Children, women rescued as police dismantle religious cult and arrest 7

Busted ... Madzibaba Ishmael Chokurongerwa arrested on child abuse charges and illegal burials at shrine (Image: ZimLive)
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HARARE – Police have arrested the leader of a religious cult in Harare and rescued dozens of women and children.

Anti-riot police driving in several trucks rolled into self-styled prophet Ishmael Chokurongerwa’s farm in Nyabira, Mashonaland West, in the early hours of Tuesday and returned on Wednesday accompanied by social workers.

Chokurongerwa, who leads the Gore Jena Penyeranyika sect of the white garment Johane Masowe, was arrested with seven other senior members of the cult.

Police began removing women and children from the farm. Most of the children had no birth certificates and are not allowed to attend school.

Authorities have also discovered a grave site at the farm where cult members were secretly buried, including seven children.

Chokurongerwa, better known as Madzibaba Ishmael, told reporters from HMetro that he was “not aware of women’s and children’s rights.”

National police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said Wednesday: “The ZRP confirms the arrest of Chokurongerwa and seven others for criminal activities which includes abuse of children.

“Investigations conducted by the police established that 246 out of 251 children at the farm had no birth certificates and were being used to perform various physical activities for the benefit of the sect’s leadership.

“Police also established that all children of school going age did not attend formal education and were subjected to abuse as cheap labour, doing manual work in the name of being taught life skills.

“At the shrine, 16 graves were found of which nine are for adults and seven for infants. All burials were conducted without prior registration with the Registrar General’s office or without obtaining burial orders.”

The seven people arrested with Madzibaba Ishmael are James Gwenzi, 55, Zebedia Sigudu, Shingirai Ngawafune, 42, Devlodge Katsande, 45, Aaron Chokurongerwa, 47, Wonder Kabaya, 41, and Siribinio Chikurunhe, 53.

Speaking before he was led away by police, James Gwenzi told reporters: “The formal education schools are not wanted by God because what children are taught there is against the teachings of God.

“If you send kids to school there will be no rain. Witness the drought across the country, but here at the shrine we have sufficient water.

“We have the gift of a spiritual ear because when God speaks we hear him. People out there think we are stubborn but we’re not, we’re just following the word of God.”

Source: ZimLive