A few musings on Gumbura . . .
Political Mondays with Amai Jukwa
This week I write with specific reference to the Gumbura case that is currently before the courts.
The media has reported the case with a breathtaking credulity. Whilst Gumbura is certainly a pervert and sex maniac, little of what we have heard so far would suggest that Government should enmesh itself in banning the church as some people would want.
It is one thing to behave in an unbecoming, dishonourable or immoral manner but quite another for the police, Government and courts to take it upon themselves to regulate such behaviour.
The prosecution has sought to use a video of Gumbura threatening those who oppose him with spiritual action as evidence of duress.
This is nonsense. A threat of spiritual retaliation is not credible.
The courts would frown upon a bank teller who gives away US$100 000 to a priest who threatened spiritual wrath if she did not comply.
In the same way I cannot be persuaded that a reasonable individual would believe that Gumbura has the power to set the powers of hell against his opponents.
It is very possible that these women believed this nonsense but that is not the point.
The question is whether the reasonable individual would believe it. We live in a scientific world and the answer is no. If the answer were yes then the courts would set a dangerous precedent where bank tellers could hand over money to prophets alleging they were under spiritual duress.
We must resist the temptation to use the courts to make moral judgments. Whilst this vile preacher is no doubt an immoral and cunning thug that is not a judgment the courts should be making.
There are many wealthy men who use their power to “trick” foolish girls into sex. The extent of female credulity varies. Some promise marriage. Others promise jobs while other dangles material goodies.
His threats of spiritual violence cannot be taken seriously especially because of the precedence issue I raised earlier.
If the courts deem the spiritual threats levelled by Gumbura credible then there is nothing to stop a bank teller giving away a banks money alleging she was threatened with spiritual violence by a prophet. It’s a rather slippery slope. This case, it would seem, hinges on the credibility of the threat of spiritual violence.
Specifically, the question is whether or not the threat of spiritual violence, Gumbura’s weapon of choice, can be considered duress. I struggle to imagine that the courts could find in this way given the significant implications of such a judgment.
A prophet could easily establish a cult in which he persuades members, on the back of spiritual threats, to rob on his behalf. It would stand to reason that the robbers would be innocent seeing that they, like these women, were under spiritual duress.
They could very well argue that they committed these crimes because they were afraid the said prophet would hand them over into Satan’s hands, as Gumbura is alleged to have threatened these women. The banning of Gumbura’s church on grounds that his practices are satanic equally troubles me.
I suspect that our best legal minds would struggle to define what exactly constitutes satanic behaviour.
One could argue that all polygamists are satanic or that those who engage in extra-marital affairs are also satanic.
I am sure the reader will accept that many Zimbabwean men would find themselves condemned, Government ministers included. The Apostolic sect is notorious for polygamy and using spiritual persuasion/coercion to pick women for the pleasure of church leaders. Should these sects also be banned or branded Satanic?
These are the problems the state encounters when it involves itself in moral and spiritual affairs.
I am reminded of the case of the refugees who were taken to prison after proclaiming they were Satanists.
Government sought to deport them in violation of our international responsibility to refugees. The problem with this is that it is one thing to claim to have the powers of sorcery, and to demonstrably possess them.
A serious government cannot be seen to take such foolish claims seriously.
The reader would accept that society is perfectly adept at ostracising those who engage in things that are considered socially unacceptable. There is no need to ban Gumbura’s church. People will simply stop going there of their own conviction.
In the same way I find it ridiculous to imprison a refugee because he is in possession of a few black cloths and claims he is a powerful sorcerer.
For a people who boast so loudly about their literacy we sometimes behave in an embarrassingly ignorant manner.
I wonder if the courts will find that spiritual threats are credible and can be accepted as duress.
If the courts find in this way I see no reason why people who have been paying tithes for many years after being threatened with financial ruin by Pentecostal pastors cannot bring theft charges against the same.
A slippery slope I say.
Ndatenda. Ndini muchembere wenyu Amai Jukwa