Posted by News Express | 27 September 2020 | 2,453 times
The Association of the Yorubas in Diaspora South Africa (AYIDSA) has called on the Nigerian government to intervene in a case of a Nigerian pastor who was arrested without a warrant of arrest or investigation and detained since April 20, 2017 by the South African police for alleged rape, human trafficking and racketeering.
The pastor, Rev. Timothy Omotoso, who is the founder of Jesus Dominion International (JDI), based in Durban and other cities across South Africa, was arraigned in court and has been denied bail severally.
AYIDSA President, Dr Olusola Agbeniyi, who spoke recently with newsmen, said it is time for the Nigerian mission to take a proactive approach and ask their South African counterparts for the motive behind the legal drama.
Agbeniyi disclosed that in May 2017 the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Diaspora Affairs, Hon. Abike Dabiri Erewa, facilitated a meeting comprising the then Acting High Commissioner, the leadership of AYIDSA and Pastor Omotoso’s legal team and family on the role of the mission.
“The mission has been monitoring the proceedings. The Consul General was at Port Elizabeth (PE) court at a time during one of his appearances. The CG was also in Durban to follow up with the legal team,” Agbeniyi said.
He expressed sadness that despite all these, Rev. Omotoso has not been considered for or granted bail.
“We therefore appeal to the new High Commissioner to engage the South Africa Government over this matter. Today it is Rev. Timothy Omotoso, tomorrow it can be any other Nigerian in South Africa.
“I have been keenly following the case from the beginning, and there is a political interest in his case hence continued incarceration even during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Agbeniyi said.
In a related development, the Acting President of South African Prison Organisation (SAPO), Advocate Frank Mbedzi, in a paper made available to the media, condemned what he described as the gross violation of human rights in the case of Rev. Omotoso. He declared unequivocally that both his constitutional and democratic rights have been violated.
Mbedzi stressed that the South African Constitution provides that every accused person has the right to a fair trial and to a speedy trial. He lamented that in this case systematic delays and granting of bail is delayed 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 the further incarceration of an accused person. In this case prosecutors have been located and removed for no reason. Where the state seeks a post 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.
“On constitutional right, an accused person has a constitutional right to have his trial begin and conclude without unreasonable delay, section 35(3) (d) of the constitution refers.
Unfortunate and investable systematic delays have threatened and violated Rev. Timothy Omotoso’s rights,” Mbedzi said.
Senior Port Elizabeth advocate, Terry Price, SC, had previously described the charge sheet against the Nigerian Pastor as an abomination.
Price argued 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. But Price said that 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, Judge Makaula subsequently recused 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 Advocate Ishmet Cerfontein, co-prosecutor, announced that the lead prosecutor, Advocate Nceba Ntelwa, had been removed from the case with no explanation. Prosecutor Marius Stander was appointed as lead prosecutor with Ishmet Cerfontein still active in the case.
The case was adjourned to April 20, 2020. However, due to the global Covid-19 pandemic there were no court sessions until July 28, 2020. On that day, a new state prosecutor, Dr. Jokani, was appointed since Advocate Marius Stander had also removed himself from the case. Dr. Jokani asked for time to study and prepare for the case.
However on August 25, Advocate 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 has now been adjourned to October 6, 2020 – a full three and a half years since the arrest of the embattled Nigerian cleric.
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