Madzibaba Ishamea remanded in custody

HARARE - Madzibaba Ishamea Mufani will languish in remand prison after a Harare magistrate denied him bail amid fears the Vapositori cleric would abscond trial.

Mufani is being charged with public violence after members of his sect attacked journalists, police officers and Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) officials who had gone to shut down his church over allegations of child and women abuse early last year.

In denying him bail, magistrate Milton Serima said he was surprised to hear Mufani say he was not on the run or present on the day the offence was committed.

Eleven of Mufani’s followers are serving four-year jail terms each after they were convicted on the same charge.

Serima said this could induce Mufani to abscond trial.

“In view of the sentences that were imposed on 11 of accused person’s followers, it is likely that he will fear jail time since he is being charged with a similar offence,” said Serima.

“Although accused claims he was not aware of the offence, one wonders why, him being a leader of such a huge following, would disappear for so many months.”

Serima remanded the matter to January 20.

During his bail application, Madzibaba Ishamea said his church doctrine does not allow him to use any form of electronic media, and was unaware of repeated announcements on State radio and TV that police were on the prowl for him ostensibly because he was a fugitive from justice.

Prosecutor Sebastian Mutizirwa argued that Mufani was not a suitable candidate for bail, saying he has been on the run since May last year.

“On the face of allegations, accused person elected to flee instead of clearing his name, thus he cannot be trusted to attend trial if bailed out,” Mutizirwa said.

Allegations against Mufani arose on May 30 when an entourage led by ACCZ executive president Archbishop Johannes Ndanga, that included police officers and journalists, was beaten up by the Vapositori.

This was after Ndanga had read out a letter banning the church on allegations of abusing women and children.

The congregants challenged the ACCZ leader to read his speech in Shona, claiming they were not familiar with English.

Ndanga then ordered police to arrest one of the congregants who kept interjecting as he read the speech.

Other congregants then began singing Umambo hwepfumo neropa, before all male congregants armed with shepherd’s crooks charged towards the “trespassers” and assaulted them.

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