Pastor Timothy Omotoso made me believe rape was will of God, emotional victim tells court

Tim Omotoso and his co-accused, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho, in the Eastern Cape High Court in Gqeberha.
  • Rape victim Cheryl Zondi told the Gqeberha High Court her alleged rapist, televangelist Pastor Tim Omotoso, made her believe it was the will of God.
  • Zondi is one of 49 witnesses who will be testifying against Omotoso.
  • He faces more than 60 charges of rape and sexual assault, among others.

A young rape victim told the Gqeberha High Court on Wednesday controversial Nigerian televangelist Tim Omotoso made her believe raping her was the will of God.

A tearful Cheryl Zondi, 27, who was only 14 years old at the time of the first rape, took the witness stand on Wednesday to be cross-examined by Omotoso’s lawyer, Peter Daubermann.

Zondi is one of 49 witnesses who will testify in the renewed trial of the Nigerian pastor and his two co-accused, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho.

The 65-year-old leader of the Jesus Dominion International Church faces 63 charges ranging from rape and trafficking in persons for sexual purposes to sexual assault and racketeering.

He was arrested by the Hawks in April 2017, but his trial has faced numerous delays, including a different prosecutor and judge being appointed.

This after the previous presiding officer, Judge Mandela Makaula, recused himself in early 2019 after it came to light Zondi stayed in a guesthouse where Makaula’s wife had business interests.

Judge Irma Schoeman is the current presiding officer in the case.

During Wednesday’s cross-examination, Daubermann asked Zondi why she left the church following the alleged abuse only to return a few years later if she knew the alleged abuse was bound to happen again.

Zondi said it was because she was afraid of Omotoso.

Tearfully, she said:

He made me believe it was the will of God. He said it was a covenant and covenants cannot be broken.

Daubermann asked if she really believed that, and Zondi said she was only 14 years old at the time and impressionable.

“I believed many ridiculous things at that age,” she added.

Daubermann also wanted to know why Zondi told the court there was penetration when she did not mention it in her statements to the police or the handwritten statement she wrote herself.

But Zondi insisted she mentioned it to the previous prosecutor as well as a member of the Hawks who took down her statement.

At this point, Daubermann pointed out the Hawks member did not write it in the statement and put it to Zondi she changed her story to suit her own version.

She denied the claim and said there was penetration, but only slightly.

When asked why she did not mention it in her statements, Zondi said she could not recall but perhaps she deemed it as unimportant because it was only slight penetration.

She said:
I have no control over how much I can or cannot remember. Sometimes, my brain blocks things out, other times I remember even more but it has been a traumatic experience.

When Daubermann pointed out the alleged rape incidents happened years ago, she said it did not make it less traumatising.

Zondi added prior to the alleged rape, she had no sexual experiences at that age and the act itself was confusing to her.

“It was so weird because he moved down from my clitoris and penetrated slightly. At that point I was not even sure if it really meant rape because I had no sexual experience at 14,” she said.

“The act was just strange and confusing.”

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