South African judge Mandela Makaula has dismissed an application by the Nigerian pastor, Timothy Omotoso, who is accused of rape to recuse himself from the case.
Mr Omotoso’s lawyer argued that the judge had shown some bias towards one of the witnesses, Cheryl Zondi.
South Africa is gripped by the rape trial of televangelist Pastor Omotoso taking place in the Port Elizabeth High Court and being broadcast live on television.
Mr Omotoso and his two co-accused are facing 63 charges which include rape, sexual assault and racketeering.
They have pleaded not guilty.
Through their lawyer, Peter Daubermann, they said that they would not receive a fair trial given the reaction by the public.
Mr Daubermann said that his clients felt unsafe coming to the court and that he himself had been intimidated by crowds, who are singing and chanting outside the court, who had thrown water at him.
Ms Zondi’s testimony under cross-examination went viral on social media last week as she recounted the graphic allegations that Mr Omotoso had raped and assaulted her while she was a member of his church from the age of 14.
Part of the bias Mr Daubermann complained about was that when the 22-year-old witness completed her testimony, the judge wished her “good luck” in her university exams.
“Unfortunately I have to criticise you on those comments. You have aligned yourself with [Ms] Zondi,” lamented the defence lawyer.
Judge Makaula was emphatic in his ruling.
“Suffice to say the application has no merit, the application has been denied.”
Cabinet ministers were in court on Monday morning in support of the witnesses testifying against Mr Omotoso.
A second witness was supposed to take the stand this morning when the accused brought the application for the judge to recuse himself.
The trial has been adjourned till Thursday.
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