These are hard times for Yoruba resident in South Africa. And they are not taking it lying low.
A pathetic sampler: Rev Timothy Omotoso, founder, Jesus Dominion International (JDI), was arrested for alleged rape, human trafficking and racketeering on April 20, 2017. He was denied bail many times and has spent over 1,230 days behind bars.
Therefore, their umbrella body, Association of the Yoruba in the Diaspora South Africa (AYIDSA), sent a Save Our Souls (SOS) to the Federal Government, asking FG to intervene in a case of the clergyman arrested without a warrant or investigation by the South African Police.
President of AYIDSA, Dr Olusola Agbeniyi, said: “It is time for the Nigerian Mission to take a proactive approach and ask its South African counterpart for the motive behind the legal drama. In May 2017, the Special Adviser to the President on the Diaspora Affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, facilitated a meeting comprising the then acting High Commissioner, the leadership of AYIDSA and Omotoso’s legal team and family.
“The mission has been monitoring the proceedings. The Consul General (CG) was at Port Elizabeth (PE) court during one of the pastor’s appearances. He was also in Durban to follow up with the legal team. Despite all these, it is sad that Rev. Omotoso has not been considered for bail.
“We therefore appeal to the new High Commissioner to engage the South African Government over this matter Agbeniyi. Today, it is Omotoso, tomorrow it can be any other Nigerian. There is a political interest in this case hence his continued incarceration even during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Acting president of South African Prison Organisation (SAPO), Advocate Frank Mbedzi, condemned the gross violation of human rights in the case of Omotoso. He stated that his constitutional and democratic rights have been infringed upon:
“The constitution provides that every accused person has the right to a fair trial. A right to a speedy trial, but in this case, systematic delays and granting of bail is bridged and denied because of state prosecutors that have raised technicalities without proof.
“Delays caused by prosecutorial decisions are the absence of Mala fides not in themselves good reasons for finding that an accused person is not entitled to bail. Prosecutors have a duty to establish facts, which justify further incarceration of an accused.
“In this case, prosecutors have been located and removed for no reason. Where the state seeks a postponement for bail application as provided for in Section 50, the prosecutor is not relieved of his duty to put all relevant information before court.
“An accused has a constitutional right to have his trial started and concluded without unreasonable delay, Section 35(3) (d) of the constitution refers. Unfortunate and investable systematic delays have threatened and violated Pastor Timothy Omotoso’s rights.”
Senior Port Elizabeth Advocate, Terry Price, had argued that the charge sheet against the Nigerian pastor was an abomination: “Two issues in the Port Elizabeth High Court – first, he was appealing against judge Mandela Makaula’s decision not to quash the charges and, second, his refusal to recuse himself.”
Makaula said he found the defence had failed dismally to prove grounds for him to recuse himself, including allegations that he had already decided to convict and sentence, and that he was overtly sympathetic and prejudiced towards state witness, Cheryl Zondi.
Price said when the judge excused Zondi, it was his utterances after wishing her well with her exams, which could lead to the perception that he was being biased or siding with her.
On March 25, 2019, Makaula subsequently rescued himself after it was revealed that the state witnesses were lodged in the Guest House owned by his wife. This brought the case to an abrupt stop and the recusal meant that the trial had to start from scratch/ de novo before a new judge.
The second trial started in July 2019 with Judge Irma Schoeman. On March 9, 2020, the second trial also came to an abrupt halt when Ishmet Cerfontein, co-prosecutor, announced that the lead prosecutor, Nceba Ntelwa, has been removed from the case with no explanation. Marius Stander was appointed as lead prosecutor with Cerfontein still active in the case.
The case was adjourned till April 20, 2020. However, due to the global pandemic, there were no court sessions until July 28, 2020. A new state prosecutor, Dr Jokani, was appointed since Stander had also removed himself from the case. Jokani asked for time to study and prepare for the case.
On August 25, Cerfontein informed Judge Schoeman that she was also withdrawing from the Omotoso case for ethical reasons. This is yet another change by the state. The case was been adjourned to October 6, 2020, three and a half years since Omotoso’s arrest.