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Sect leader, members on trial in Zimbabwe for abusing minors

By AFP

March 14, 2024 11:04 PM


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The leader of an apostolic sect arrested for allegedly exploiting minors in Zimbabwe will appear in court on Thursday alongside seven other church members.

Police arrested "self-styled prophet" Ishmael Chokurongerwa, 56, on Tuesday with seven congregants "for criminal activities which include abuse of minors", they said in a statement.

They said "246 out of 251 children below the age of 18 years ... had no birth certificates and were being used to perform various physical activities for the benefit of the sect's leadership".

The children did not go to school but were  instead being "taught life skills" and "subjected to abuse as cheap labour".

They lived on Chokurongerwa's farm about 35 kilometres (20 miles) from the country's capital Harare.

Police spokesman Paul Nyathi told AFP that church members were also denied access to medicine and healthcare.

Investigators found 16 graves at Chokurongerwa's shrine. Nine held the bodies of adults and seven infants.

The burials took place without prior registration with the state office or permission.

According to a former church member interviewed by a local radio station earlier this week, Chokurongerwa was keeping hundreds of families at his farm which was blocked from the outside world.

The woman said the shrine was named Canaan and sect members believed that the world was coming to an end.

Chokurongerwa was previously sentenced to five years in prison in 2015 for leading his followers to attack police and journalists.

The development comes at a time apostolic sects in the southern African country are under scrutiny over child marriages and their other practices which deprive children of their constitutional rights.

 

 

 

 

 

AFP


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