Madzibaba Ishmael Defends Himself, Saying Support for 120 Families is His Sole ‘Offense’

March 15, 2024
Madzibaba Ishmael Chokurongerwa 1200x670 | Report Focus News
Madzibaba Ishmael Chokurongerwa

In a controversial case that has caught the attention of the public, Ishmael Chokurongerwa, a self-proclaimed prophet and leader of the Johane Masowe (Gore Jena Penyeranyika) sect, faces legal challenges following his recent arrest. The arrest, which occurred earlier this week, has sparked debates around religious freedoms and child welfare in Zimbabwe. Chokurongerwa, during his bail application on March 14 before Norton resident magistrate Christine Nyandoro, claimed that his arrest stemmed from his commitment to supporting approximately 120 families at Plot 6, Lily Farm, in Nyabira.

Chokurongerwa, who has a past conviction from 2014, insists that he has led a non-violent life since then. Currently, he is also dealing with health issues following an incident of food poisoning in September of the previous year. The charges against him and his co-accused members of his sect, including Takavengwa Gwenzi, Siribiniyo Chikunire, Wonder Kabaya, Devlodge Katsande, Zebediah Sigudu, Aaron Chokurongerwa, and Shingirai Ngavafume, are serious and multifaceted.

Specifically, the charges relate to the alleged violation of the Burial and Cremation Act 5:03, as well as the Children’s Act 5:06. The authorities accuse Madzibaba Ishmael and his followers of conducting unauthorized burials for two members of their community, Hazel Chikunhire and Winlet Kabaya, in November 2023, without obtaining the necessary burial orders. This act has been highlighted as a clear contravention of Zimbabwean law, raising concerns about the sect’s adherence to national regulations.

Further complicating the case, the State has accused the sect leader and his associates of neglecting and exposing their children to harmful conditions since 2019. The allegations include a failure to provide adequate healthcare and education, which has reportedly resulted in significant harm to the children’s well-being.

Denote Muchichwa, the investigating officer, voiced strong opposition to granting bail to the accused. Muchichwa’s opposition is based on concerns regarding witness interference and the potential risk to the children’s safety if the accused were released. During the investigation, officers reported a disturbing discovery regarding the condition of the children within the sect, highlighting their deprivation of fundamental rights, including access to education and healthcare.

The case has ignited a broader conversation about the balance between religious practices and legal obligations, especially concerning the welfare of children. As the accused individuals await their court appearance on March 19 for the bail ruling, the community and observers nationwide are keenly awaiting the outcome of this case, which may set a precedent for similar situations in the future.