Johanne Masowe eChishanu Apostolic sect leader Ishmael Chokurongerwa  denied the violence charges levelled against him, Tuesday when his trial opened at the Harare Magistrates Court before magistrate Milton Serima.

Chokurongerwa is accused of inciting the assault of about six riot police officers, journalists and members of the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe last year in May at his Budiriro Shrine.

Chokurongerwa’s lawyer Tawanda Takaindisa said his client was wrongly accused as he was out of Harare at the time of the attack.

“What happened occured in his absence and as such he had no control over it because he was not part of the congregation,” Takaindisa told the court

However  a police officer who is one of the state witnesses, Stanley Tafireyi, told the court that he saw Chokurongerwa at the shrine on the day.

“Chokurongerwa was there,” Tafireyi said

“ Madzibaba Ishmael started singing the song Humambo hwemapfumo neropa  and the other congregants responded. They stood up and started assaulting the police and other people who were there.”

Tafireyi said although he did not see Chokurongerwa assaulting the police, he was the one who influenced his congregants when he started singing.

He said Takaindisa’s assertion that the accused person was out of Harare at the material time was not true because he personally saw him at the shrine.

During cross examination, Takaindisa told the court that other witnesses said during the trial of the jailed sect members that it was Chokuvengwa Gwenzi and  Madzimure who started the song and not the accused person.
Tafireyi told the court that although he had known Chokurongerwa prior to the assault, he was not sure if he was the sect leader because the accused person always denied being the leader of the church.

“He used to bring some cases to the police station but however said he was not the church leader. He indicated that he was just one of several prophets in the church which he said was led by the Holy Spirit,” he said.
Eleven members of his sect have already been convicted on the same charge and sentenced to four years in prison. Chokurongerwa was arrested at his rural home in Chigogodza Village in Murehwa in January this year.