Alleged cult leader Madzibaba Ishmael and seven others arrested as police uncover child labour and unregistered burials


HARARE – The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has confirmed the arrest of Ishmael Chokurongerwa, 56, a self-styled prophet and leader of Johane Masowe (Gore Jena Penyeranyika), along with seven church members for criminal activities, including child abuse.

Madzibaba Ishmael arrested by police
Image: Pindula News

ZRP Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrests, which followed a dramatic police raid at Lily Farm, Nyabira, on March 12, 2024. 

The arrested church members include Shingirai Ngawafune, 42, James Gwenzi, 55, Zebedia Sigudu, Devlodge Katsande, 45, Aaron Chokurongerwa, 47, Wonder Kabaya, 41, and Siribinio Chikurunhe, 53.

Investigations revealed that 246 out of 251 children below the age of 18 years found at the farm had no birth certificates. 

These children were being used to perform various physical activities for the sect's leadership.

Nyathi stated, "Police established that all children of school-going age did not attend formal education and were subjected to abuse as cheap labour, doing manual work in the name of being taught life skills."

At the shrine, 16 graves were discovered, nine for adults and seven for infants. 

"All burials were conducted without prior registration with the Registrar-General's office in terms of Birth and Death Registration Act, Chapter 5:02 or without obtaining burial orders in terms of the Burial and Cremation Act, Chapter 5:03," Nyathi added.

More details will be released as investigations unfold, according to Nyathi.

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