President Robert Mugabe was reportedly livid on Friday after spending several hours in a closed-door meeting with members of an apostolic sect where he was briefed about the alleged involvement of senior army officials in an internal dispute tearing one of the largest churches in Mashonaland Central apart.

Mugabe was in the province to address Zanu PF factionalism, but the case of the abduction of Vadzidzi VaJesu Apostolic Church founder, 94-year-old Aaron Mhukuta took most of his time.

The 92-year-old leader was forced to address a rally that was scheduled for the afternoon at Chipadze Stadium in the evening after the meeting with the members of the sect dragged for several hours.

Mhukuta, also known as Mudzidzi Wimbo, was allegedly abducted by church zealots who were reportedly helped by some top military officials.

At the rally, Mugabe lashed out at soldiers, saying they should desist from using guns to force people to act against their will in a free Zimbabwe.

He chronicled how the soldiers had ruthlessly attacked Mudzidzi Wimbo’s son, chief superintend Gadjwet (Gomo) Mhukuta who tried to free his father from the shrine where he was being held hostage by his assistants.

“Guns cannot lead the party. The party is bigger than the gun. We want this to be known. Others from the military might have forgotten this. We should not deploy soldiers to harass our people,” Mugabe told the Zanu PF supporters.

He said people should desist from using the army and police to destabilise people for their selfish ends.

Wimbo is well-known for his prophesy in 1957 that independent Zimbabwe would be led by a man with the name of an angel, Gabriel, which came to pass when Mugabe became the first post-colonial leader in 1980.

Well-placed sources yesterday said the developments had taken a political turn and Mugabe had to intervene after Gadjwet pleaded with him.

The sources said the issue had taken a Zanu PF succession angle and sucked in the military, which is reportedly backing Vice-President Emerson Mnangagwa’s bid to succeed Mugabe.

The shrine had virtually been turned into an army barrack, the sources said, and also had a training camp inside for the national youth service.

Gadjwet, the sources said, was attacked because he along with one of his brothers were first accused of supporting former vice-president Joice Mujuru, and then the G40 faction in Zanu PF after the ouster of the Zimbabwe People First leader.

The saga has allegedly sucked in Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander general Constantine Chiwenga and major general Douglas Nyikayaramba, a chief of staff in the army.

Nyikayaramba is reportedly a member of the church and an alleged Mnangagwa loyalist, while Chiwenga is reported to have frequented the shrine but has not acted on the presence of the soldiers.

According to the sources, things started going wrong at Mudzidzi Wimbo’s shrine when his six assistants allegedly killed a Gwanda prophet, Jacob Zifungo, a former police officer at the “holy site” in March 2014.

The six were arrested and are on bail but things got to a head when Mudzidzi Wimbo’s sons ordered them not to set their foot at the shrine, accusing them of being murderers.

The six, with the alleged help of soldiers, then allegedly abducted Mudzidzi Wimbo and ordered his children never to set foot at the shrine.

“For close to two years now, Madzibaba Wimbo’s children have not met their father,” one of the church members who declined to be named said.

“Gadjwet went to the shrine to try to rescue his father but was beaten by six soldiers who are now facing murder charges.

“The police came to try to rescue Gadjwet under the command of a Mt Darwin dispol, one Mugonda, but they were overpowered by the soldiers.

“This forced Mudzidzi Wimbo’s daughters led by Spentula Gomo to storm the shrine to try to rescue their brother, but they were also bashed.”

The source added: “One of Wimbo’s sons, a professor of Immunology, Exnevia Gomo, called Nyikayaramba who is also a church member.

“He was in Murehwa but in one and half hours, he was at the shrine. But surprisingly, instead of helping the battered superintendent, he gave orders to the soldiers who were in the shrine to disperse the people who were demanding to get into the shrine to rescue Gadjwet.

“The soldiers fired in the air to disperse the angry villagers. In no time, soldiers put on their army regalia and started toy-toying around the shrine, threatening the angry villagers. There is no way Nyikayaramba can be distanced from the developments at the shrine,” the source said.

During the early stages of the problem, Mudzidzi Wimbo’s children reportedly approached Mnangagwa’s office for help. They were assisted by the vice-president’s secretary who tried to bring out the zealots, holding Mudzidzi Wimbo hostage.

They were reportedly led by Zex Pamacheche, Shephard Chingwena and one army colonel. Efforts to reconcile the warring factions failed to achieve results and exactly a month after the efforts, Mudzidzi Wimbo was abducted.

“A month after Mudzidzi Wimbo’s abduction, Mnangagwa visited the shrine. His visit did not resolve the problem. The prophet allegedly said the VP needed a lot of help,” said a source.

Mnangagwa was filmed performing rituals at Wimbo’s shrine.