Room A in the Port Elizabeth High Court was turned into a re-enactment of the biblical David and Goliath battle as the fight for survival against all odds continued against Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso, who, along with two co-accused, faces charges ranging from human trafficking to sexual assault and rape.
For Cheryl Zondi, it is about proving the case; while for Peter Daubermann, it is about ensuring that justice is done for his client.
It has been an emotional journey for Zondi, and more horrific details of how Omotoso allegedly raped her when she was 14, and kept her and scores of other young women as his sex slaves, are expected to come to light as the trial continues.
City Press has reliably learnt that more information about how the girls would take turns in Omotoso’s bed – some engaging in orgies – will be revealed over the next few weeks.
Zondi said the self-appointed “Man of God” would brag to the other “house girls” that she was the best in bed.
During her testimony, Zondi said that Omotoso declared: “She is the best March girl in South Africa, fire, fire!”
Zondi explained that she was born in March, hence the term “March girl”.
Omotoso and his two co-accused, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho, are defending the 97 charges that have been levelled against them.
Since it began last week, the trial has been a kaleidoscope of drama, coupled with highly emotional engagements and outbursts from the public gallery.
Omotoso’s legal representative this week continued to fight hard to defend his client in Port Elizabeth, as he cross-examined Zondi.
The cross-examination, which was broadcast on television with Zondi’s consent, has however raised sharp questions about the manner in which the South African justice system treats victims of sexual offences.
On social media, there has been an outpouring of support for the difficult process of cross-examination Zondi had to endure. On Friday, Zondi released a statement thanking South Africans for the messages of support.
“I am so overwhelmed! I do not know where to begin. I cannot believe the amount of support I am receiving, let alone the fierce, passionate level of support that is being shown by the multitudes of women and men alike, both young and old.”
This followed the broadcast of dramatic scenes from the trial, including the cross-examination.
“Don’t try to be clever!” exclaimed Daubermann, at one point.
“I’m not trying to be clever, I am clever,” Zondi responded.
Ocassionally, Daubermann also adopted the strategy of repeating his questions to Zondi.
In another dramatic moment, he asked Zondi to figure out when she was raped.
She told him she couldn’t remember because she suffered from a mental illness that affected her memory.
“I suffered from severe depression; depression causes loss of memory,” said Zondi.
Judge Mandela Makaula eventually intervened as Daubermann continued his tough line of questioning.
Daubermann defended his cross-examination each time Makaula intervened.
During one exchange between Daubermann and Makaula, Daubermann had alluded to Zondi being prepared to be raped when she went back to the Omotoso mission house in Durban.
“When you went to Durban, you knew that there was a risk of being raped and you accepted the risk of being raped by agreeing to go there again,” he said.
Daubermann argued that the judge was making it “difficult” for him to build a defence case for his client.
“I have made my ruling, you know your options as the law permits,” said Makaula.
Later in the trial, Daubermann played three video clips.
The first was of Zondi making a speech in one of Omotoso’s church crusades after returning to the church in 2015.
This was followed by one of the musical group Grace Galaxy and the trips they were taken on by Omotoso.
A third clip was that of a young Zondi giving testimony in the Secunda branch of Omotoso’s church.
Daubermann then cross-examined Zondi about what she said during the video clips, but she stood firm.
“Do you remember the day you made these statements?” asked Daubermann.
“I could never forget it,” said Zondi. “It is the video that enraged my mother that her 13-year-old daughter was captured on video and it was posted on the internet without her consent,” she calmly said.
Daubermann then changed his line of questioning, which led to a request for an adjournment.
Zondi has been released from the witness stand to allow her to write her exams.
Makaula wished her well, but warned her that she was still under oath and advised her to forget about the case for the duration of her exams.
“Focus on your studies and your future, forget about the case,” he told Zondi.