Church cleared of any wrongdoing

HARARE - The Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) has cleared El-bethel Tabernacle Ministries and its leadership of any wrongdoing, including charges of sexual abuse, engineering forced marriages and equipping junior pastors with martial arts skills to deal with errant congregants.

Johannes Ndanga, the Association president, yesterday stated that politics was at play in the alleged smear campaign, as some of the complainants were MDC members.

Ndanga said he strongly believed that the case was politically-motivated.

He added that he was in possession of a letter from former Mabvuku (MDC) MP Timothy Mabhawu apologising to the church for spreading malicious rumours about the congregation.

ACCZ, a Christian body that regulates churches under a Cabinet directive, said it carried out an investigation after damning reports in the media of abuse at the church.

Presenting the probe findings at a press conference yesterday in Harare, Joseph Paganga, one of the probe team members, absolved the El-bethel Tabernacle Ministries founder of any wrong doing.

“From our investigations, we discovered that the pastor did not commit any sexual abuses,” Paganga said.

“We interviewed women from the church and they said he never abused them.

“We also established that the pastor loves karate and he practises it at his own personal times. He never taught any member karate.”

Ndanga said church members who filed complaints against the church’s leadership were motivated by personal vendettas.

“In the case of El-bethel Ministries, we have asked all complainants and all witnesses to come forward and no one has done so,” Ndanga said.

“In the absence of such complaints supported by credible evidence, we conclude that this is a frivolous case which is actuated by malice.

“We have reasons to believe that it is a mischievous and deliberate attempt to soil the names of good and God-fearing people who are preaching their conditions as per their constitutional rights to freedom of religion and conscience.”

The case came to light two weeks ago after disgruntled members prepared a damning dossier detailing alleged sordid acts in the church.