Imprisoned Johanne Masowe eChishanu Apostolic sect leader Ishmael Chokurongerwa, popularly known as Madzibaba Ishmael, serving a four-year jail term for public violence, has appealed his conviction and sentence at the High Court.
BY CHARLES LAITON
Chokurongerwa was initially slapped with a five-year jail term before presiding magistrate Milton Serima suspended a year on condition of good behaviour.
In his application, Chokurongerwa said the magistrate grossly erred at law in disregarding the contents of a matter as not being part of the record when procedurally, it was properly before him.
He said the magistrate erred at law in shifting the onus of proof to Chokurongerwa and relieving the State of the burden it ought to bear at law.
Through his lawyer Tawanda Takaindisa, the sect leader said he successfully set up an alibi defence which was never controverted by the State.
“The inconsistencies in the respondent’s (State) case were too variegated in their form and too distinct to tell one story and that at law, it supported a finding of reasonable doubt in favour of the appellant (Chokurongerwa),” Takaindisa said.
“The court grossly misdirected itself when it found Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) leader Bishop Johannes Ndanga and Bishop Chitope as credible witnesses on the strength of their standing in society which was an irrelevant consideration in so far as their credibility as witnesses in this case was concerned.”
Chokurongerwa argued his sentence ought not to have been similar to that of his church members.
“The trial magistrate’s sentence induces a sense of shock in that he failed to take cognisance of the personal circumstances of the appellant but simply imposed the same sentence which was given to some members of the church,” his lawyer said.
Eleven members of Chokurongerwa’s 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 Ndanga to speak in Shona and not in English.
Chokurongerwa allegedly started singing Umambo Hwepfumo Neropa (Kingdom of the Spear and Blood) after which police officers and journalists were severely assaulted. The appeal is yet to be set down for hearing.