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Self-Proclaimed Pastor Arrested in Zimbabwe for Abusing Minors

© AP PhotoIshmael Chokurongerwa, 56, a "self styled" prophet is seen at his shrine on a farm about 34 kilometers (21 miles) north of the capital, Harare, Wednesday, March, 13, 2024
Ishmael Chokurongerwa, 56, a self styled prophet is seen at his shrine on a farm about 34 kilometers (21 miles) north of the capital, Harare, Wednesday, March, 13, 2024 - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 14.03.2024
The pastor was previously prosecuted in 2015, when he was detained on charges that his followers had attacked police, journalists, and religious figures. However, he was released on bail a few weeks after his arrest.
Zimbabwean police issued a statement announcing the arrest of self-claimed pastor Ishmael Chokurongerwa of the Johanne Masowe eChishanu (The Fifth of Africa) apostolic sect and several members of the church he leads for criminal activities, including the abuse of minors.
Police revealed that Chokurongerwa led a sect of more than 1,000 members on a farm northwest of the capital, Harare, where the children lived with other followers.
In a raid on the farm on Tuesday, law enforcement officials found more than 240 children being used as cheap labor.
"Investigations conducted by police established that 246 out of 251 children below the age of 18 years found at the farm had no birth certificates and were being used to perform various physical activities for the benefit of the sect's leadership," the police said.
The statement added that none of the children attended school and were abused as cheap labor, performing manual labor "in the name of being taught life skills."
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In addition, police reported finding 16 graves on the "shrine" grounds, including nine for adults and seven for infants. All the graves were not registered as required by the authorities, the statement added.
According to local media reports, most of Chokurongerwa's followers denied claims that they were living in captivity, saying they had followed their leader voluntarily.
Speaking of cults in Africa, last year Kenya was shocked by news of the discovery of numerous graves in the Shakahola forest in the eastern part of the country. Authorities revealed that the deceased were members of the Good News International Church, led by Paul Mackenzie, who told his followers to starve themselves to get to heaven.
In early February, a Kenyan court indicted the sect's leader and dozens of alleged accomplices for the deaths of nearly 200 children.