JOHANNE Masowe eChishanu apostolic sect leader Ishmael Chokurongerwa, popularly known as Madzibaba Ishmael, was yesterday slapped with a five-year jail term after he was convicted of public violence.
BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI
He will, however, serve an effective four years after trial magistrate Milton Serima suspended one year of the sentence.
In passing sentence, Serima said the court had considered that Chokurongerwa’s moral blameworthiness was very high because his conduct was not in line with what was expected of a church leader.
He said Chokurongerwa’s behaviour and that of his church members resulted in public ridicule of the police.
“The offence was quite serious, reprehensive and abhorrent. His moral blameworthiness is very high considering that he is the leader of a respected or a once respected church with a huge following as exhibited by the court attendances,” Serima said.
“His actions do not show the traits of a good leader and ordained man. Your behaviour leaves a lot to be desired in the church and in the society at large. Indeed, the violence which was perpetrated by you and your church members reduced the police to a laughing stock.
“The institution of the police needs to be protected by the courts. The courts can protect them by making sure that such acts cannot be repeated through imposing custodial sentences on those found wanting.”
Chokurongerwa, who said he only had R2 on him during mitigation, begged the court to be lenient with him as there would be no one to look after his seven children if he was jailed.
He had argued during trial that he had travelled out of Harare during the time when members of his church assaulted police officers, journalists and members of the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ).
Eleven members of his church have since been jailed over the same charges that arose in May last year after they assaulted journalists, police officers and ACCZ members who had come to close down the church over allegations of child abuse.
The court heard that violence broke out after Chokurongerwa challenged ACCZ president Johannes Ndanga to speak in Shona and not in English.
Chokurongerwa allegedly started singing Umambo Hwepfumo Neropa (Kingdom of the Spear and Blood) after which his delegation, police officers and journalists were severely assaulted.
He was represented in court by Harare lawyer Tawanda Takaindisa.