Sharon Chikowore Mashonaland West Bureau
Eight sect members from the Guta raJehova Church in Zvimba have been arraigned before the Chinhoyi Magistrates’ Court for public violence which led to the destruction of huts at the church’s shrine.
The group, who belong to a faction fighting for control of the church shrine in Hlohla Village, appeared before Chinhoyi magistrate Ms Letwin Rwodzi and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The church has two factions – one led by Mr Allan Zimuto and the other by Mr Thompson Manhenga – battling for the shrine they continue to share.
Prosecutor Mr Partson Chirambwe told the court that on December 25 last year, the eight members belonging to the Manhenga faction unlawfully and forcibly disturbed the peace and security of the shrine.
The accused – Stephen Bob (43), Cain Sirewu (41), Timothy Gahadzikwa (31), Tafadzwa Kwenda (30), Simbarashe Mandinyanya (30), Collen Lunga (29), Saidi Phenias (20) and Alliet Mero (17) – allegedly set fire to 31 huts, damaged three vehicles and threw missiles at members of Guta raJehova who were worshipping at the shrine.
“The accused persons were inside the church compound while the complainant, Godwill Zimuto residing at Guta Ra Jehova shrine Hlohla Village, and his church members were on their revival tour around the yard.
“The accused persons locked the main gate . . . so that the complainant and his members (could) not have access (to) the shrine,” said Mr Chirambwe.
He said Zimuto and his followers tried to use a small gate to flee from the shrine but were allegedly attacked with catapults, stones and bricks.
The alleged assault led to the injury of Elijah Gava, Chipo Tokwe, Phoebe Chaza and Isaac Muchuchuri while the back windscreen of a vehicle belonging to Linos Mahuni was damaged.
Mr Chirambwe further alleged that assailants grabbed church property including flowers which they doused with paraffin before setting them on fire.
The group, the prosecutor further alleged, set alight 31 huts at the shrine.
Mr Zimuto reported the matter to ZRP Zvimba leading to the arrest of the eight faction members. Magistrate Rwodzi remanded the matter to today while the eight were released on $100 bail each.
Guta raJehova was founded by Mrs Theresa Chaza sometime in 1954 and was allocated a piece of land in Hlohla Village by Chief Zvimba as a place of worship.
Mai Chaza’s death has culminated in the dispute between two factions over control of the shrine with the Manhenga-led faction registering the church with the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC).
The other faction led by Mr Zimuto is not registered with the ZCC.
The factions have also taken the dispute to the High Court where they have been ordered to share the shrine pending determination of the dispute.