Madzibaba Ishmael Denied Bail
21 March 2024
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The leader of a religious sect in Zimbabwe was denied bail on Tuesday. That’s after Ishmael Chokurongerwa was arrested last week for suspected child abuse.

Police had found 251 school-age children working on his farm, as well as 16 unregistered graves.

Chokurongerwa, described by police as a “self-styled prophet,” covered his head with a towel as he appeared at a court in the town of Norton, near the capital Harare.

He was alongside seven of his church members who also face charges.

Denying them bail, magistrate Christine Nyandoro argued that Chokurongerwa could use his influence to interfere with witnesses and that there would be a public outcry if he was released.

Outside court, his lawyer Purity Chikangaise said she would appeal at the High Court. Police have identified Chokurongerwa as a leader in the Johane Masowe or “white garment” church.

Its followers have previously been accused of abuse of women and children in Zimbabwe.

All eight suspects will remain in custody until April 4, the magistrate said, when the next hearing is scheduled.

They have not yet been asked to enter a plea.