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Pastor’s televised rape trial shocks South Africa

A televised rape trial in South Africa has prompted a furious public backlash after a witness – who says she was raped by her pastor from the age of 14 – was subjected to a lengthy and, at times, aggressively intimate cross-examination by the lawyer representing a 60-year-old Nigerian televangelist, Timothy Omotoso, who denies the allegation.

Over the weekend, Pastor Omotoso’s church, in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, was forced to shut its door after angry crowds besieged the building, while a Sunday newspaper reported that the woman who gave evidence against him – Cheryl Zondi, now a 22-year-old student – had received death threats ahead of the trial.

The trial – the first prominent rape case to be broadcast live in a country where more than 100 rapes are reported to the police each day – has attracted huge interest, and raised difficult questions about victims’ rights, impartiality and whether justice is best served by having television cameras in courtrooms.

Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter, Ndileka Mandela – who said in 2017 that she had been raped by a former boyfriend – is one of many South African women who have voiced support for Ms Zondi, linking her experience to the global #MeToo movement

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