CAPTURED fugitive Johanne Masowe eChishanu leader Ishmael Chokurongerwa, popularly known as Madzibaba Ishmael Mufani, yesterday denied charges of beating up journalists, police officers and Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) officials following a raid at his Budiriro shrine in Harare last year.
SENIOR COURT REPORTER
Mufani (44) denied the violence charges when he appeared before provincial magistrate Milton Serima after having been on the run since
May last year.
The State alleges that Mufani and his followers turned violent and assaulted the delegation as they were being questioned over allegations of abusing female congregants and children.
He was not asked to plead to the offence, but proffered a defence of an alibi while making an application for bail through his lawyer Shepherd Mushonga.
In his application, Mufani dismissed as unfounded an assertion by prosecutor Sebastian Mutizirwa that the sect leader had been on the run hence it took the police over eight months to arrest him.
Mufani professed ignorance that police were hunting him for several months.
He told the court that members of his church, himself included, were prohibited from communicating using cellphones and watching television, radio and reading newspapers, hence he did not get information that police were looking for him.
“In his defence, the accused shall tell the court that when the unfortunate incident occurred in Budiriro, he was not present otherwise he could have stopped it,” Mufani’s lawyer, Mushonga, said.
“The accused person is a builder by profession and in their congregation they do not use cellphones, televisions, radios or read newspapers, as such he was not aware that the police wanted him.”
Mushonga further told the court that Mufani was a proper candidate for bail and would not interfere with witnesses who are all police officers.
Mutizirwa, however, opposed bail, arguing Mufani was a flight risk and was likely to interfere with other witnesses who are his church members.
In support of his assertion, Mutizirwa called Detective Sergeant Paul Kuratidza, who said: “Accused is regarded by his members as a special prophet with special powers, if granted bail there are high chances that he would interfere with his church members.”
Mufani was remanded in custody to today for ruling on his bail application. Allegations against Mufani are that on May 30 last year, an ACCZ delegation led by its president, Johannes Ndanga, and 26 police officers visited Johanne Masowe eChishanu’s site at Budiriro 2 in Harare to address the gathering over issues of child abuse.
It is alleged when Ndanga started reading a document, the gathering started singing their church songs and Mufani challenged him to speak in Shona and not in English.
At that juncture Ndanga is alleged to have ordered the police to arrest Mufani accusing him of interjecting him.
The court heard Mufani allegedly started chanting an inciting song titled Umambo Hwepfumo Neropa (Kingdom of the Spear and Blood) following which ACCZ officials, police and journalists were severely assaulted.
Eleven members from Mufani’s sect were last November slapped with a five-year jail term each for the same offence.
They have, however, lodged an appeal against conviction and sentence with the High Court.