Zimbabwean Religious Leader Charged with Murder and Sexual Abuse of Minors

Zimbabwean religious leader Madzibaba Ishmael faces grave charges of murder, sexual abuse of minors, and child labor exploitation, highlighting the urgent need to address abuse within religious sects.

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Olalekan Adigun
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Zimbabwean Religious Leader Charged with Murder and Sexual Abuse of Minors

Zimbabwean Religious Leader Charged with Murder and Sexual Abuse of Minors

Madzibaba Ishmael Chokurongerwa, a religious leader in Zimbabwe, is facing serious charges including murder and having sexual intercourse with minors. Chokurongerwa, who leads the Johanne Masowe Penyera Nyika sect, allegedly terminated the pregnancy of Hazel Chikurunhe with the help of two others, resulting in her death. The trio is accused of secretly burying Chikurunhe's body in Nyabira.

In addition to the murder charge, Chokurongerwa is accused of engaging in sexual relations with five underage girls between the ages of 13 and 16 from 2018 to 2024. These alleged acts resulted in the birth of several children. The police have rescued 251 children, 246 of whom had no birth certificates, who were used as forced labor at Madzibaba Ishmael's plot. At least 16 illegal graves, including 7 for infants, have been discovered on the property.

Why this matters: This case highlights the disturbing exploitation and abuse of minors within religious sects in Zimbabwe. It emphasizes the need for authorities to investigate and prosecute such crimes to protect vulnerable children and hold perpetrators accountable.

Chokurongerwa and his accomplices are also facing charges for conducting burials without proper orders and neglecting, abandoning, and exposing their children to various ailments. The religious leader was recently granted bail by the High Court but is barred from conducting any church gatherings until the matter is finalized. His trial, along with seven co-accused individuals, is scheduled to commence on May 7, 2024, at the Norton Magistrates' Court.

The State alleges that Chokurongerwa and his associates conducted funeral services for Hazel Chikunhire and Winlet Kabaya without proper burial orders. They are also accused of neglecting, abandoning, and exposing children residing at the church's compound in Nyabira to conditions likely to cause unnecessary suffering. Chokurongerwa's co-accused were also granted bail, with the trial set to begin for all eight individuals on May 7, 2024.

Key Takeaways

  • Madzibaba Ishmael Chokurongerwa faces charges of murder and sexual abuse of minors.
  • Chokurongerwa allegedly terminated a pregnancy, resulting in the death of Hazel Chikurunhe.
  • Chokurongerwa accused of sexual relations with 5 underage girls, leading to several births.
  • Police rescued 251 children, 246 without birth certificates, used as forced labor on Chokurongerwa's plot.
  • Chokurongerwa and 7 co-accused face trial on May 7, 2024, for various crimes against children.