Johanne Masowe eChishanu Apostolic Sect leader Madzibaba Ishmael Chokurongerwa, whose followers attacked police officers, journalists and Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe officials last year was yesterday released on $500 bail pending trial.
Chokurongerwa (44) applied for bail before High Court judge Justice Garainesu Mawadze, who ordered him to continue residing at Number 17087 Budiriro, Harare, until the matter is finalised.
He is also required to report once a week at Budiriro Police Station.
The self-styled prophet, who is being represented by Mr Shepherd Mushonga of Mushonga, Mutsvairo and Associates, had been denied bail by the Harare Magistrates’ Court that ruled that he was a flight risk.
Chokurongerwa was arrested a few weeks ago after he had gone into hiding since May last year after his followers attacked the officials who had gone to address the issue of denying children formal education among other issues at his shrine in Budiriro.
The sect had been accused of using doctrines that perpetuated sexual abuse of women and denied children rights to health facilities and education.
He applied for bail at the High Court arguing that he was a suitable candidate for bail. The State, represented by Mr Albert Masamha of the Prosecutor-General’s Office, conceded that there was a misdirection in the lower court warranting the interference by the higher court.
The State in the lower court had opposed bail on fears of abscondment. The investigating officer gave evidence in support of refusal of bail by the State.
However, what emerged after the cross-examination of the investigating officer by the defence was that the ground of abscondment did not appear firm for the court to deny Chokurongerwa his liberty pending trial.
“The applicant was not carded by the police which is an effective system they use to look for fugitive suspects,” read part of the State’s response to the bail application.
“No adverts in the local press were put to alert the public that the applicant was wanted and was on the run. In the absence of such action by the police, it becomes difficult to qualify indeed that the applicant is a flight risk.”
The State alleges that on May 30 last year at around 11am ACCZ president Bishop Johannes Ndanga, his delegation and the police went to the shrine at Budiriro 2 Park in Harare. The purpose of the visit was to address the issue of denying children formal education among other issues.
It is alleged that Bishop Ndanga ordered the arrest of Chokurongerwa after he requested him to speak in Shona instead of English and started the song “Humambo hwepfumo neropa,” resulting in his congregants attacking the police, ZBC cameraman Relax Mafurutu and others.
A ZBC BAW pick-up truck and a tripod camera stand valued at $1 350 were also damaged. The Herald