By Philip Chidavaenzi
HARARE regional magistrate Hosea Mujaya yesterday heard that Pastor Robert Martin Gumbura of the RMG Independent End Time Message Church had given himself the authority to have sex with any female congregant of his choice in his church regardless of their marital status and could “loan” them out to their husbands, but still retain certain rights.
A former church member, Innocent Nehohwa, told the court during Gumbura’s rape trial that women in the church were given away to their husbands as a “loan”, but Gumbura could still exercise certain rights over them.
Nehohwa, who now leads his own breakaway church — End Time Message — said he was publicly rebuked after he confronted Gumbura over the issue of sexual abuse of female members. He said Gumbura described him as Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon who rebelled and established his own kingdom.
He said Gumbura was viewed as God in the church and indoctrinated his followers into believing that God directly communicated with him and gave him authority to do as he pleased. He said the church had songs composed in praise of Gumbura.
Nehohwa said when his mother died in 2010, his brother — who is still a member of Gumbura’s church — never attended the funeral because members had been taught to sever all ties with their family members if they belonged to other religious denominations.
As Nehohwa gave his testimony, Gumbura followed proceedings from the dock where he appeared quite relaxed in his khaki prison garb and unkempt hair. He occasionally shook his head or laughed as the stunning allegations were made against him.
During cross-examination by Gumbura’s lawyer, Rekai Maphosa, Nehohwa disputed assertions that the church leader was being persecuted by his rivals.
“The accused person is not being persecuted. He is being prosecuted,” he said.
Nehohwa said congregants were shown a film about James Warren Jones, the cult leader of the Temple Church in the 1960s in California who had several adulterous relationships and disrupted members’ family bonds and made himself the father of all his congregants.
Another witness narrated how she was allegedly sexually abused at Gumbura’s Marlborough house after having gone to collect R500 sent to her by her South Africa-based husband.
She told the court that Gumbura told her that her husband did not love her, which was why the second wife was spending more time with him in South Africa while he neglected sending her money.
She said Gumbura told her he could offer her accommodation, money and sex because he was her “burden bearer”. He said the pastor assured her there was nothing wrong with his proposal because in the Bible, David was called a man after God’s heart although he had an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba.
She said Gumbura started licking her neck, cheeks and ears before raping her. After the rape, she said, Gumbura ordered her not to disclose what had happened because it would destroy her marriage and she would go insane once she reached menopause.
The third witness yesterday testified in camera and the trial continues today. NewsDay