Madzibaba Ishmael faces new charges of sexual intercourse with minors, and murder


NORTON – Cult leader Ishmael Chokurongerwa, commonly known as Madzibaba Ishmael, returned to court as he was charged with five counts of "having sexual intercourse with a minor." He is also facing another charge of murder. 

Madzibaba Ishmael slapped with fresh new charges

Chokurongerwa, aged 56 and the leader of the Johanne Masowe Penyera Nyika sect, was previously arrested alongside seven accomplices for violating the Burial and Cremation Act and Children's Act. 

He had been granted bail of US$1,000 by the High Court, following his accomplices' earlier release on bail.

The State alleges that Chokurongerwa engaged in sexual relations with five minors between 2018 and 2024, resulting in multiple pregnancies. 

The minors involved are as follows: a 15-year-old who gave birth to an infant, a 13-year-old who gave birth to one infant, a 14-year-old with whom he now has two children, a 15-year-old with whom he has a child, and a 16-year-old who gave birth to another infant. 

In addition to the sexual charges, Madzibaba Ishmael is also facing a murder charge. 

The State claims that on November 12, 2023, Chokurongerwa, along with Siribhino Chikunhure and Wonder Kabaya (who are still at large), conspired to terminate Hazel Chikurunhe's pregnancy, resulting in her death. 

They then buried her body at the Lily Farm church shrine without following proper procedures.

Chokurongerwa was remanded to May 7, 2024 for the new charges, and his bail application was referred to the High Court.

Chokurongerwa was previously granted bail by the High Court, having spent nearly two months in remand prison on previous charges. The Court ruled that there was no longer a risk of witness interference, leading to the decision to grant him bail. 

In addition to a US$1,000 deposit with the clerk of court at Norton Magistrates’ Court, Chokurongerwa is prohibited from conducting any church gatherings until the conclusion of the case. 

He is also ordered not to interfere with witnesses directly or indirectly and must report to the police three times a week.

Chokurongerwa's co-accused, including Shingirai Ngawafune, Takavengwa Gwenzi, Zebedia Sigudu, Devlodge Katsande, Wonder Kabaya, and Siribinio Chikurunhe, were granted bail earlier this month by the Harare High Court. 

The trial for all eight individuals is scheduled to begin on May 7, 2024, at the Norton Magistrates’ Court.

The State alleges that Chokurongerwa and his associates conducted funeral services for Hazel Chikunhure and Winlet Kabaya without proper burial orders for the deceased. 

Moreover, the sect leaders, who acted as guardians for the children residing at the church’s compound in Nyabira, are accused of neglecting, abandoning, and subjecting the children to unfavorable conditions. 

A police investigation revealed that out of the 251 children below the age of 18 found at Chokurengerwa's Nyabira farm, 246 did not possess birth certificates. 

These children were reportedly exploited for physical labor, while being deprived of formal education and medical care.

During the investigation, the police discovered 16 unregistered graves at Chokurengerwa’s shrine, including nine for adults and seven for infants.

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