By Lance Guma
Seven days after being pardoned by Mugabe, convicted serial rapist, Madzibaba Godfrey Nzira, has been deployed to the Muzarabani District, in what is expected to mark the start of a national campaign to coerce members of the Apostolic Sect to support Mugabe and ZANU PF ahead of possible elections.
In 2003 Nzira, a self-proclaimed prophet, was jailed for 32 years, later reduced to 20 years, on seven counts of rape and one count of indecent assault. The day Nzira was convicted 2,000 members of his sect went ballistic outside the court, beating up court officials and policemen on duty. Even the magistrate is said to have narrowly escaped death when they pounced on her.
A year before he had claimed Mugabe was a “divinely appointed king of Zimbabwe and no man should dare challenge his office.” Last week Wednesday his bootlicking paid off as he walked out of prison a free man, courtesy of a presidential pardon.
The Justice Ministry attempted to justify the early release saying it was made on compassionate grounds owing to Nzira’s ill health. This meant he only served 7 of the 20 years slapped on him. A furious member of the Johane Masowe WeChishanu Apostolic Church told SW Radio Africa they are surprised Nzira is fit enough to go on tour drumming up support for Mugabe ahead of elections.
“They are calling it a tour for prayer but really it’s a campaign for ZANU PF and we already know from the sermons, they are telling all Mapostori to support ZANU PF. He (Nzira) is trying to turn our church into a campaign point for ZANU PF, especially in the rural areas where we have the majority of our members,” the church member told us. He said Mugabe’s party had bribed some of these leaders to support them, but then the same leaders were relying on coercing their followers.
The growing influence of the Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe has seen ZANU PF trying to harvest followers there. The three major Sects are reported to command close to 5 million followers within Zimbabwe alone. Of the three, the African Apostolic Church has an estimated 2.5 million members, Johanne Marange 1.5 million and the Johane Masowe WeChishanu around 1 million followers.
Last year Mugabe attended a service in Manicaland, organized by the Johanne Marange church, and was seen dressed in their familiar white garments. A few months before Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai attended a similar service, but this was part of efforts to encourage church members to immunize their children.
Similar visits by the PM were blocked by state security agents under instruction from Mugabe, who felt Tsvangirai was winning followers from this campaign. SW Radio Africa