israel.

He questioned Zondi about her apparently happy and excited demeanour. Zondi said she had to appear happy. "Not putting on a front meant going against the instruction and authority this man [Omotoso] had," Zondi said.

During questioning, Zondi remained confident and calm until Daubermann began pushing as to why she had not confided in anyone about the alleged abuse after she left the Durban property where she had stayed with Omotoso and several other young women.

Zondi left the Durban house in August 2015. She, along with her mother, arranged with an aunt and cousin for her to get away from the house and Omotoso, Zondi told the court.

Zondi said she went to Durban after she attended a Jesus Dominion International church crusade in Port Elizabeth in May 2015. She said she was unable to return home to Gauteng following the Port Elizabeth trip as no return ticket had been booked for her.

Asked how she was transported to Durban, Zondi said she could not recall the exact details but knew transport was arranged by Omotoso's co-accused Lusanda Sulani, 36.

Pushed for reasons why she had not attempted to contact anyone or make a plan to escape Omotoso's control before August 2015, Zondi said she needed a clear plan before making a move.

Zondi said it was after her escape that she began opening up about what had happened and only after her family noticed a change in her did she eventually see a therapist.

Asked why she never reported the alleged abuse to the police, Zondi said she could not trust them because she knew some of the church members were police officers. "How could I trust police [when some of them] took off their jackets and put them on the floor for [Omotoso] to walk on.

"[Omotoso] encouraged them to wear their uniforms and at services he would encourage them to stand in front of the congregation and say how much they adored him and that they would protect him."

Before postponing the matter to Monday, Makaula wished Zondi well with her upcoming exams.

Zondi, is a marketing student at the University of Johannesburg and has been on the stand since last Monday. As a result, she has already missed one exam.

Outside court, chaos erupted when Omotoso's supporters went head-to-head with members of the #TotalShutDown movement. Daubermann was followed to his car by those supporting Zondi.

The group hurled insults and threw water at him. Daubermann was escorted by police to his BMW parked at the back of the court building.

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