THE Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) leader Johannes Ndanga yesterday claimed that President Robert Mugabe’s office has mandated his organisation to investigate over 50 local churches with a view of prosecuting those whose practices would be deemed illegal.
Ndanga told our sister paper NewsDay that the Office of the President had instructed them to monitor operations of pentecostal, apostolic and Zionist churches in the country after the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) had shown little interest in the surveillance of churches that were not affiliated to them.
“Although our council falls under the (Education, Sport, Arts and) Culture ministry, we have been given this mandate by the highest office in the land,” he said.
“There are security sector briefings that are held every morning with the president where security organisations give reports.
“The (Robert Martin) Gumbura issue was raised in that meeting and that was when ACCZ was appointed to deal with all such issues in all the churches.”
Ndanga said their preliminary investigations in the operations of other churches have shown that there are more churches with doctrines similar to the ones preached by jailed RMG Independent End Time Message leader Gumbura.
Gumbura was jailed for an effective 40 years on Monday for raping three members of his church.
Ndanga, however, said the council was not worried about competitions church leaders like United Families International Church founder Emmanuel Makandiwa and Walter Magaya of the Prophetic, Healing and Deliverance Ministries (PHD) often engaged in.
“But if the doctrines are similar and there are no criminal activities, we don’t worry about those churches. If Makandiwa engages in competition with Magaya, with one saying I will raise the dead and the other saying I will walk on water, it will not concern us. We can’t challenge them on such useless doctrines,” he said.
“We will not stop him from doing that. He has many dead relatives, but can’t raise them back to life and he will also die. We may not agree with him, but to us that’s not an issue.”
He said his council was still verifying the reports on the 50 churches as there were possibilities that some of the reports they had received could be false.
“Some complaints might not be genuine. There could be some people who just don’t like certain churches and they make false reports,” Ndanga said.
“We had such an incident when a church called Johanne Masowe Emuchinjikwa in Glen Norah had some false allegations about their practices levelled against them, but our investigations did not establish anything sinister.”
He said following Gumbura’s conviction and incarceration, there was need for churches operating in the country to be monitored.
Ndanga said they were now part of a committee that sits as an administrative court and they were currently investigating the operations of the Good Samaritan Church in Kadoma led by one Pastor Makina who was arrested on allegations of sexually abusing female members of the church.
“We want to establish whether the reported sex abuses were part and parcel of the church’s doctrine or the pastor was just acting independently when he allegedly carried out the abuses,” he said.
Ndanga said his council did not conduct criminal trials as that was the mandate of the courts of law, but investigated the operations of the church.
He said they did not initiate probes into churches, but only acted on reports voluntarily made by victims of the abuse.
A fortnight ago, ACCZ cleared the El-Bethel Tabernacle Church and its leadership of any wrongdoing after it had been alleged that there were incidence of sexual abuse of congregants, forced marriages and martial arts training for junior pastors to intimidate congregants.
According to the council, no witnesses turned up to testify against the man of the cloth, indicating that the allegations could have been fabricated.
EFZ general-secretary Reverend Lindani Dube said his organisation had a code of conduct to which their affiliates subscribed.
Meanwhile, Justice and Legal Affairs deputy minister Fortune Chasi yesterday said the government had no business in regulating churches.
Chasi made the remarks in Parliament after MDC-T Kuwadzana MP Nelson Chamisa had asked him to explain if there were plans by the government to regulate churches in light of abuse of members by some pastors.