Nica Richards

By Nica Richards


Omotoso trial: Application for mistrial, judge’s recusal dismissed

Judge Irma Schoeman said prosecutor Nceba Ntelwa did commit irregularities in the trial, but not to the extent that it resulted in a failure of justice.

Attempts made by Nigerian rape-accused televangelist Timothy Omotoso’s legal team to seek a mistrial, and for Judge Irma Schoeman to recuse herself, have both been dismissed. 

Omotoso and his co-accused, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho, face 97 charges, among them rape, human trafficking and racketeering, after allegedly targeting and recruiting young girls for sexual exploitation.

It is alleged that the girls were moved from their homes to two mission houses in KwaZulu-Natal, where they were allegedly made to engage in sexual acts with Omotoso.

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The pastor has been in jail since 20 April 2017, while Sulani and Sitho are currently out on bail.

Omotoso’s lawyer Peter Dauberman flagged irregularities in the case after a series of email exchanges involving prosecutor Nceba Ntelwa were flagged with Schoeman. 

Schoeman said on Monday in the Port Elizabeth High Court in Gqeberha that Ntelwa deviated from relevant definitions of rape, which in turn changes many details provided by witnesses from sexual assault to rape. 

Schoeman said despite Ntwela’s extensive experience in sexual offence cases, he was “remiss” in his duties. She said Ntelwa admitted he did not express himself well, but offered no explanation of what he meant. 

However, allegations that Ntelwa had encouraged witnesses to commit perjury, and that he had attempted to suborn witnesses, are based on speculation and not on evidence. 

ALSO READ: Timothy Omotoso rape trial: court to rule on dismissal application

He did commit an irregularity, but not, Schoeman said, to the extent that it would result in a “failure of justice”. 

This is because Doberman still has a chance to cross-examine and recall witnesses. 

“The irregularity did not lead to an injustice.”

It was based on this, she said, that Omotoso’s application for a mistrial was dismissed. Schoeman’s application for her to recuse herself was also dismissed. 

Schoeman did say it would not be appropriate for Ntelwa to continue with the prosecution. 

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