Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

Police in Zimbabwe say they have arrested the suspected leader of a religious cult in a village in northern Mashonaland West province and rescued dozens of women and children.

Ishmael Chokurongerwa, 56, who leads the Gore Jena Penyeranyika sect was arrested alongside seven other senior members of the cult on Tuesday, police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said in a statement.

Police said most of the 251 children found in Mr Chokurongerwa’s farm in Nyabira, about 34km (21 miles) north-west of the capital, Harare, had no birth certificates and were not allowed to attend school.

Police also discovered a gravesite at the farm where 16 people have been secretly interred, including seven infants whose burials were not registered with authorities.

The rescued children “were being used to perform various physical activities for the benefit of the sect’s leadership”, the police statement said.

“Police also established that all children were subjected to abuse such as cheap labour, doing manual work in the name of being taught life skills,” it added.

Mr Chokurongerwa, who calls himself “Prophet Ishmael”, told local reporters that he was “not aware of women’s and children’s rights”.

One of the cult members told reporters that formal education in schools was not wanted by God “because what children are taught there is against the teachings of God”.

By Joy

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