As South Africa grapples with an increasing number of attacks on women, a bail application case involving a pastor who is alleged to have raped and abused underage girls in his church drags on in the Port Elizabeth Magistrates’ Court.
The bail application of Timothy Omotoso, who also faces charges of human trafficking, has continued for the past two weeks.
The court was told last week that his modus operandi was to allegedly use recruiters who identified girls from poor, vulnerable families in the parish, ply them with money, transform their look completely and then take them to his house where he would allegedly make sexual advances.
The court has been trying to verify the legality of Omotoso’s multiple passports.
On Friday, home affairs immigration officer Ivan Classen gave a report of the investigation he conducted on the legality of Omotoso’s travel documents.
Classen said contrary to what had been presented before court in the last appearance, Omotoso had six passports – not four, as his legal team had said before.
Classen said he could not access the first passport, which had been issued in May 2000.
Classen said Omotoso’s visa could not be confirmed and that South African law obliged Nigerian nationals to enter the country under strict conditions, such as being in possession of a visa, as well as a valid passport.
He said that, on July 18 of the same year, Omotoso travelled to Botswana from South Africa and made an application for a work permit at the South African embassy in that country.
“He was granted a work permit that was based on his application stating that he was in South Africa to be employed by Jesus Arena International in Sunnyside, Pretoria, as an overseer and founder member of the church,” said Classen.
“On the same day, he travelled back to South Africa and his permit was not scanned,” said Classen.
He said Omotoso had used the same visa to travel in and out of the country three times, despite its single-entry status.
“He travelled in August 2000, leaving South Africa; he travelled again in October 2000, entering South Africa and lastly departed in June 2001,” said Classen.
He said there was a second passport that granted him temporary residence for a holiday.
“This permit was issued in July 2000 in a Pretoria office,” said Classen.
Classen drew a picture of several South African immigration laws being flouted during Omotoso’s travelling to and staying in South Africa in the past 17 years.
He said Omotoso was granted temporary residency status that could be renewed for a maximum of three years, which he never activated.
“He illegally renewed this document for a period of four years, despite it never being activated,” he said.
“This is in contravention of immigration laws and conditions,” he said.
He said that, according to various laws of immigration, a lot of suspicious activity took place in the various ports of entry where Omotoso entered and left the country.
“There were referrals done on documents that were supposedly in certain pages in his documents, yet the pages referred to are blank and have no previous history,” he said.
Omotoso’s lawyer, Alfonso Hatting, said Omotoso could not be blamed for human error on the part of immigration officers.
He requested that application forms for the last passport be made available to court.
The case was postponed to May 23.