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Nyabira Cult: Trial in false start as Madzibaba Ishmael is hospitalised, arrest warrant issued

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By Tapiwa Svondo


The trial in which cult leader Ishmael Chokurongerwa (54) is accused of conducting unlawful burials failed to commence Tuesday amid reports that he is currently hospitalised after being diagnosed with low blood pressure.

Chokurongerwa popularly known as Madzibaba Ishmael was slapped with an arrest warrant alongside his co-accused, Takavengwa Gwenzi, who is also admitted at Parirenyatwa Hospital, due to lung complications, according to a reliable source.

The two are facing a slew of charges, with Chokurongerwa, an ex-convict being in custody on fresh charges including sex with minors and murder.

Their lawyer Purity Chikangaise said her clients were unable to attend court as they were “hospitalised.”

This is despite the fact that Chokurongerwa barred his followers from seeking medication in line with their church doctrine.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) represented by Tafara Chirambira secured an arrest warrant after telling the presiding magistrate, Christine Nyandoro that no efforts were made to alert the State before court proceedings.

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Chokurongerwa and Gwenzi are jointly charged with six other leaders of their sect who were all remanded to May 23 for trial commencement.

Meanwhile, four of the six suspects who were in court confirmed their warned and cautioned statements while two suspects refused arguing that they were coerced to admit to the statements prepared by the police.

“In these statements, the accused persons admit to the offences as charged,” reads court documents.

Those who confirmed their statements said they buried Hazel Chikurunhe without a burial order after getting a nod from the village head and chief of the area.

In regards to the ill-treatment of the children found at the shrine, they said they “were following their church belief as they believe that only God can heal the children.”

On failure to acquire birth certificates for their children, the four said they were simply respecting their religion.

Madzibaba Ishmael and accomplices were arrested two months ago after the scandals at their shrine in Nyabira were unearthed.

They were granted bail on these charges before Chokurongerwa was rearrested recently on fresh criminal charges whose bail will be determined at the High Court.

In the present case, the eight are charged with ill-treatment or neglect of children, conducting a funeral service/burial without a burial order and  failure to give notice of the birth and death of a person in line with the Zimbabwean laws.