AMIRACLE worker who cures the sick, reforms criminals and lives like a rock star in one of South Africa’s richest suburbs. This is how scores of congregants, past and present, described Tim Omotoso, 58, the flashy Nigerian pastor at the centre of a human trafficking and sex abuse scandal which has gripped the country.
Known for his designer suits, trademark sunglasses and luxury cars, Omotoso’s past 16 years in South Africa have seen him grow a modest pop-up church in New Brighton to a multi-national religious empire.
He appeared in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court yesterday where his case was postponed to May 3.
Born in 1958 in Ibadan, Nigeria’s third most populous city, Omotoso moved to Durban in 2001 from England, where he is still a registered director of the Jesus Dominion International Church in Surrey.
A year later he headed to Port Elizabeth, where, according to fellow church pastor and supporter Bishop Gagia, “God told him to come to Port Elizabeth to save the Xhosas”.
Within days of arriving in Port Elizabeth, Omotoso was invited to speak at a religious gathering at the Lillian Ngoyi Sports Centre in Kwazakhele.
Two days later 50 people attended his first organised service at the Hoza Hall in New Brighton, but he left immediately when the worshippers failed to arrive on time. He was convinced to return at another time. “He was very powerful that day. The way he sang and the way he analysed the scriptures.
That is what drew me to him. The church became like my home that very day,” said a congregant, 60, who declined to be named fearing a backlash from other church members.
Describing him as a people’s person, who “loves the youth and hates poverty”, the woman believes Omotoso’s prayers helped her secure a bond and a new job.
Of his penchant for flashy clothing, she said: “Everything from his clothing, shoes, jewellery and sunglasses comes from a designer in England.”
Omotoso spent a year in Port Elizabeth before heading back to live in Durban.
The Port Elizabeth church then moved from Kwazakhele to Motherwell and finally to Govan Mbeki Avenue in North End in 2011.
The ministry’s branch in Port Elizabeth now has about 1 500 congregants.
The Jesus Dominion International website lists 27 churches around South Africa, with branches also in Britain, France and Israel.
This week only the Bloemfontein, Mthatha, East London and Port Elizabeth branches could be reached on the listed phone numbers.
A Durban resident, who declined to be named and answered the number listed as the Secunda branch, said he had been inundated with phone calls regarding the ministry.
“I have no link to this church, and I have no idea why my number is listed as the contact. I have only ever seen this man on TV, I have never met him and I have never gone to one of his churches.”
A company search shows Omotoso is a director of at least four companies called Tim Omotoso Global Outreach, Jesus Dominion International Church, Altivex 52, Togo Records and Help The Helpless Foundation.
He is also the founder of the Ancient of Day Broadcasting Network which is available in Africa, America, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. His wife Taiwo Omotoso, 51, is listed as a director alongside him in all four companies.
The company records for Tim Omotoso Global Outreach show the couple’s physical address is 58 Summerplace in Humewood.
But the caretaker for the block of flats, who declined to be named, said: “Number 58 does not exist. I know everyone in this building. That man never lived here.”
A former pastor in the church revealed that Omotoso rents at least three properties in Durban’s affluent Umhlanga Rocks. This is confirmed by company searches which show three different addresses for Omotoso in Umhlanga Rocks.
At least one of the properties he rents in Umhlanga Rocks was valued at R2-million by the municipal valuation roll in 2011.
Omotoso is not registered as an owner of any properties.
A former congregant recalled yesterday how God had used Omotoso to heal him of his diabetes and heart condition.
“He prophesied over me and one of the things he said was that I must cut down the tree which was in our garden because underneath it there were bad things. I have been cured ever since that tree was cut,” the 65-year-old man said.