The Zimbabwe Supreme Court has jailed 10 members of the Noah Taguta-led Johanne Marange Apostolic sect sect for an effective 16 months each for fighting over a dead body.

Two factions from the same Momberume Taguta family substituted Bibles for rocks and engaged in bloody battles over ownership of the corpse of the late church leader Johanne Marange’s son, Oliver.

The incident occurred on July 18, 2001, during Oliver’s funeral at Taguta village, Chief Marange in Mutare.

According to court records, the fight turned so nasty that the coffin broke, throwing the dead body to the ground. One of the brawling parties proceeded to burn the coffin down. Armed police had to be called to quell the riotous situation.

The ten had appealed against a ruling convicting them for the offence committed 11 years ago and also against the sentence.

Their appeal was dismissed on July 9 this year by Supreme Court judges: deputy chief justice, Justice Luke Malaba, judge of appeal, Justice Vernanda Ziyambi, and acting judge of appeal, Justice Yunus Omerjee.

The church members, who are all from Momberume Taguta family, had in 2004 been convicted and sentenced to a total 36 months each for public violence by then Mutare magistrate Walter Chikwanha whose judgment was upheld by High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu.

In a brief ruling, the Supreme Court said, “The matter be and is hereby dismissed.” This effectively empowers the magistrates’ court to issue a warrant of arrest against convicts, namely Samson, Titus, Ambrose, Ellakim, Esrom, Elmon, James, Zibert, Arizori and Stephen.

The incident leading to the public violence came about when the fight for the control of the church between Taguta and Clemence Momberume escalated 12 years ago. In upholding the lower court ruling, Justice Bhunu said, “Their conduct on that day was not only unlawful, but contrary to the norms, values and tenets of all Christian teachings and morality. Their conduct in interfering with and disturbing a dead body. And burning the coffin was a horrific act of terror.”

See related material

Vapostori invade one of Zimbabwe’s biggest dairy farms. Other members of the sect protest