Supporters converge for church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo’s sex trial
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Pretoria - Supporters of controversial Rivers of Living Waters Church leader Bishop Bafana Stephen Zondo flocked to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria yesterday to support the man they call their hero.
Holding placards warning that people must keep their hands off their archbishop, the group sang and danced outside the court building.
Meanwhile, another small group of supporters came to court for the first time, holding posters saying that Zondo should face “what he has done”. The relatively quiet group was far outnumbered by the vocal Zondo supporters.
Zondo’s sex trial takes place from November 15 to 26.
The case was back in court yesterday – a provisional date – so that the new defence advocate could indicate whether he had concluded his consultations with Zondo.
Judge Peet Johnson, however, issued a directive last week that he wanted the trial to start this week. The prosecution said while it was ready and had two witnesses at court, it would only be fair to grant the defence a further postponement to prepare for the trial.
Zondo has secured the services of one of the country’s top advocates, Piet Pistorius SC, who has also served on numerous occasions as an acting judge.
Pistorius told the court he wanted to launch an application to force the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities to hand over the transcript of proceedings before it.
The commission earlier heard evidence, mostly behind closed doors, from the alleged victims.
Pistorius said it was vital for the defence’s case to hear what the witnesses said and to obtain their affidavits.
The defence tried on several occasions to obtain these documents, as well as the transcript of the evidence by the alleged victims, but the commission refused to hand it over until they had concluded their work.
Pistorius said this was important for the defence, especially when the alleged victims were to be cross-examined.
The prosecution, on the other hand, said the commission’s work had nothing to do with the criminal trial.
Prosecutor Jennifer Cronje said the State was not relying on anything before the commission, as its case was built on the SAPS case dockets.
Judge Johnson refused to entertain the application, especially as the commission was not a party before the court.
Besides those who gathered outside, the courtroom was packed with many clergymen and women - clearly those close to him.
They formed a human chain around him as he walked to greet the crowd outside after the case was adjourned.
Some of his followers also wore T-shirts sporting his picture. Mavis Musi sat outside the court building, proudly displaying his picture on her shirt. She told the Pretoria News the bishop was a good and innocent man.
“He is being accused of things he would never do,” she said.
While scores of Zondo supporters dominated the morning at court, a handful of supporters for the victims gathered across the road. Mainly dressed in white; they held posters questioning why Zondo is “playing delaying tactics”.
Zondo is expected to plead not guilty to 10 charges in November, the bulk of which are of a sexual nature. It is expected that the alleged victims will testify behind closed doors.