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Girls so brainwashed they could not even say no

Omotoso’s alleged rape victims were 'severely groomed'

Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso leaves the dock after his rape and human trafficking trial in the Gqeberha high court this week
Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso leaves the dock after his rape and human trafficking trial in the Gqeberha high court this week
Image: Werner Hills

Young girls who were allegedly sexually assaulted and raped by pastor Timothy Omotoso had been so severely groomed that the thought of saying no did not even cross their minds, the Gqeberha high court in Eastern Cape heard on Thursday.

Testifying on behalf of the state, Dr Karen Muller of the Child Witness Institute, said interviews with 22 of Omotoso’s alleged victims had indicated that all of them fell into the category of grooming.

Muller, who was tasked with compiling a report about the alleged grooming, the trauma experienced and impact on the victims, said it had become apparent they had been in such a state of confusion that they had allowed the head of the Jesus Dominion International church to do what he wanted without consent.

“Grooming is designed to remove consent and force compulsion,” she said. “From the evidence they gave to me, when they were taken into a room they were so shocked they did not know what to do. They were unable to say no out of fear and confusion, so the thought of saying no didn’t even enter their minds.”

She said the grooming had been aimed at making the girls compliant and vulnerable as they had been led to believe Omotoso was an amazing man who was powerful enough to curse them if they were not obedient to him.

“None of the girls was asked to perform sexual acts on [Omotoso]. They were led into a dark room, which caused more confusion. When it became sexual, they became even more confused. None of them verbally agreed to what happened. They were told what to do.”

Muller was the state’s third witness to testify after the trial went back to court this week.

Nine of Omotoso’s alleged victims have already testified since the trial started afresh after the previous judge, Mandela Makaula, recused himself following accusations that some witnesses had been staying at a guest house owned by his wife.

During the trial, which started in October 2018, prosecutor Nceba Ntelwa also withdrew from the case when it emerged that he allegedly attempted to induce witnesses to lie on the stand.

After Ntelwa’s withdrawal, an application for a mistrial to be ruled was dismissed by judge Irma Schoeman, who refused to recuse herself from the matter.

Omotoso was arrested at the Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport in Port Elizabeth in April 2017 and has been in custody since. He has failed numerous attempts for bail, including approaching the highest court in the land.

Omotoso, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho face a litany of charges including rape, human trafficking, sexual assault and racketeering.

They have all pleaded not guilty. Sulani and Sitho are on bail of R2,000 each.

The trial continues.

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