There is a price on my head, says Cheryl Zondi

Cheryl Zondi, who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Nigerian televangelist Tim Omotoso.
Cheryl Zondi, who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Nigerian televangelist Tim Omotoso.
Image: THAPELO MOREBUDI

Cheryl Zondi is ready to go through the ordeal of recounting, in court, the alleged sexual assault at the hands of pastor Timothy Omotoso, should it come to that.

This as the judge presiding over the Nigerian pastor’s trial has elected to recuse himself due to possible “future perceptions” of bias.

Sowetan reported that Judge Mandela Makaula officially recused himself on Friday because his wife owned a guesthouse where state witnesses in the case stayed.

In a media briefing on Tuesday, the 22-year-old said she has accepted the possibility of reliving her testimony which brought into question the style of Omotoso’s defence cross-questioning.

“The NPA has not yet reached out to me to officially tell me how this recusal is going to affect me but I do read the news and the bottom line is that I am likely going to have to start testifying all over again, from scratch as if nothing happened last year; as if I didn’t have to write special exams because the trauma I experienced made incapable of concentration,” said an emotional Zondi.

“I couldn’t read for a few months. As if I didn’t have to spend time from my family to keep myself alive and to keep them alive. As if I haven’t lost enough weight and sleep from all this stress I’ve endured from this process. As if, basically, all of that, all that I have been through, means nothing. The sad and harsh reality is that none of the things that I’ve mentioned are new. This is what happens in South African courts day-in and day-out.”

In a media briefing held on 19 March 2019, Cheryl Zondi told the media she is ready to go through the ordeal of testifying again in the rape case against Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso. This comes after the recusal of judge Mandela Makaula’s due to possible “future perceptions” of bias.

Omotoso’s defence, Peter Daubermann, came under a lot of scrutiny for his line of questioning when Zondi was called to testify before Makaula who, on numerous occasions, had to call him to order.

In his attempt to poke holes in Zondi's testimony, Daubbermann was accused of asking insensitive questions.

He asked Zondi how far the accused had penetrated [her sexually].

“… I got to Port Elizabeth as planned and I was retraumatised. I got a badgering defence lawyer asking me about centimetres, telling me that I wanted to get raped and basically making me feel like I was the one on trial,” said Zondi who, for the first time, revealed that she had to leave her home as there was a risk of possible assassination.

“… I had been back home for just a few days only, when I was told that there was a hit out on my head for half a million rand because I dare to speak my truth. I had to move out of home and away from my family that was keeping me sane to somewhere safer to avoid imminent death.”

Zondi said that she was eternally grateful as the CRL commission chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva took her in during this time.

“She was there for me on her own account, in her own home with her family. If it wasn’t for her doing that for me, I don’t want to think of what could’ve happened to me.

“All of this was happening and the state did absolutely nothing. I had the witness protection programme after waiting for them to contact me for weeks, telling me to change my name, move to the middle of nowhere and drop out of school. Reinforcing this ‘lousy victim must hide’ mentality.”

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