Cheryl Zondi – Our Hero!

Statistics on gender-based violence in South Africa are still on the rise. Femicide is up 117% from 2015 – 2017. Reported sexual offences are up 53% in a country where only 10% – 25% of sexual offences get reported.

One cannot go through their social media feeds without seeing a post related to an incident of gender-based violence.

Timothy Omotoso is a Nigerian pastor who has been accused of sexually assaulting young girls in his church, Jesus Dominion International. He was arrested in April 2017 and his accomplices were arrested later in the year. Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho are his co-accused who recruit young girls for Omotoso’s exploits. The three face 63 chargers which include; rape, human trafficking, sexual assault and racketeering.

His trial started late October 2018 with Cheryl Zondi taking the stand to testify against him. Cheryl has been sexually assaulted by Omotosto for roughly 2 years. She, like many other victims of Omotoso’s vile behaviour endured a lot of pain inflicted by him, in the name of “pleasing God”.

Omotoso and his accomplices traffic young girls and use the church as a cover-up for his sinister behaviour. Sulani and Zukiswa groom the young women for Omotoso so that they are able to please him. Zondi said that there are bout 30 other young girls who are victims of Omotoso assault.

Reasons why Cheryl’s case resonates with so many South African women

Telling her own story for herself: Often times the struggles women face are told by third parties. She has proven to be brave in taking the stand and using her voice to not only free herself and free the other girls being groomed for Omotoso but to empower other women too.

Taking back her power: she has conducted herself with so much strength and has not allowed her experience cripple her.

Being unashamed: Victimization can result in the abused internalising her ordeal and blaming herself for what happened to her. She has bravely faced her perpetrator and his supporters

Educating people: Her case highlights the type of treatment witnesses, survivors of gender-based violence to be exact, go through when testifying in court. She endured a difficult cross-examination by Omotoso’s lawyer Peter Daubermann. The Commission for Gender Equality has stated that it is going to report Daubermann to the Office of the Chief Justice for his conduct in questioning Zondi.

Challenging structures of patriarchy: She is speaking up against “a man of God” as his church describes him. By doing so, she is showing other women that they too can challenge people in positions of power, what ever organisation.

As Maya Angelou once said “Each time a woman stands up for herself without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women”. Thank you Cheryl, in a country where only between 10% – 25% of sexual offences get reported, we need your voice.

Zani

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