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 by the South African police on account rape, human trafficking and racketeering on April 20th, 2017.
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. He has so far spent about 1230 days and nights behind bars coupled with political interference in the case against a Nigerian in South Africa.
The president of the association, Dr Olusola Agbeniyi, who spoke to 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 the president of Nigeria on Diaspora affairs, Hon. Abike Dabiri Erewa facilitated a meeting comprising the then acting high commissioner, 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. Despite all these, the group said, it is saddened that 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.
Agbeniyi said, “today it is Rev. Timothy Omotoso, tomorrow it can be any other Nigerian in South Africa.”
According to him, “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.”
The acting president of South African Prison Organisation (SAPO), Advocate Frank Mbedzi, in a paper made available to the media, condemned the gross violation of human rights in the case of Rev. Omotoso , and stated that both his constitutional and democratic rights have been violated.
Mbedzi, stressed that 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 delayed and denied because of state prosecutors that have raised technicalities without proof.
He said, “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 the 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.
Senior Port Elizabeth advocate, Terry Price SC had previously argued that the charge sheet against the Nigerian Pastor was 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.
Senior Counsel, Terry 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 25 March 2019, Judge 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 9 March 2020, the second trial also came to an abrupt halt when Advocate Ishmet Cerfontein co-prosecutor announced that the lead prosecutor Advocate Nceba Ntelwa has been removed from the case with no explanation. Prosecutor Marius Stander was appointed as a lead prosecutor with Ishmet Cerfontein still active in the case.
The case was adjourned till 20 April 2020, however, due to the global pandemic, there were no court sessions until 28 July 2020. On 28 July, 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 25 August, Adv Cerfontein informed Judge Schoeman that she is 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 (3 and a half years since the arrest).