Church leader Bishop Zondo’s sex crimes trial postponed after he fires advocate
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Pretoria - The sex trial of controversial Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo was once again postponed in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.
It is now predicted that it will only go-ahead sometime in November, as Zondo has fired his advocate. The reason cited to Judge Peet Johnson is because of “a breach of confidence.” No further details were, however, divulged on this.
His newly appointed advocate, Piet Pistorius SC, is a veteran and had many times also acted as an acting judge on especially criminal matters.
While the State said they were ready to proceed and that their witnesses were at court, ready to take the stand, Pistorius said he was only asked to defend Zondo a few days ago, while he was busy with a trial in the Northern Cape.
He thus needed time to consult with Zondo and to study the case dockets.
While the State objected to yet another postponement, prosecutor Jennifer Cronje conceded that it was Zondo’s Constitutional right to obtain a legal representative of his choice.
She, however, said the prosecution will keep a close eye on the proceedings, as it is of the opinion that Zondo merely wanted to delay it. Cronje made it clear that if they think that he is deliberately stalling the trial, the prosecution will ask that he face his trial behind bars.
Zondo is out on warning at the moment.
The trial was supposed to start a week ago, but Zondo’s legal team asked for a postponement last Monday, so that they could properly prepare. His advocate at the time said he only received the dockets late in July.
Two days after last week’s postponement, Zondo fired his advocate.
One of the conditions for his facing trial outside jail, is that he may not contact any state witnesses - directly or indirectly. This condition was added a week ago after Cronje said she had received complaints from some of the witnesses that there were attempts to contact them.
Zondo is meanwhile expected to plead not guilty to 10 charges, which include rape and sexual abuse.
One of the rape charges involved a then 9-year-old child and it is claimed that she was raped on several occasions during 2010. The other charges related to members of his congregation, who claimed they were either raped or fell prey to his sexual advances in his office at his church.
It is alleged that he lured them to his office under the pretext of wanting to pray for them.
A handful of his supporters meanwhile yet again gathered outside the court building, displaying posters saying “Hands off Archbishop Zondo.”
The matter was provisionally postponed to September 14, to map out the route forward for the trial in November.