The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHCD) told Parliament recently that apostolic sect members had agreed to join the main Christian umbrella body to curb incidents of rape and extortion among church leaders.

ZHCD  members comprising of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC), the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), said this when they appeared before the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Gender and Development chaired by Mashonaland West Senator Priscah  Mupfumira (Zanu PF).

Currently, the sects fall under their own independent Union of Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe (UDACIZ).

EFZ secretary-general  Reverend Lindani Dube said they were formalising their relationship with UDACIZ in order to work closely on issues of church philosophy, beliefs and church governance issues in a quest to curb rape of church members and monetary extortion as well as other issues like child marriages.

“We are in the process of formalising a union with UDACIZ in terms of integration of programmes because we are disappointed by people who call themselves church leaders who go on to commit crimes,” Dube said.

“We want church organisations to have robust governance systems to ensure they are sensitive to family units and give room to issues like domestic violence and gender-based violence.”

Catholic Church parliamentary liaison officer under ZCBC Edward Ndete said their body was in favour of stiff deterrent sentences for church ministers who engaged in nefarious activities.

“A crime is a crime no matter who has committed it – even if it is a priest or bishop they have to go to a criminal court if caught on the wrong side of the law.  No church is going to harbour criminal activity as nobody is above the law,” Ndete said.

ZCC secretary-general Solomon Zwane said there was need of a robust governance system at churches to also curb use of disabled people to market churches.

“Lay people should also have a role to play in the church to neutralise deviance by church ministers, for example, ordinary members can be in charge of church finances. Whatever regulatory mechanism is taken on churches will require wide consultations with all stakeholders,” Zwane said.

He said the ZHCD churches now had gender desks which dealt with issues of social justice and training of ministers in counselling and responses to gender-based violence.