Thursday, 5 June 2014

Inside Madzibaba Ishmael’s den

HARARE - Members of the Madzibaba Ishmael Mufani apostolic sect yesterday narrated the rampant abuse in their church, including forced marriages, virginity testing and the deity status enjoyed by their revered leader.
Inside Madzibaba Ishmael’s den
Members of the Johanne Masowe eChishanu sect led by Madzibaba Ishmael Mufani being led by detectives into the Harare Magistrates Court

Madzibaba Ishmael is on the run after his followers battered police officers and journalists at their shrine in Harare’s Budiriro suburb last Friday.

Although dozens of sect members have been arrested, many, who include the husband of a tearful wife who opened up to the Daily News, are still hiding from the long arm of the law.

The Daily News caught up with a family, which requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, revealing that they had been barred from taking their sick children to hospital.

“We are not allowed to take children to hospital and my husband is a very violent man, so please don’t use our pictures,” said the wife from Whitecliff, speaking at the Apostolic Church Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) offices in central Harare.
Inside Madzibaba Ishmael’s den
Members of the Johanne Masowe eChishanu sect led by Madzibaba Ishmael Mufani being led by detectives into the Harare Magistrates Court

According to the wife, her husband conducted regular virginity tests on their 18-year-old daughter, who fled to Namibia last week after her father had forced her into a polygamous relationship.

The distraught mother said she had three other children, one of whom has a three-week deep cut on his thigh, but cannot go to hospital because of the church’s doctrine.

“I have never gone to school, but still I hope that one day I will,” said the injured 10-year-old boy, who fell off a bicycle. He said he only hears of television from neighbours because their church has banned the modern gadget.

“I joined this church in 1994 when it was led by Madzibaba Nehemia,” she said.

“Things changed when he died and Madzibaba Mufani took over, bringing new laws. When my daughter refused to marry an elderly man, she was beaten with clenched fists because we believe that a person should get married before she gets to 18 and achida asingade, musikana anofanirwa kuroorwa asati apfuura makore iwayo nekuti akadarika anenge akomba (whether a girl wants to get married or not, when she reaches the age of 18 she must get married, that is our practice).”
Inside Madzibaba Ishmael’s den
Members of the Johanne Masowe eChishanu sect led by Madzibaba Ishmael Mufani being led by detectives into the Harare Magistrates Court

She dropped out of school when she was doing Form Two simply because, according to the church “god” has opposed to western education, which he claimed was polluting their doctrine.

“I completed my ‘O’ Levels, but all my three children are not going to school because the church says education is unholy,” the distraught mum said.

“I have tried to reason with my husband and whenever I do that, I am always beaten. These days, I only follow him out of fear,” she said with a crackling voice.

The apostolic sect is strict on virginity.

“A lot of women have been dumped vachinzi maravhuza (waste material) since they will have had slept with other men before,” she said.

Since Madzibaba Ishamea got full reins at the church, academic certificates and national identity documents have been burnt, women have been forced into marriages and children dropped out of school, the mum said. She said her husband had become even more violent.

“He, like all men in the church, believes that Ishamea is a ‘god’ who communicates directly with God, thus whatever the church leader says is law,” she told the Daily News.

“I only go to that church now because of force. At one point, I reported my husband to the police and he spent three months in jail.

“When he returned, he was even more violent. Now he says he fears no one including the police because he says only his god Ishmael tells him what to do.”
Inside Madzibaba Ishmael’s den
Members of the Johanne Masowe eChishanu sect led by Madzibaba Ishmael Mufani being led by detectives into the Harare Magistrates Court

Explaining the fracas on Friday, she said to them, the church is a holy place that cannot be invaded by non-believers.

“They say the hands of the soldiers and the police are contaminated by the blood of innocent people (and) are therefore not welcome in the church,” she said.

On Friday, she said she was not at the church’s shrine but her husband, who is a vendor, was.

Johannes Ndanga, president of ACCZ, who is accused of having provoked the vapositori to fly into a rage, said he derives his authority from the top echelons of the ruling administration.
Inside Madzibaba Ishmael’s den
Vice President Joice Mujuru is the patron of ACCZ and President Robert Mugabe has on several occasions removed his shoes each time he has visited shrines of the vapositori.

“Politicians are not getting involved in these matters because there are political implications,” Ndanga told the Daily News.

“Because of that, we could not just stand aside while people are abused.

“Although I had a gun, I did not use it because I thought they had listened to us. I could have fired three warning shots and another into the mob but I didn’t.” Daily News
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