Ishmael Chokurongerwa

A Zimbabwean self-proclaimed prophet entangled in child labor and minor abuse allegations within his secluded sect.

Ishmael Chokurongerwa, a 56-year-old self-styled prophet from Zimbabwe, has recently come under significant scrutiny following a police raid on his property. Chokurongerwa led a sect known as the Johane Masowe (Gore Jena Penyeranyika), which garnered attention due to its alarming practices involving minors and various criminal activities. This sect, part of a broader group known as white garment churches or Apostolic churches, has a membership exceeding 1,000, and is situated approximately 34 kilometers northwest of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital.

The police operation, which led to Chokurongerwa’s arrest along with seven other congregants, revealed deeply concerning conditions. Authorities found 251 children on the farm, the majority of whom lacked birth certificates and were not enrolled in any formal education system. Instead, these children were subjected to manual labor purportedly under the guise of being taught “life skills.” The children’s work directly benefited the sect’s leadership, further suggesting exploitation.

Further investigation of the property uncovered 16 unregistered graves, including nine for adults and seven for infants, raising serious questions about the sect’s activities and adherence to national laws regarding burial and cremation. Chokurongerwa and his associates face charges that include violating children’s rights and contravening Zimbabwe’s Burial and Cremation Act. Their court appearance has sparked a wider conversation about the practices of Apostolic faith sects in Zimbabwe, especially those concerning health, education, and the legal treatment of minors.

The case against Chokurongerwa is not his first encounter with the law. He was reportedly imprisoned in 2015 for leading an attack against police officers and a religious group challenging his sect over abuse allegations. This background contributes to the complex profile of a man who, under the guise of religious leadership, allegedly orchestrated significant harm to many, particularly children. As the legal process unfolds, many in Zimbabwe and internationally will be watching closely, hoping for justice for the victims and a critical examination of similar religious groups that operate outside the boundaries of law and ethical conduct​​​​​​.

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