Bishop Stephen Zondo.
Phill Magakoe/Gallo Images
- Bishop Stephen Zondo, who has been charged with several counts of rape, has appeared in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
- Zondo’s asked the court to allow him to bring an application to secure CRL Rights Commission statements and transcripts.
- The criminal court dismissed the bid.
Rape accused Bishop Stephen Zondo has failed in his bid to secure statements from the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) of the women who accused him of rape.
Zondo, who has been charged with several counts of rape, appeared in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday.
His new advocate, Piet Pistorius, SC, wanted the court to hear an application for the disclosure of transcripts of testimony and statements of people who appeared before the CRL Rights Commission in 2020 to implicate him in sexual abuse.
He submitted that the transcripts and statements were necessary for Zondo to prepare for his criminal trial.
Zondo’s lawyers had written to the commission several times to ask for copies of the documents but the commission refused to release them because the matter had not been finalised, the court heard.
Following a letter of demand to the commission, Pistorius said, it was notified that Zondo would bring a court application.
Arguing for the application to be heard, Pistorius said Zondo’s rights to prepare for trial were infringed upon because he did not have access to the testimony before the commission. He added that the criminal court had an obligation to ensure that the accused receives a fair trial. For that to happen, the accused must be able to prepare for trial adequately.
But State advocate Jennifer Cronje argued that the commission and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) were two separate entities.
As a result, the State could not argue on behalf of the commission, which had no legal representative in court.
Cronje further argued that the State’s decision to prosecute Zondo was not based on the evidence before the commission but rather on the dockets after the complainants opened a criminal case.
She submitted that the defence wanted the statements to attack the credibility of witnesses in the event that discrepancies between statements or testimony arose.
“The State has not had insight into what happened at the commission,” Cronje said.
Judge Peet Johnson dismissed the bid to have the application heard, stating that the commission was neither cited directly nor indirectly in the criminal matter.
Johnson said the State said it was not relying on anything said during the commission’s hearings.
“The court cannot be held hostage and held up by an instance that is not a party to this trial,” he added.
He pointed out that while the defence argued that it could not prepare without the statements and transcripts, no one knew what was in the documents so it could not be prejudicial. In any event, the defence can cross-examine witnesses on any aspect, including statements before the commission.
Johnson postponed the matter to 15 November.
The controversial Rivers of Living Waters Ministries Bishop faces a string of charges of rape, indecent assault and defeating the ends of justice.
It’s alleged that the incidents he is accused of started in the 1980s and continued up until 2018.
According to the indictment, the first count of rape dates back to 1980, when Zondo allegedly raped a minor girl in Sebokeng. It is also alleged that he forced the minor to play with his penis on numerous occasions the same year.
In 2008, he allegedly raped an adult woman in a hotel in Johannesburg. In 2013 and 2015, he allegedly raped two more women in Evaton. It is alleged that one of the women was raped on two different occasions.
In December 2015, he allegedly raped another woman in or near to his church in Johannesburg.
He is accused of a sixth rape in 2016 and of committing a seventh two years later.
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