THE 40-year effective jail term imposed on rapist pastor and RMG Independent End Time Message church leader Robert Martin Gumbura has angered the public, gender and human rights activists, with some going to the extent of calling it a dark day for women.
REPORT BY CHARLES LAITON/ROPAFADZO MAPIMHIDZE
Outraged by the news, some members of the public said the ruling was “a step backwards and one towards barbarism and medievalism”.
There was drama at the Rotten Row Magistrates’ Courts as the public yelled, criticising Gumbura’s sentence as too lenient.
The disgruntled citizens, who had been following Gumbura’s case with keen interest, bemoaned the jail term which they considered too lenient for a person who “brainwashed women” and used them as sex objects.
The public wanted the court to impose a jail term of 200 years on Gumbura.
But regional magistrate Hosea Mujaya in passing sentence said although the State wanted life imprisonment or any sentence over 100 years to be imposed on Gumbura, the regional court’s jurisdiction would not go beyond a 20-year jail term per count.
“If the State felt that it wanted life imprisonment to be imposed, this matter should have been referred to the High Court where there is unlimited jurisdiction and, therefore, asking this court for such a sentence is like sending a boy to do a man’s job,” Mujaya quipped.
Mujaya, however, did not impose the maximum penalty within his jurisdiction, enraging the public over his leniency.
Mujaya slapped Gumbura with 15-years per count on the first two counts of rape and 10-years per count for the other two rape counts bringing the total sentence to 50 years.
He, however, suspended 10 years on condition of good behavior, saying “fairness in sentencing should be allowed to reign as opposed to emotions”.
Regarding possession of pornographic materials charge, Gumbura was sentenced to a four-month jail term which Mujaya said would run concurrently with the rape sentences, while the video tapes were forfeited to the State.
Mujaya castigated Gumbura’s “fall from grace” for converting a worshipping place into a “sexual palace” where women had allegedly been turned into sexual objects.
“There is no doubt that pastors, elders and deacons in this church must have been aware of the blasphemous teachings in the church including the abuse of women and children, but chose to ignore,” he said.
“A pastor’s core business must be to worship God and not sleeping with women and threatening them with misfortunes. In this case, the accused person acted like a wolf in a sheep’s skin.”
Mujaya further said Gumbura’s messages affected the worshippers and survivors in this case would suffer psychological trauma and stigma, and as such urged the State to consider counselling them.
Gumbura was convicted on four counts of rape and one count of possessing pornographic material, but was acquitted on five other rape charges.
Harare West MP, gender and human rights activist Jessie Majome felt a much harsher sentence could have been passed on him to deter like-minded individuals.
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“I am happy that Gumbura is now in jail. (But) this would have been the most fitting case to start a life sentence because of the very dark extent of exploitation of human beings, slavery and bondage using that kind of authority,” Majome said.
“The magistrate could have gone to impose a maximum 20 years and yet he gave 10 years each to two counts of the four rape cases as though the other two were better rape cases. Rape is just rape.”
Majome, who is also a lawyer, said the convicted rapist pastor was not subjected to an HIV test and the court was left to presume he is HIV-negative and noted that that was a travesty of justice.
Panganai Zivai, a member of the public at the court, also expressed disgust, urging a review of the sentence so that a stiffer sentence could be passed.
“This man raped many women. Some who are yet to speak out on their rape ordeals? This man should have been hanged for these cases,” Zivai charged.
Another Harare resident Yvonne Nyarusara added that Gumbura had destroyed the lives of the women he abused as they could have contracted HIV.
“Rape cases are not consensual and a maximum rape sentence could have been most welcome. I am not happy, especially because the magistrate said the State failed to get an HIV test for this rapist. What does this mean to the women of Zimbabwe?” Nyarusaru queried.