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By Lebo Nkatazo

ONE of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's most vocal ecclesiastical supporters has been disowned by the church he founded following his arrest of rape charges.

Reverend Obadiah Msindo is no longer a member of the Destiny of Africa Network, the church’s directors said in a notice.

There was no mention of Msindo's crime in the notice, but church sources said it was likely that the dramatic action was in response to the rape allegations and further claims that he embezzled church funds.

Msindo has been a regular at State House and has officiated at President Mugabe's birthday ceremonies and national events like the Heroes' Day commemorations.

He once referred to President Mugabe as a "black Moses".

But in a dramatic development, the church's directors said: "Notice is hereby given by the directors of Destiny of Africa Network that Rev O Msindo is being stopped from using the name Destiny of Africa Network with immediate effect, anyhow, whatsoever, anytime, anywhere.”

It was not immediately possible to get Msindo's reaction to the directors' statement.

An official at the church who declined to be named because he was not authorised to talk to the media said: "People are tired of the way he runs the church as if it’s his small kingdom. When it comes to funds he is accountable to himself. To him, it’s a crime to ask him about church funds. He starts preaching that the church has been infiltrated."

The source revealed that when Msindo was charged with rape, there was "turmoil" in the church. Police were accused of trying to block Msindo's prosecution, but the ex-director of public prosecutions Loice Matanda- Moyo personally took an interest in the matter after pressure from women’s groups.

Msindo denies the rape charges which he says are a smear campaign by Mugabe's opponents who want him to add his voice to growing calls by church leaders for the 83-year-old leader to quit.

Msindo is not the first pro-Mugabe pastor to run into trouble with the law.

Last year, one of Mugabe's most visible sympathisers in the Church, pastor
Lawrence Katsiru of the Apostolic sect, who notoriously commanded his followers to Zanu PF gatherings, was sentenced to seven years in jail for raping a 13-year-old girl.

Katsiru took the 13-year-old girl for "counseling" at his Marondera farm after her parents had complained about her bad behaviour. Katsiru is said to have told the girl’s parents that he wanted "to spiritually discipline her", at his farm.

In 2005, another pastor, Madzibaba Nzira, who at one time said he had a divination that Mugabe was Zimbabwe's rightful ruler, got a 32-year jail term for raping a woman under his sect.

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