House Number 6 Helena Close, Marlborough, was yesterday the scene of proceedings in the month–long trial of RMG Independent End Time Message Church leader Robert Martin Gumbura (57) who is facing charges of rape.

The court moved to his spacious and luxurious residence after the magistrate ordered an inspection in loco apparently to familiarise himself with the scene of the alleged crimes.

Gumbura’s house is one of the places where some of his rape victims alleged their nightmares occurred.

The first impression one gets upon entering the main gate at the house is a sense of disorder. Other than the main huge house, there are several cottages inside the compound. There is also an imposing two–storey mansion which stands tall, dwarfing the smaller buildings.

A team of builders could also be seen extending what Gumbura said was a church at the premises. They went about their business unperturbed by the invasion of armed anti-riot police, court officials and journalists.

The court was led by the presiding magistrate in the case, Harare regional magistrate Hosea Mujaya.

Also present was the prosecution team of Jonathan Murombedzi and Kudzai Chigwedere as well as defence counsels Rekai Maphosa and Emmanuel Samundombe.

The investigating officer, Chief Superintendent Ndabezinhle Moyo made indications to the court, giving an account of how they arrived at the premises and the discoveries they made during the course of their investigations.

The front of the house has a thick, solid wall measuring two metres high where a massive green iron gate rests between the entrance to the compound, measuring approximately 3 metres in height and 5,4 metres in length.

The backyard of the house resembled a car cemetery where several broken down vehicles, including a lorry, appear to have been abandoned. Several more cars — some of which seemed to be in fairly good condition — sat on piles of bricks.

Two top–of–the–range vehicles, a Toyota Land Cruiser and a Mitsubishi Pajero, were parked inside the garage of the mansion under construction.

Although there is nothing particularly striking about the house, it is the exquisite furniture in most of the rooms that speaks of money. The furniture items include designer display cabinets, luxurious beds and expensive chandeliers.

“Now this is opulence!” remarked a member of the police anti-riot squad, apparently unable to help himself at the spectacle of the wealth in Gumbura’s house.

In the main lounge is an impressionist painting of Jesus Christ which has, however, been done to include Gumbura and End Time Message founder William Branham.

One of the offices in the main house has cabinets full of books such as The Qur’an, Men of the Bible, Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred as well as several Bible dictionaries and commentaries. There were also DVDs that included Occultic Kingdom, Nigerian movie collections and music CDs of Alick Macheso and the late Beater Mangethe, among others.

While in the storeroom where police recovered the pornographic material for which he also stands accused, Gumbura explained to the court that all “ungodly” material that would have been surrendered by new converts would be stored in that room before they were destroyed.

“The burnings are not done all the time,” he said. “We only do that in April, August and December. The furniture that is also stored here (including lounge suites, chairs and fridges) is meant to be given away to the poor.”

During the inspection, some of Gumbura’s wives could be seen loitering around the premises while the children had been sent off to one of the cottages where they sat under the watchful eye of an adult.

Gumbura was at pains to explain why one of the back gates – which he claimed has always been open during the time the rape is alleged to have been committed, was locked up. The magistrate asked that it be opened, but efforts to do so failed.

The trial continues today with the investigating officer expected to undergo cross –examination on the inspection in –loco.