The rape trial of pastor Timothy Omotoso is set to take a twist as Judge Mandela Makaula is set recuse himself from the matter in March.
Omotoso's lawyer Peter Daubermann confirmed to News24 that Makaula has agreed to recuse himself from the case and will provide reasons for the recusal on 15 March.
Daubermann said that he had a meeting with the state as well as Makaula in his chambers on Wednesday afternoon, where he agreed to Daubermann's request to remove him from presiding over the trial.
"The judge has further agreed that his decision to recuse himself may be published," Daubermann told News24.
In a letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Eastern Cape Daubermann alleges that the State informed Omotoso's defence team that during the trial, certain state witnesses stayed in a guesthouse owned by Makaula.
He further alleges that the guest house is indirectly owned by Makaula, through a company.
"Our clients, for obvious reasons, stand aghast at the said revelations and their perception of bias on the part of Makaula J. has been compounded thereby," Daubermann said in the letter.
The letter ends, stating that in the circumstances, as a matter of courtesy, Daubermann intends to request that "Makaula recuse himself from presiding in the matter mero motu (of one's own accord) in the interest of justice."
The Office of the Chief Justice told News24 that the case which was initially postponed to 16 April will now been brought forward to 15 March by agreement between the state, the defence and the Judge himself.
"On that date the reasons for that hearing will become evident when the matter is dealt with in open court regarding the issue that is the subject of your enquiry," Office of the Chief Justice spokesperson Nathi Mncube said.
Repeated calls for recusal
Daubermann has repeatedly pushed for the recusal of Makaula, accusing the judge of "being biased" following the testimony of the first witness, Cheryl Zondi. He claimed he was "too friendly" with her.
Omotoso and his two co-accused made a brief appearance in the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth on Monday morning where the matter was postponed to 16 April.
News24 reported that the State agreed to postpone the matter Omotoso's legal team to file an application to the Constitutional Court. The appeal was an escalation to have Makaula recused from the case. This would be Omotoso's fourth attempt at having Makaula recused.
After the Judge rejected the initial two applications, the controversial pastor's legal team then went to the Supreme Court of Appeals, which also rejected the application, citing no probability of its success.
Omotoso and his co-accused, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho, are facing 63 charges and 34 alternative charges, which include rape, sexual assault and racketeering.