Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) leader Johannes Ndanga yesterday claimed that the President’s Office has mandated his organisation to investigate over 50 local churches with a view to prosecuting those whose practices would be deemed illegal.
This came as Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs deputy minister Fortune Chasi yesterday said government had no business in regulating churches.
Chasi made the remarks in Parliament after Kuwadzana East MP Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T)had asked him to explain if there were plans by government to regulate churches in light of abuse of members by some pastors.
“I want to believe that the particular court which dealt with that case meted out justice to the person in question,” Chasi said.
“However, I am unable to say the conduct of (Robert) Gumbura represents a common trend in all churches. I think that our judicial system is well placed to deal with an individual who commits rape and I think it is proper punishment.”
But Ndanga told NewsDay that President Robert Mugabe’s Office had instructed him to monitor operations of Pentecostal, Apostolic and Zionist churches in the country after the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) had shown little interest in the surveillance of churches that were not affiliated to them.
“Although our council falls under the Ministry of (Sport, Arts and) Culture, we have been given this mandate by the highest office in the land,” Ndanga said.
“There are security sector briefings that are held every morning with the President (Mugabe) where security organisations give reports. The Gumbura issue was raised in that meeting and that was when ACCZ was appointed to deal with all such issues in all the churches.”
RMG Independent End Time Message leader Gumbura was this week jailed for 40 years following his conviction on four counts of rape involving female congregants and one count of possessing pornographic material.
Ndanga said their preliminary investigations into the operations of other churches had shown that there were more churches with doctrines
similar to the ones preached by the jailed Gumbura. He, however, said the council was not worried about “competition” between church leaders like United Families International Church (UFIC) founder Emmanuel Makandiwa and Walter Magaya of the Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries (PHD).
“But if the doctrines are similar and there are no criminal activities, we don’t worry about those churches, like if Makandiwa engages in competition with Magaya, with one saying I will raise the dead and the other saying I will walk on water, it will not concern us. We can’t challenge them on such useless doctrines.
“We will not stop him from doing that, but he has many dead relatives, but can’t raise them back to life and he will also die. We may not agree with him, but to us that’s not an issue.”
Repeated efforts to contact Makandiwa were fruitless yesterday as UFIC spokesperson Prime Kufa’s phone was not reachable.
Ndanga said following Gumbura’s conviction and incarceration, there was need for churches operating in the country to be monitored. He said they were now part of a committee that sits as an Administrative Court and they were currently investigating the operations of the Good Samaritan Church in Kadoma led by one Pastor Makina who was arrested on allegations of sexually abusing female congregants.
“If there are reports made, we consider the gravity of the complaints and we call in the police to play their part. Now we are part of an Administrative Court we just deal with the church as a corporate body, not the criminal actor,” he said. “We don’t do witch-hunting, but wait for the complainants to come forward and we check the authenticity of their reports.”
A fortnight ago, ACCZ cleared the El-Bethel Tabernacle Church and its leadership of any wrongdoing after it had been alleged that there were incidences of sexual abuse of congregants, forced marriages and martial arts training for junior pastors to intimidate congregants. EFZ general secretary Lindani Dube said: “As EFZ, we have a code of conduct that governs the operations of our members in light of the requirements set out in the Bible. These ethical requirements are very clear and we separate spiritual matters from criminal matters.”