HARARE – ZANU-PF aligned ACCZ president Bishop Ndanga has dropped a bombshell, saying he was banning the Johanne Masowe church for practising “operation recovery” in which church elders were demanding that all girls married after losing their virginity must be send back to their parents’ home.
At least 25 members of the Madzibaba Ishamea Mufani Johane Masowe Church have reportedly been arrested for assaulting police officers and journalists.
While police spokesperson Charity Charamba was not picking her mobile phone yesterday, she told State TV on Friday that six members of the Budiriro 2-based Johane Masowe sect had been arrested.
But sources said yesterday more sect members had been rounded up in connection with the violence, with authorities moving in to seal the church venue.
Charamba said the police would not countenance lawlessness, strongly condemning the behaviour of the sect members.
She said police “will quash lawlessness from any quarter”.
Bishop Johannes Ndanga’s marriage with ZANU is a well known fact in Zimbabwe,. In 2011, Banga called on Zanu PF to provide vehicles and allowances to church leaders spearheading its campaign ahead of last year’s elections.
Addressing a Zion Christian Church national women’s conference, Ndanga claimed “real bishops” had more Zanu PF followers as compared to traditional leaders, hence the need to award them cars and cash allowances.
“Bring me Chief Charumbira (Fortune) here. We want to see who commands more supporters than the other. Real bishops from indigenous churches can draw more Zanu PF supporters than chiefs. It is against this premise that we (bishops) should be given vehicles just like the chiefs.”
An official close to the investigation told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday: “25 people have so far been arrested and the investigations are ongoing. We expect more people to be arrested.”
The melee occurred after Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) president Johannes Ndanga — who was in the company of about 20 anti-riot police officers — told about 300 Johanne Masowe apostolic sect members at their holy shrine that he had banned the church for abuse of women and girls among other things.
The attack took place soon after ACCZ president Bishop Johannes Ndanga announced to more than 200 members of the sect led by Mr Ishmael Mufani that they had been banned for allegedly violating the country’s laws and Christianity.
The members then erupted into singing: “Hondo Yepfumo Neropa” (bloody war), while females fell into a trance and started speaking in tongues.
They shouted that they did not recognise Ndanga and one of them gave a signal that the ACCZ delegation and the police should be assaulted.
All hell then broke loose, as members of the sect advanced towards a Zimbabawe Broadcasting Corporation vehicle, smashing its windows in the process.
They also attacked ZBC cameraman Relax Mafurutu, seriously injuring him and destroyed a tripod for his camera. The police officers were also attacked and had to flee from the scene after they received a thorough beating.
The injured were rushed to Harare Central Hospital, while others were taken to Garden City Clinic in Highfield, but Mafurutu had to be transferred to West End Clinic because of the severity of his injuries.
He was still admitted there amid reports both his arms were broken by the blows he received.
This writer was also stoned during the melee.
Bishop Ndanga was quick to sense danger and jumped into his Range Rover vehicle before speeding off in movie style as the sect members, who were baying for his blood, gave chase.
At least six members of the sect had been arrested by last night and were in custody at Budiriro Police Station and this was after the officers regrouped and started searching for those responsible.
Police national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba told ZBC last night that the police would not tolerate acts of lawlessness.
Addressing the congregants, Bishop Ndanga said the beliefs the sect was following were wrong. He said in October 2013, an ACCZ “administrative court” convened a meeting with Mr Mufani and his church elders to hear their views on the several allegations of abuse of girls and women.
The sect was accused of denying over 400 children of school going age access to education, severe abuse of church congregants and their families or relatives.
This was done by way of not allowing pregnant women to go for either ante-natal or post-natal care from trained medical personnel as this was regarded as Satanic.
He accused the church of forcing congregants to sell their properties to guarantee them entry into what he termed Canaan. “From today you are no longer allowed to use the name Johane Masowe,” Bishop Ndanga told the sect members. “Your actions and your rules are not allowed in Johane Masowe and in Christianity and they also violate national laws.”
Bishop Ndanga told the congregants that the ACCZ could not let such beliefs and practices go unchallenged. “Hence, by the powers vested in me as the executive president of ACCZ, an ecumenical board that regulates the operating tenets of all apostolic and Zion churches in Zimbabwe, today the 30th of May 2014, I, Johannes Nyamwa Ndanga, do hereby ban the Madzibaba Ishmael led Johanne Masowe Yechishanu Church in Budiriro 2.”
It was after this announcement that the sect members turned on the ACCZ members, the police and the journalists.
Efforts to locate Mr Mufani at his home at Tabudirira Housing Co-operative in Budiriro 4 last night for comment were fruitless as his house was deserted.