- Bishop Stephen Zondo, who has been charged with several counts of rape, appeared in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Monday.
- While his trial was expected to start, his defence team asked for a six month postponement to prepare for trial.
- The court dismissed the application for a lengthy postponement, giving Zondo a week to prepare.
The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has given Bishop Stephen Bafana Zondo one week to prepare for his rape trial after an attempt to postpone the trial for six months failed.
The controversial Rivers of Living Waters Ministries Bishop appeared in court in Pretoria on Monday, where his trial was expected to start.
The religious leader faces a string of charges of rape, indecent assault and defeating the ends of justice. It's alleged that the incidents started in the 1980s and continued up until 2018. While the State was ready to proceed with the trial on Monday, Zondo, 55, brought an application to postpone the matter.
His defence team initially cited issues around the fact that a pretrial had not taken place.
However, Zondo, in an affidavit, said that the main reason behind the postponement was because he was not given sufficient time to prepare for trial.
He argued that his legal team had only received the docket on 22 July and now needed to trace and track down witnesses, consult with them, and obtain relevant experts' services to testify in his defence.
He further alleged that his counsel had just been appointed and needed time to prepare.
Prosecutor Jennifer Cronje argued that the defence team had more than enough time to prepare and any delays in getting the docket were their fault.
She said that the indictment was served on 28 May, when Zondo's case was transferred to the High Court for trial. At this court appearance, the date for trial was agreed upon by his legal team.
Over a month later, Cronje then received a letter asking for copies of the case docket. The docket was ready for collection on 21 July and was collected a day later, she told the court.
Cronje further argued that at no point did the defence team alert her that they would be asking for a postponement. The first she heard of the postponement was just before court went into session on Monday morning.
Cronje said the State was opposing the application as the defence had ample time to prepare and that such a postponement prejudiced the witnesses and victims in the matter.
Judge Peet Johnson said he would not be granting a lengthy postponement as requested, but that Zondo could not be punished for his legal team not preparing for trial.
Johnson granted a postponement to 30 August and said that he expected the trial to begin then.
He further granted an order that Zondo not contact any witnesses either directly or indirectly.
While Zondo's defence team was arguing the application, close to 100 supporters gathered outside the court, singing and dancing, while several men of the cloth were seated inside the court in support of the rape accused.
Zondo had been charged with eight counts of rape, one count of indecent assault and one count of defeating the ends of justice.
According to the indictment, the first count of rape dates back to 1980, where Zondo is accused of raping a minor girl in Sebokeng, who was between eight to nine-years-old at the time.
During the same year, it was also alleged that he forced the minor to play with his penis on numerous occasions.
In 2008, it was alleged that he raped an adult woman in a hotel in Johannesburg. In 2013 and 2015, he was accused of raping two more women in Evaton. It was alleged that one of the women was raped by Zondo on two different occasions.
In December 2015, he allegedly raped another woman in or near his church in Johannesburg.
He was accused of raping his sixth victim in 2016. Two years later, Zondo was accused of raping his seventh victim.
It was alleged that most of his victims were members of his church.
Zondo was also accused of defeating the ends of justice after he allegedly offered his first victim, who is now an adult, R25 000 to withdraw the charges in 2020.
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