It was an emotional moment in the Eastern Cape High Court as father and daughter embraced when witness Cheryl Zondi walked in and found her father in the public gallery for the trial of pastor Timothy Omotoso.
Mxolisi Zondi, the father of the first witness in the trial of the pastor charged with rape, arrived in the Port Elizabeth court unexpectedly on Tuesday morning.
Zondi said he had a difficult time watching his daughter being grilled and victimised by Omotoso’s lawyer.
“Yesterday, I felt like I could squeeze myself into the television screen and just hold her tight,” he told News24.
READ MORE: TODAY IN COURT: Judge reprimands Taiwo Omotoso for laughing during Cheryl Zondi’s testimony
“I wanted to shield her from the harshness of the questioning. So afterwards I called to check if she’s coping with the extreme pressure she had to endure.”
He said he was proud of his daughter because she allowed her face to be shown. “That says she is speaking for the voiceless victims,” said Zondi.
Girls from homes without fathers targeted
“I’m not sure how to feel. How does a parent feel after something like this? I really don’t know,” said Zondi.
Omotoso is alleged to have used a specific pattern to identify his victims.
He reportedly mostly targeted girls that came from homes without fathers and his purported recruiters allegedly cautiously identified the girls and lured them to his church.
Zondi said he felt that if he had had a closer relationship with his daughter, the horrific experience she went through wouldn’t have taken place.
He said his daughter lives with her mother, since they got divorced some years ago.
“When I heard about the horrible things she had gone through, I was brokenhearted; this is my daughter and any harm [that comes] to her affects me directly,” he said.
Zondi praised for strength
Zondi had an opportunity, for the first time, to listen to his daughter giving evidence while in the same room with her.
He also witnessed firsthand, how she stood her ground under pressure during the cross-examination.
He said that he was saddened by the way the defence conducted its cross-examination of his daughter on Monday. Attorney Peter Daubermann’s line of questioning garnered much reaction on social media.
Twitter users praised #CherylZondi for her strength under intense questioning about her painful experiences.
“I feel it is very sad that he is doing that. He does this in the name of doing his job,” said Zondi.
He said Daubermann should know better, as a parent.
“To grind her the way he did is just not fair,” said Zondi.
Proceedings continued on Tuesday, with the defence team continuing its cross-examination of Zondi.
The case continues after lunch with new evidence in the form of a video clip brought by Daubermann before court.