Cheryl Zondi, a state witness in the trial of Timothy Omotoso, a senior pastor at the Jesus Dominion International Church, has been praised for her bravery and fortitude by the Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency and the Ministry.
Zondi, an alleged rape victim, has for the past three days taken to the stand to testify against the pastor in the Port Elizabeth High Court. Omotoso, a 58 year-old Nigerian, was arrested by the Hawks last year on 97 charges of racketeering activities, sexual assault and rape.
He is charged along with his two alleged accomplices Lusanda Solani, 36, and Zukiswa Sitho, 28.
The matter was among a range of matters discussed by the Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency, led by Women Minister Bathabile Dlamini, on Wednesday.
“We salute the bravery and fortitude of Cheryl Zondi. She is an inspiration to millions of young women who have broken the silence on sexual harassment,” the Portfolio Committee and the Ministry said in a joint statement.
They expressed outrage at what they termed a “brutally inhumane and unnecessary style of cross examination” by defence council, Peter Daubermann.
“They jointly agreed that although lawyers possess the obligation to act in their client’s best interests, such burden is subject to the supreme duty of all legal practitioners to the criminal justice system and the court.
“In line with this principle, Adv Daubermann is required to be fair and courteous towards every person during the exercise of his professional conduct, particularly the survivors of sexual violence.”
The Committee and the Minister made note of Section 166 of the Criminal Procedures Act, which gives rights to the accused to cross examine witnesses. Such rights are limited, however, by the interpretative duty of the defence to ensure that during cross-examination the basic rights of witnesses are not encroached on.
In anticipation of the other young women due to testify during this trial, the Committee and the Minister pleaded for an attitude of civility among all inside the courts and those observing from outside.
They said it was unfortunate that Zondi has had to endure secondary victimisation and trauma during this experience.
“We encourage you to nonetheless take strength in the opportunity that this experience presents you, and the multitudes of women whose experience is similar to yours. At your tender age, God has given you the strength of warriors to fight the evil that has mounted your young life,” they said, adding that they are proud of the courage she has shown.
“May you continue to stand for truth, and to lead even in your vulnerability. Through your experience, millions in the country now have a sense of the excruciating difficulties faced by victims of sexual violence in our justice system.
“Through you, millions of survivors have gained the voice and strength to speak out,” they jointly stated. – SAnews.gov.za