JOHANE Masowe eChishanu Apostolic Sect leader Madzibaba Ishmael Mufani was yesterday finally arrested in Murewa after evading police for over eight months.
Madzibaba Ishmael has been on the run since May last year following his church members’ vicious attack on journalists, police officers and Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) officials who had gone to close down his church.
The church had been accused of using doctrines that perpetuated sexual abuse of women and denied children rights to health facilities and education.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba yesterday confirmed Madzibaba Ishmael’s arrest.
“The ZRP would like to confirm the arrest of Ishmael Chokurongerwa (43), allias Madzibaba Ishmael in Mrewa on 2 January 2015,” Charamba said.
“Chokurongerwa, a wanted person, was on the run from 29th May 2014 to 01 January 2015. He is facing Public Violence and Children’s Protection Act charges in connection with events which occurred at the Johane Masowe eChishanu Budiriro shrine where police officers and a ZBC photographer were assaulted and injured.”
Mufani’s lawyer Tawanda Takaindisa also confirmed the arrest, but said he was yet to get the full details.
Eleven of the 37 sect members were on November 12 last year sentenced to five years in jail after they were convicted of public violence.
The 11 convicts — Kudzanayi Kusekwa (31), Cabson Chandaona (43), Takavengwa Gwenzi (46), Tichafa Madyegora (41), Johanes Makumbe (39), Ndumiso Moyo (33), Alexio Kanhema (37), Clement Chimutso (47), Madzimure Madzimure (36), Charles Matanga (42) and Darlington Mambayo (46) — are, however, serving an effective four years each after one year of the sentence was conditionally set aside.
Trial magistrate Tendai Mahwe noted that the sect members acted in a manner that besmirched religion and did not befit members of a church.
“A mob that assaults someone is very dangerous and can lead to loss of life. You are church people and your conduct put religion into disrepute. You assaulted police officers clad in uniform (so) there is need for courts to send the right message,” he ruled.
The sect went on trial following the skirmishes that occurred at the church’s shrine in Budiriro where ACCZ officials had gone to announce a ban imposed on the church.
This followed reports of sexual abuse and violation of children’s rights in the church. The ACCZ officials were accompanied by police officers and journalists.
The convicts subsequently lodged an appeal against conviction and sentence with the High Court.
In the papers filed by Takaindisa, the sect members’ lawyer said magistrate Mahwe erred.
Takaindisa argued that the complainants were victims of mob justice and were mistaken in identifying his clients.
“The learned magistrate erred in convicting the appellants as the ones who had assaulted the police yet mob justice was done, to the extent that the complainants did not manage to see who exactly had assaulted them save to say they have been assaulted by members of an apostolic church,” he argued.