All churches should be affiliated to umbrella bodies to allow authorities to regulate their activities and curb abuse of vulnerable groups, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) told Parliament last week.

Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference Parliamentary liaison officer, Edward Ndete told the Parliamentary portfolio committee on gender and development that no church should be allowed to harbour criminals.

Nhete was addressing legislators on activities and programmes that churches were implementing to combat domestic violence and rape cases.

“A crime is a crime no matter who commits it. It doesn’t matter whether one is a bishop or ordinary church member; nobody is above the law,” said Ndete.

“No church will protect criminals and we need to look at ourselves closely so that we ensure those who cannot administer properly shape up or ship out.”

He said ZHOCD was in the process of restructuring to come up with an acceptable model regularising the activities of churches under their purview.

Ndete addressed the committee amid numerous reports of pastors and church leaders abusing their congregants. This was epitomised by the arrest and subsequent conviction of Independent End Time Messages church leader Robert Gumbura who was later sentenced to 40 years imprisonment on several charges of rape.

Solomon Zwana, Zimbabwe Council of Churches secretary general, told the committee that ZHOCD had established gender desks which also look at socio-economic issues that lead to congregants being abused.

“We are working towards establishing a faith based commission that ensures that charisma in church leaders is sober,” said Zwana.

“We need to have institutions where power is not vested in an individual to neutralise deviant tendencies, to ensure that churches have robust governance systems that regulate the activities of the top leadership.”

Another cleric, Lindani Dube, who serves as secretary general of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe added that the church had publicly voiced its revulsion against activities such as those carried out by Gumbura.

“We have publicly echoed our disappointment at such people though ordinarily we may not have been involved, their actions affect us,” said Dube.

He said government had a mandate to make sure the country’s moral fibre was maintained by instilling in school children the values that define Zimbabweans as a people.