JAILED cleric Robert Martin Gumbura is still running his RMG Independent End Time Message Church business from his prison cell with his deacons consulting him on all crucial church-related matters, Newsday has learnt.
BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI
He is also the sole signatory to the church’s bank accounts.
This emerged on Wednesday when deacons from Gumbura’s church met Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) head Johannes Ndanga to negotiate the lifting of a suspension on church activities imposed by the latter.
Gumbura was in January this year slapped with a 40-year jail term for sexually abusing female congregants from his church.
The High Court is today expected to deliver ruling on his application for bail pending appeal.
Ndanga on Wednesday advised Gumbura’s subordinates that the suspension order would only be lifted after they present a new leadership structure and renamed the church.
As one of the conditions, the church was ordered to take care of Gumbura’s family which consists of 11 wives and 30 children.
“You must elect an acting pastor to run the church and remove the acronym RMG from the church’s name because it is now associated with a criminal,” Ndanga.
The ACCZ head said he had discussed the matter with Gumbura during his familiarisation tour of Chikurubi Maximum Prison recently.
“If we let a convict run the church, it will be out of order because he is regarded as a criminal,” Ndanga said.
“So, you must hold an extraordinary general meeting to effect these changes.”
Ndanga said he recently toured Chikurubi Maximum Prison where he met Gumbura following his appointment to the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service Advisory Board for Mashonaland Region.
He said the church board — which was under Gumbura’s authority according to the church’s constitution — should be elevated so that the senior pastor would also report to the board to ensure accountability in church governance. The church was advised to delete from its doctrine the teaching of condemning people to death, to add respect of women’s rights and affiliate with a recognised ecumenical body and adopt a new constitution for the renamed church.
Ndanga said Gumbura’s church leaders were also advised to allow members to freely choose marriage partners and renounce the doctrine of total separation through which members were instructed to cut ties with relatives who were not church members.
“Specifically, state that the practice of Satanism, victimisation of congregants of any nature and sexual abuses which resulted in the suspension of the church shall not be tolerated in the new church,” Ndanga said.
The church leaders requested for more time to iron out some differences that had emerged among them after which they would fulfil all the requirements to facilitate the lifting of the ban.