Televangelist Timothy Omotoso has made an application to compel the judge in his criminal trial to recuse himself, the Port Elizabeth high court heard on Monday.
Advocate Peter Daubermann — Omotoso’s lawyer — presented the rape-accused’s application, noting that presiding Judge Mandela Makaula would have to objectively make a decision regarding his remarks during the cross-examination of Cheryl Zondi, who has accused Omotoso of grooming and sexually abusing her as a teenager.
In an affidavit supporting the application, Omotoso said Judge Makaula has “already made up his mind” regarding the trial and is “overtly sympathetic” towards Zondi.
Because Makaula has already decided that Zondi’s version of the events is true, and that Omotoso and his co-accused are guilty, Omotoso will not be able to receive a fair trial, the affidavit said.
The trial against Omotoso and his co-accused, Lusanda Solani and Zukiswa Sitho, began two weeks ago. Omotoso has 63 charges against him, including racketeering, rape, sexual assault and human trafficking, all of which he has refused to plead to.
He is accused of having trafficked more than 30 girls and women who were from branches of his church to a house in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal, where he allegedly sexually abused them.
Zondi’s cross-examination was concluded last week.
Daubermann made reference to Makaula’s remarks to Zondi before proceedings were adjourned last Wednesday, in which he wished her well for her exams.
“Regarding your exams‚ on behalf of the court‚ we wish you luck.
You must pass your exams. That is your future. You must concentrate on your future‚ and forget about what is happening here. It will take its own course‚” Makaula told Zondi. “You are not doing it for yourself‚ coming to this court. It’s not about yourself‚ it’s about justice. So leave everything to us and go and write your exams.”
Daubermann contended that these remarks were a reflection of Makaula having aligned himself with Zondi’s cause.
“You allowed your humanity to get the better of you … And unfortunately I have to criticised you for that,” Daubermann said.
He added that Makaula had effectively commended Zondi “for coming to court to tell the truth in the interest of justice”.
“A judge cannot display even the slightest display of prejudice,” Daubermann said.
“You have already accepted her version. Unfortunately my lord the damage has been done.”
He noted that “as far as the applicants are concerned” there is no point in this trial continuing before Makaula.