High court upholds Gumbura conviction

HARARE - The High Court on Thursday upheld the conviction of jailed Independent End Time Message founder Robert Martin Gumbura for raping congregants.

Gumbura, 60, was sentenced to 40 years in prison  after being found guilty on four counts of raping female congregants and another count of contravening the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act in March 2014.

Gumbura’s attorneys had urged the High Court to overturn his conviction on several technical grounds, including the admission of hearsay statements by defence witnesses, credibility of complainants and admission of claims that the victims had been brainwashed without calling an expert to confirm such an averment.

The court’s two justices Edith Mushore and Charles Hungwe, however, unanimously rejected all of Gumbura’s arguments, upholding the ruling.

“In this matter, I was not impressed by the appellant (Gumbura)’s defence. As far as I concern myself, appellant is a personification of what Professor Geoff Feltoe refers to as ‘the evil of abuse’…appellant is a depraved individual who degraded and objectified his victims. He is clearly the stuff that nightmares are made of.

“In my view, the court a quo correctly convicted appellant in counts, three, seven, eight, nine and 10. In all the circumstances of the above, the court orders as follows: the appeal against conviction on all counts is dismissed,” Mushore said, in a ruling that Hungwe agreed to.

In the judgment, Mushore said: “In casu, appellant did not provide legitimate reasons for the court a quo to agree with him that the complainants’ reports were as a result of leading and inducing or intimidating character. There is nothing on record to show that superintendent Moyo who recorded the complaints’ statements, coerced them into making their respective statements.

“I disbelieve appellant’s account that the reports were made because of a conspiracy by a syndicate of churches bent on tarnishing his name or stealing his congregants.”

She further said that there was no corroborative evidence supporting Gumbura’s claims of a conspiracy.

Harare regional magistrate Hosea Mujaya found Gumbura guilty in March 2014.

During his trial, witnesses claim they had been indoctrinated into believing that they would be thrown into the hands of Satan if they did not comply with the man of cloth’s orders.

However, in his court appeal, Gumbura, who was represented by Sylvester Hashiti, had argued that Mujaya erred in finding him guilty.

“It is clear that the magistrate’s finding that the complainants were credible is plainly wrong.

“The honourable magistrate simply took lock, stock and barrel the narrative of the complainants, discarding the explanation given by the appellant and the probabilities,” he argued.

He accused the magistrate of failing to critically examine the allegations raised by the complainants.

“In this regard, the magistrate was regrettably swayed by non-legal considerations and passed a moral judgment.

Most fundamentally, the honourable court was obligated to critically examine each allegation of sex in the surrounding circumstances,” he said.

State prosecutor Editor Mavuto had opposed the appeal.

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