Army chief reported to Mugabe

HARARE - One of the rival church groups fighting to have influence over the ageing spiritual leader, Aaron Mhukuta — also popularly known as Madzibaba Wimbo — has written to President Robert Mugabe, drawing his attention, once again, to the long-running dispute in the Johanne Masowe Vadzidzi vaJeso sect, which has assumed factional undertones in his ruling Zanu PF party.

The group — comprising a large section of Wimbo’s family — is growing restless over its failure to secure the prophet’s release into its custody, and is heaping much of the blame on major-general Douglas Nyikayaramba, whom it is accusing of deploying members of the uniformed forces to keep Wimbo out of its reach.

Last year, Mugabe set up a probe team led by State Security minister Kembo Mohadi to help him understand the nature of the dispute, and recommend how he could resolve the matter.

The investigations are still underway, with head of the probe team, Mohadi, making impassioned pleas for calm yesterday.

Mugabe is seen touching on the conflict when he makes the trip to Mashonaland Central tomorrow for his seventh youth interface rally scheduled for Bindura.

The Zanu PF leader has been inundated with requests from lobbyists from rival groups of the church who are eager to have the fallout resolved in their favour to enable them to exercise control over Wimbo — famed for predicting Mugabe’s rise to the throne in 1957.

To avoid plunging into the dispute without the full facts, Mugabe, had felt he needed an independent team to advise him on how he should end the long-running dispute that has sucked in rival factions in his Zanu PF party.

Madzibaba Wimbo was taken in by a rival faction of the Johanne Masowe Vadzidzi vaJeso in 2015.

Since then, his family, which includes influential members of their extended family such as police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri, has failed to secure his release.

In a letter to Mugabe dated July 8, a representative of Wimbo’s family, Exnevia Gomo, appealed to the Zanu PF leader to intervene.

Wimbo, who founded Johanne Masowe Vadzidzi vaJeso, is also known by several other names, among them Juwaslekiyanzi, Majinesta and Gomo.

His family alleges that they feel powerless, claiming their father was being kept at a shrine in Madziwa by a powerful church group which enjoys the support of some elements in the military.

The family is therefore seeking protection from Mugabe, who is the commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces — from what it calls “church-sponsored violence and abuse by the church’s new leaders”, who include Nyikayaramba.

“We humbly appeal to you, your Excellency, for protection against the acts violating the freedom, and from physical, emotional and psychological violence and abuse of our family, the Goora community and a large section of Johanne Masowe Vadzidzi vaJeso church members,” the letter reads in part.

“...It is events related to administration of Masowe that have led to the violence and abuse of not only our family, but the surrounding community and a large section of church membership.

“The acts are being sponsored and perpetrated by the church leadership, comprising primarily Zex Pamacheche, Ishmael Magodi, Shepherd Chingwena and Edson Mukohwa, with the support of Amai Jesta Mhukuta (father’s fourth wife) and brigadier general Douglas Nyikayaramba who is also a church member (he holds the position of secretary for security in their new constitution).

“This leadership has gone rogue and usurped the authority of the spiritual leader because of his physical frailty due to illness and age.

“The violation of our freedom, violence and threat to life and failure of all possible interventions to resolve the crisis leading us to appeal for your help are outlined below,” Gomo wrote, before outlining a catalogue of grievances the family has against their rivals.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Nyikayaramba said he had no power to deploy the military as he was only in charge of administrative works of the military and not operations.

“I don’t have any comment on that. I stay in Harare and their father is in Madziwa. I don’t have any position in the church (and) I am just an ordinary member. I don’t deploy soldiers — the person who deploys soldiers is the commander-in-chief,” he said.

“I am not in the operations. I am in the administrative section of the army. There is a committee that was set up and it will be better to wait until this committee is through with their findings,” he added.

Contrary to Nyikayaramba’s assertions, a copy of the church’s constitution lists the major general as the security chief under his apostolic name, Mudzidzi Lonchmiyo E.

Wimbo has emerged as some sort of a cult leader among his followers for correctly predicting Mugabe’s rise to the throne.

The church’s influential leaders are fighting to be his top favourites so they could inherit his powers in the event that he is eventually called home to be with his maker.

Owing to the factional dynamics rattling Mugabe’s party, the wrangling over Madzibaba Wimbo has assumed factional undertones in his Zanu PF party where the Generation 40 (G40) and Team Lacoste camps have taken different sides.

G40 faction is working with a larger section of Wimbo’s family which has been shut out of a shrine in Madziwa, about 1,5 kilometres from the family homestead, where Wimbo is being looked after by a rival camp that is enjoying support from the rival Team Lacoste faction.

Contacted for comment, Mohadi called for calm.

He said: “We are still working on that issue and as soon as we are done with that we will let you know”.

An earlier letter addressed to Mohadi noted “extremely concerned that nothing seems to be happening, our father is growing frailer and the purported church leadership is growing bolder about their denial to free our father.”

“The purported leadership wants to use Amai Jesta and political muscle, through major general (Douglas) Nyikayaramba to dispossess the family of the farm.

“May I also humbly take this opportunity to mention that it has been two full years without seeing our father and we appeal to you to consider our dilemma with empathy and fatherly conscience.

“I know you are also fathers. It is baffling that this church leadership continues to physically and psychologically torture a 95-year-old and his family in the full glare of the law and clear defiance of the highest office of the land,” Gomo wrote to Mohadi in June.

The letter was copied to Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Chihuri, Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo.

In the latest letter to Mugabe, the family said if the highest office does not intervene promptly then “the persecution of the Gomo family will spill-over to the Goora community and church members are motivated solely by greed, corruption and unbridled political ambitions of the above mentioned church leaders. The leadership has deliberately politicised the church issues to threaten us and use political dispensation to perpetrate their acts of corruption and violence against us”.

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