Police have arrested six members of the Johane Marange Apostolic sect following a tip-off by the public that several villagers who were members of the sect were keeping children suffering from measles at home in Chibila area.
The six were arrested in separate incidents after five children succumbed to measles in the area.
About 35 children have fallen victim to the deadly disease at Chibila village and out of the affected children, the disease claimed the lives of five children from four families.
The six Apostolic sect members Siboneni Ndlovu (26), Ruth Mpofu (28), Miricah Moyo (27), Siphilisiwe Moyo (40), Annah Moyo (27) and Wilson Gwisai (79) were nabbed in a police blitz conducted in conjunction with Health ministry officials.
The six appeared before Binga Resident magistrate Stephen Ndlovu on separate occasions facing charges of contravening a section of the Children’s Protection and Adoption Act (failure to provide medical care necessary for child’s health and well-being). Four of the six pleaded guilty to the offence.
The four were all sentenced to 12 months in prison wholly suspended for five years on condition of good behaviour.
The two other accused Moyo and Ndlovu were sentenced to six months in jail, wholly suspended for five years.
Prosecutor Bruce Maphosa told the court that police in Binga were tipped off by villagers that some members of the Johane Marange Apostolic sect were keeping children who were affected by measles at their homes on religious grounds.
The court heard that police in conjunction with health officials in Binga then conducted raids on members of the sect’s homes where they discovered that the seven were keeping 35 children who were attacked by measles at their homes and did not intend to take them to hospital for treatment.
It is the state case that four families had lost five children from the disease.
Police then arrested the six while the ill children were taken to Binga District Hospital for treatment.
When asked by the courts why they were not taking their children to hospital for vaccination and treatment, the six told the court that their religion does not allow them to receive any other treatment apart from “holy water”.
The six pleaded with the courts to have mercy on them saying they will never repeat the offence since they have realised that their religion was putting the lives of their family members in danger. They vowed to abandon the practice in future.