THE trial of 37 members of the Johane Masowe eChishanu accused of battering police officers and journalists in May this year opened at the Harare Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday with one of the sect members claiming political persecution for refusing to support Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s bid to succeed President Robert Mugabe.

Takavengwa Gwenzi (46) told trial magistrate Tendai Mahwe that prior to the violent clashes, Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) president Johannes Ndanga had threatened to “fix” them for refusing to endorse Mujuru’s candidature.

“He told us that he was going to fix us because we had refused to pray for Mujuru to be in office. He said the President [Robert Mugabe] was going to resign and be replaced by Mujuru with him [Ndanga] as the vice,” Gwenzi said.

Gwenzi told the court that Ndanga sent a delegation to their Budiriro shrine to inform the sect members that he was the head of 789 apostolic denominations and third most powerful person after President Mugabe and Mujuru in the ruling Zanu PF party hierarchy.

He said when they refused to be dragged into the party’s succession politics, Ndanga allegedly told them that he was powerful enough either to have them tried in court or released.

“He said some apostolic sects have raised several allegations against us so a delegation from our church should visit his office to discuss the matters. Some members, including Ishmael Mufani, later visited Ndanga’s offices, but turned down his demands,” Gwenzi said.

The group pleaded not guilty and denied allegations that they assaulted Ndanga and members of his delegation.

State allegations are that the apostolic sect members violently attacked Ndanga’s delegation following a raid at their Budiriro shrine on May 30 this year.

The State alleges that the accused persons were part of male congregants who ran amok on the day in question, turning the shrine into a war zone as they fought running battles with the police.

The congregants allegedly challenged Ndanga to read his speech in Shona, claiming that they were not conversant in English.
The court further heard that Ndanga ordered police officers present to arrest one of the congregants who kept interjecting his speech.

The apostolic sect members immediately broke into a militant song, Umambo Hwepfumo Neropa.

Six police officers and a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation cameraperson, Relaxe Mafurutu, were injured during the