JOHANNE Masowe eChishanu apostolic sect leader, Ishmael Chokurongerwa told a Harare court Monday that Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ), president Johannes Ndanga, wanted to take over as the country’s vice president.
Ndanga was said to have claimed he had been given classified information indicating President Robert Mugabe was soon to step down due to old age with then deputy Joice Mujuru taking over.
Mujuru has since been fired for allegedly plotting to force the 91-year-old leader out of office.
In his defence during a public violence trial, Chokurongerwa corroborated statements made by his congregants that Ndanga accused him of having caused the brawl which left ACCZ officials, journalists and police officers injured last May because his sect had refused to pray for him to successfully take over from Mujuru.
The assaulted group had accompanied Ndanga to announce the ban of the sect following reports of rampant child and other rights abuses at its Chokurongerwa’s Budiriro shrine.
Chokurongerwa, who broke down while giving evidence before Magistrate Milton Serima, said Ndanga had pointed out that, President Robert Mugabe would retire because of old age adding that Mujuru would automatically take over.
“Police officers visited my shrine twice but did not find anything wrong with our sect’s practices,” he said.
“The third time they came they had been ordered by Ndanga to take us to his offices. There were three portraits in his office, Mugabe’s portrait was on top, followed by Mujuru’s then his was on the bottom.
“He showed us the portraits and told us he was about to give us classified information which we were supposed to keep a secret.
“He told us the order of the portraits meant that the President would resign, Mujuru will take over and he was supposed to fill her post and begged us to pray for him which we refused. That is why he is framing me.”
The sect leader told the court he was in Hurungwe when his congregants attacked the officials.
State witnesses have identified Chokurongerwa in video footage of the incident but he denied the charge pointing out that the person they were referring to as him could be one of his church members, only identified as Nesbert.
According to the state on 30 May 2014 leaders from the ACCZ, in the company of 26 members of the police anti-riot squad, visited the shrine where Chokurongerwa and his followers were praying, with the intention to disperse them.
Ndanga then announced that the sect had been banned from operating in Zimbabwe because it violated national and Christian laws.
It is the state’s case that Chokurongerwa allegedly led the attack on police officers, members of the media and ACCZ leaders.
Members of the sect beat up the police using their religious sticks and stones while singing a religious song called Hondo yepfumo neropa (War of the spear and blood).
In total 7 officers in riot gear, journalists and members of the ACCZ were seriously injured.
A police blitz that followed saw 37 members of the sect arrested but Chokurongerwa fled into hiding. 11 of the 37 were later convicted in November 2014 and jailed for 4 years each for the crime.
After the incident, Chokurongerwa reportedly went underground for seven months before he was arrested at his rural home in Murehwa early this year.
However, Chokurongerwa denies evading arrest and says he was not aware of the investigations until he got arrested.
He is also denying charges of public violence and says he was not present when the incident happened.