By Robert Tapfumaneyi
Murewa: Thousands of a Johanne Marange apostolic sect members have been forced to abandon their annual spiritual union in this Mashonaland East area after a cholera outbreak has claimed two congregants and invited pressure from Zimbabwean authorities to disband.
Two members of the sect passed on Monday this week at a local Dandara clinic while two others have since been taken ill at Murewa district hospital with cholera symptoms.
Health authorities have confirmed the deaths were caused by cholera with the hospitalised pair said to be related to the two now deceased.
The health ministry has since set up two cholera camps at Murehwa district hospital to deal with the health crisis.
Mashonaland East provincial epidemiologist Paul Matsvimbo said they managed to persuade the church to call off the gathering after some resistance.
“The members have agreed to disband as we monitor the situation and we also got a chance to educate them about cholera,” said Matsvimbo.
“We have since set up cholera clinic at Murewa District Hospital.”
The deceased were among multitudes of the white robbed church’s congregants who converged at Mukwa village for their annual spiritual union held at Chitsidzo shrine since Sunday.
Members of the sect from Mashonaland Central in Mount Darwin district were suspected to have contracted the disease before travelling to the area.
A dysentery outbreak hit the area at the beginning of this week but the cholera outbreak eventually forced officials to call off the gathering.
Speaking to NewZimbabwe.com Friday, an elder from the Chitsidzo shrine said in as much as they did not believe in clinical solutions to physical ailment, they had also come to a point where they admitted continuing with the religious gathering would endanger their lives.
“Yes, we are going back to our respect places after wide consultation with our church elders,” said Madzibaba Emmanuel.
“We allowed the officials from the health ministry to come and inspect our area because the devil had used many ways to attack us hence the decision to disband the gathering.”
The church does not believe in seeking treatment from medical facilities and has strong beliefs on the powers of the holy water and the Holy Spirit.
When a dysentery outbreak broke out, the church was said to have blocked some health officials who had tried to come and inspect the area.
Police were enlisted to finally access the place.
However, despite the strong beliefs in non-physical solutions to disease, some affected church members were said to have been secretly seeking medical services at Dandara clinic.