THERE was mayhem in Harare’s Budiriro high-density suburb yesterday as marauding members of the Johane Masowe yeChishanu sect ran riot, beating up anti-riot police officers, a ZBC journalist and officials from the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ).
Nine police officers, two ZBC staffers and one ACCZ official Lameck Chitope were seriously injured and taken to hospital.
Here is a link to the picture collage of the confrontation: Newsflash: Masowe members run riot, beat up anti-riot cops
National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed the incident saying more police officers had been deployed to Budiriro and four arrests had been made.
“We do not expect this from church members. This is lawlessness which is unacceptable. More arrests will be made and we will charge them with assault and malicious damage to property. We also expect people to respect law enforcers and this is uncalled for,” Charamba said.
Members of the ACCZ and the police had gone to the shrine led by Madzibaba Ishmael to enforce the ban after reports of human rights abuses in the church involving denial of children’s educational rights and allegations of fathers allowed to inspect their daughters’ virginity using their fingers, among other issues.
Executive president of ACCZ Bishop Johanes Ndanga, who had made a pronouncement of the ban of the church, escaped unhurt. He told NewsDay that the association had effectively banned the church for engaging in human rights abuses and engaging in “satanic” acts.
Ndanga had finished his statement when the church members started to sing their church songs and advancing towards the officials.
Sensing danger, Ndanga and other officials fled the scene.
However, other officials and police officers were not so lucky as the church members vented their anger on them threatening to kill anyone they thought was against their church doctrines.
“They are so strict and told their members not to use cellphones even at work, not watch television and those who violate that were threatened with death,” Ndanga said.
“As it stands, they have been effectively banned. They would watch their female children bathing and fathers would use their fingers to test their daughters’ virginity. Imagine that happening these days,” Ndanga said in an interview with NewsDay later in the day.
He said married women who were not virgins at the time of marriage were being ordered to secure virgin girls for their husbands as compensation.
The police anti-riot squad tried to stop the sect members from their violent acts, but their batons could not match the sherpherds’ staffs used by the members of the apostolic sect.
Stones and the shepherds’ staffs flew all over the place and some victims could be seen soaked in blood.
The members of the sect could be heard shouting ordering others to kill claiming they were fighting a “holy war”.
There was pandemonium at the police station where police officers fled for safety and closed the main gate fearing the angry mob was coming for them to cause more havoc.
Journalists covering the incident sought refuge at Budiriro 2 Police Station while other injured people were rushed to hospital.
Ndanga said the decision to deal with the church came after numerous reports of church leaders abusing their children of school-going age and fathers using their fingers to test the daughters’ virginity.
“There was serious abuse of women and children and the practice started six years ago. They said that their children could not go to school because they would be taught the devil’s doctrines. We want to stop this before it spreads to other parts of the country,” Ndanga said.