Cult leader Madzibaba Ishmael bailed, barred from conducting church gatherings


HARARE – Ishmael Chokurengerwa, the leader of an Apostolic sect, has been released from custody after the High Court granted him bail in the amount of US$1,000. 

Madzibaba Ishmael granted bail by High Court, released from custody

The decision came following a successful appeal filed by Chokurengerwa, popularly known as Madzibaba Ishmael, who had been denied bail by Norton magistrate Christine Nyandoro. 

The magistrate expressed concerns that Chokurengerwa's significant influence within his church could lead to witness interference.

As part of the bail conditions, Chokurengerwa is prohibited from conducting any church gatherings. 

The court ruled that there was no longer a risk of interference with witnesses, according to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Chokurengerwa must reside at his designated address until the matter is resolved. 

Additionally, he is forbidden from interfering with witnesses and is required to report to the police three times a week.

Chokurengerwa faces joint charges with seven other accomplices, all of whom are already out on bail. The charges relate to contraventions of the Burial and Cremation Act and the Children's Act.

Police investigations revealed that out of 251 children below the age of 18 found at Chokurengerwa's Nyabira farm, 246 lacked birth certificates. 

These children were allegedly exploited for physical labor to benefit the sect’s leadership. None of them attended formal education.

Chokurengerwa maintained a secluded shrine named Canaan, where hundreds of families resided, cut off from the outside world. Members were denied access to medical care and education.

The police also discovered 16 unregistered graves at Chokurengerwa’s shrine. Nine of these graves were for adults, while seven belonged to infants. 

All burials occurred without proper registration or burial orders, violating the country’s burial laws. Two bodies have been exhumed as part of the investigation.

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