By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
04 June 2014
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association director Okay Machisa has said as much as the public celebration over the bashing of the police by members of the Johane Masowe church is understandable, people should not ignore the violations of women and children said to be going on within the sect.
The ZimRights boss was speaking to SW Radio Africa in the aftermath of an incident in which members of the Masowe church beat up the police and state journalists last Friday. The beating happened when the President of the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe, Johannes Ndanga, told hundreds of the sect members at their holy shrine that he had banned the church for abuse of women and girls. He was in the company of 20 anti-riot police.
Zimbabweans across the globe reacted with celebration to the news of the beating of the police. But Machisa said it is unfortunate that the ZRP’s ‘appalling’ reputation has made people ignore the reported violations which led to the bid to shut down the church in the first place.
The ZimRights boss called for clear thinking over the issue, saying his organisation has since received ‘a lot of reports’ on human rights violations in faith-based organisations. He called for a thorough investigation into the matter ‘without fear or favor.’
He added: ‘If all of us can see something wrong with the abduction of the girls by the Boko Haram in a far away country like Nigeria we should surely see something wrong in our own Budiriro.’ Machisa said this after scores of Zimbabwean activists recently demonstrated in Harare in solidarity with the abduction of school girls by the Boko Haram, a political and religious terrorist group fighting the Nigerian government.
Machisa condemned the state’s handling of the Masowe church matter saying the overall conduct of the police so far has revealed the force’s unprofessionalism and bias. He was referring to the incident in which the police escorted ZANU PF youths who raided the Masowe shrine in Budiroro and destroyed it, avenging the beating of the police last week.
He also condemned the members of the Masowe church for beating up the police saying violence should not be tolerated at any level of society. Machisa’s comments come after several human rights groups, including the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, condemned ‘mob justice’ and called on the police to ‘maintain professionalism.’