PORT ELIZABETH, June 9 – A Nigerian pastor charged with human trafficking, sexual assault and the rape of young girls and women was refused bail in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
The televangelist has been in custody since April 20 and will remain behind bars based on reasons around conspicuous passports and an inclination to interfere or intimidate state witnesses.
The court found that the pastor had no ties in South Africa and would in all likelihood flee if he were to be released on bail.
In her judgement, Magistrate Thandeka Mashiyi, said that the pastor was charged with serious offences and the minimum sentence, if he were to be convicted, would be life imprisonment.
Mashiyi said that she had to consider pertinent factors, including that the pastor was a Nigerian national and held two current Nigerian passports, adding that he did not have any fixed assets in South Africa, although he did own six vehicles, each to the value of over a half a million rand.
“His family, wife and children are all United Kingdom citizens, his church has international branches which he visits from time to time, he is regarded as an illegal immigrant [and] there is nothing tying the applicant to South Africa.”
Mashiyi said that the pastor’s means of travel documentation were questionable because according to Senior Immigration Officer, Ivan Klaasen, the televangelist was in possession of a fraudulent permit.
She said that based on the evidence from investigating officer, Warrant Officer Peter Plaatjies, it was clear that the State had prima facie evidence implicating the applicant in the commission of the offences.
“Based on the strength of the State’s case, the gravity of the offences, as well as if convicted, the applicant faces very lengthy sentences. I find that there is a likelihood that if he is released on bail he might attempt to flee and evade his trial,” said Mashiyi.
Mashiyi said that evidence before court indicated that victims had been intimidated by the pastor’s church congregants and his so-called “hench ladies”. She found that the pastor could likely induce witnesses to refuse to testify against him.
According to the testimony of Plaatjies, senior members of the church would recruit “vulnerable” girls between 13 and 15 and lure them into performing sexual acts with the pastor.
Plaatjies further said a foiled attempt to effect an arrest in Bloemfontein over the Easter weekend was aided by senior Hawks officials who were allegedly protecting the televangelist.
Mashiyi said that Plaatjies was not speculative about the interference of Hawks officials and the defence’s argument that the investigating officer had exaggerated his evidence had no substance.
“I am taking into account that there is a public outcry about the explosion of these crimes of human trafficking, rape and sexual assault on young girls and women,” she said.
The court found that the pastor’s personal circumstances did not constitute exceptional circumstances which justified his release on bail.
The pastor, who was based in Durban, is alleged to have trafficked more than 30 girls and women who were from various branches of his church countrywide. He allegedly took the girls to a house in Umhlanga, near Durban, where he sexually exploited them.
The girls were allegedly told not to tell anyone or else they would be “cursed and die”.
The case was postponed until July 21 for further investigation.
– African News Agency (ANA)