POLICE yesterday vowed to track down and arrest the leader of the Johane Masowe weChishanu sect Madzibaba Ishmael Mufani and his followers following last Friday’s violent clashes which saw several police officers and journalists injured during a raid at his shrine in Budiriro, Harare.
Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) officials were not spared the battering which ironically was carried out using the shepherd’s rods as the sect members fiercely resisted plans by the Johannes Ndanga-led ACCZ’s executive to ban their church over alleged gross child abuse, among other things.
National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said they had deployed heavily in the high-density suburb to flush out the suspects and bring them to book.
“We are still looking for him (Madzibaba Ishmael). We have intensified our investigations. So far we have arrested six in connection with the violence,” Charamba said.
The police clampdown came as Ndanga’s team threatened to demolish all artefacts at the sect’s shrine and declare it a no-go area.
Violence broke out after police escorted Ndanga and his team to announce the banishment of the sect.
Among other allegations, the sect leaders were accused of dipping their fingers into their daughter’s private parts to test for virginity, marrying them off at a tender age and denying them formal education.
Ndanga yesterday said Madzibaba Ishmael had since deserted his home as the police intensified their manhunt.
“The place they use to do their gatherings is not theirs. They have never requested it from (Harare city) council. We are negotiating with council that the place be allocated for other purposes,” Ndanga said.
He said he had tried to negotiate with Madzibaba Ishmael since June last year after receiving reports of ungodly practices, but to no avail.
“We summoned him three times and at each meeting, he promised to stop the human violations, but never did so. Last Wednesday, we had a multisectoral meeting including the Ministry of Education, Victim Friendly, Musasa Project, other churches and various other stakeholders and decided that the church be banned,” Ndanga said.
“Other Johane Masowe weChishanu groups disassociated themselves from the group.”
He said the decision to ban the sect was a collective one involving his organisation, women and child rights groups, among them Musasa Project.
“When they attacked the police, they were singing ungodly songs. They do not even read the Bible, Ishmael is their Bible. They do not allow use of cellphones, radios, televisions and other modern electrical gadgets,” he said.
The ACCZ played an instrumental role in the probe and arrest of jailed RMG Independent End Time Message Church leader Robert Martin Gumbura.
Gumbura was eventually convicted for raping several congregants and is currently serving an effective 40-year-jail term after the courts quashed his bail bids.
After Gumbura was jailed, the ACCZ ordered the church leaders to review their doctrine, effect leadership renewal and rename the church before they are allowed to resume their church gatherings.