More than six anti-riot police officers, journalists and members of the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) were seriously injured yesterday after rowdy members of an apostolic sect attacked them with knobkerries and stones in Harare's Budiriro suburb.
The attack took place soon after ACCZ president Bishop Johannes Ndanga announced to more than 200 members of the sect led by Ishmael Mufani that they had been banned for allegedly violating the country's laws and Christianity.
The members then erupted into singing: "Hondo Yepfumo Neropa" (bloody war), while females fell into a trance and started speaking in tongues.
They shouted that they did not recognise Ndanga and one of them gave a signal that the ACCZ delegation and the police should be assaulted.
All hell then broke loose, as members of the sect advanced towards a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation vehicle, smashing its windows in the process. They also attacked ZBC cameraman Relax Mafurutu, seriously injuring him and destroyed a tripod for his camera.
The police officers were also attacked and had to flee from the scene after they received a thorough beating.
The injured were rushed to Harare Central Hospital, while others were taken to Garden City Clinic in Highfield, but Mafurutu had to be transferred to West End Clinic because of the severity of his injuries. He was still admitted there amid reports both his arms were broken by the blows he received.
This writer was also stoned during the melee.
Bishop Ndanga was quick to sense danger and jumped into his Range Rover vehicle before speeding off in movie style dash as the sect members, who were baying for his blood, gave chase.
At least six members of the sect had been arrested by last night and were in custody at Budiriro Police Station and this was after the officers regrouped and started searching for those responsible.
Police national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba told ZBC last night that the police would not tolerate acts of lawlessness.
Addressing the congregants, Bishop Ndanga said the beliefs the sect was following were wrong.
He said in October 2013, an ACCZ "administrative court" convened a meeting with Mufani and his church elders to hear their views on the several allegations of abuse of girls and women.
The sect was accused of denying over 400 children of school going age access to education, severe abuse of church congregants and their families or relatives.
This was done by way of not allowing pregnant women to attend to either ante-natal or post-natal care from trained medical personnel as this was regarded as satanic.
He accused the church of forcing congregants to sell their properties to guarantee them entry into what he termed Canaan.
"From today you are no longer allowed to use the name Johane Masowe. Your actions and your rules are not allowed in Johane Masowe and in Christianity and they also violate national laws," Bishop Ndanga told the sect members.
Bishop Ndanga told the congregants that the ACCZ could not let such beliefs and practices go unchallenged.
"Hence, by the powers vested in me as the executive president of ACCZ, a ecumenical board that regulates the operating tenets of all apostolic and Zion churches in Zimbabwe, today May 30, 2014, I, Johannes Nyamwa Ndanga, do hereby ban the Madzibaba Ishmael-led Johanne Masowe Yechishanu Church in Budiriro 2."
It was after this announcement that the sect members turned on the ACCZ members, the police and the journalists.
Efforts to locate Mufani at his home at Tabudirira Housing Co-operative in Budiriro 4 last night for comment were fruitless as his house was deserted.