HARARE – Eleven of the 37 members of the Johanne Masowe eChishanu apostolic sect members who assaulted the police, journalists and other people at their shrine in Budiriro in May were yesterday sentenced to an effective four years in prison each after they were found guilty of assault.
The other 26 sect members were acquitted after the State failed to prove a case against them. Kudzanayi Kusekwa (31), Cabson Chandaona (43), Tichafa Madyegora (41), Johannes Makumbe (39), Takavengwa Gwenzi (46), Ndumiso Moyo (33), Alexio Kanhema (37), Clement Chimutso (47), Madzimure Madzimure (36), Charles Matanga (42) and Darlington Mambayo (46) were convicted.
The 11 were initially sentenced to five years in prison, but one year was suspended for five years. In passing his verdict, Harare magistrate Mr Tendai Mahwe noted that the 11 were first offenders and they all had parental responsibilities.
“In assessing sentence, I took into account that you are first offenders and parents with responsibilities,” he said. “However, I also took into account that you acted in common purpose and assaulted people, including police officers clad in uniform, with sticks and stones. And assaulting someone is very dangerous and can lead to loss of life.”
Mr Mahwe said the sect members were religious people who failed to act as such, hence it was the duty of the courts to send the right message to the public that such repulsive behaviour was not acceptable in society. “You are church people and your conduct put religion into dispute,” he said. “There is need for the courts to send the right message.
“The message should be that lawlessness should not be allowed in this country.” Before he finally passed his ruling, Mr Mahwe indicated that the 11 sect members deserved a lengthy prison term to serve as a lesson to others that such unlawful behaviour was not acceptable.
“A lengthy term of imprisonment is, therefore, appropriate to show that the courts are abhorrent to such acts,” Mr Mahwe said.