APOSTOLIC sect Johane Masowe-Gandanzara, also known as The Gospel of God International Church, is allegedly stopping children from attending school and instead recruiting them as “celibate sisters”.
Information provided to The Sunday Mail Religion by an ex-member of the sect indicates that more than 500 girls between ages 1 and 10 are initiated to become “sisters” for life.
“These girls are kept at a secret places under the watchful eyes of senior church elders. This is done to make sure that they are not exposed to the outside world,” said the source. “They are not allowed to enrol for school, but access their education from senior sisters.”
The source claimed some of the girls were se_xually abused and the matters were investigated by a group in the sect called Vakomana Vebishi who are in charge of instilling discipline.
“Those cases normally leak to church members but the elders always cover for the culprits. When your daughter becomes a sister the parents have no authority over her, as a result there is no one to protect her.
“When the prophet proclaims that your child should be a sister there should be no objection, this is according to the church doctrine.” The source explained how the sisterhood came into being.
“These (sisters) are the sect’s special singers; they sing at baptisms and at missions when sent to spread the Gospel.”
Union for the Development of Apostolic and Zionist Churches programs manager Mr Innocent Chitanda – a member of Johane Masowe-Gandanzara – said they had abandoned the sisterhood tradition.
He however said they are in the process of adopting children’s rights in their beliefs.
“Baba Johane was the only one who had the responsibility to recruit Sisters and when he died there was no one who had that gift.
“We also want to change but as you know changing is a process not an event it comes gradually,” Mr Chitanda said. But another source said the institution was thriving.
“What I have discovered with the time I spent in the church is that at a tender age these girls are taught that they have ‘holy angels’ hence they should remain vi_rgins until they die. This is believed to be their expression of devotion to God.
But this is different with what is on the ground as most of these girls sleep with church leaders, I think that is why they make sure that we do not have time to talk to the sisters.
“A parent is not allowed to have a chat with his daughter, you are told that she is no longer yours, if you insist that you want to talk to her you can do so but an elder will be there listening to the conversation.
“They (sisters) always move around with bodyguards. If you are seen trying to talk to her even in the street the bodyguards will attack you.
“For this reason it is difficult for anyone from the outside world to be admitted into the church. The cost of becoming a follower is high.”
A Masowe-Gandanzara follower, however, said there was nothing sinister about the sisterhood and explained that a prophet revealed a girl’s future while she was still her mother’s womb.
“The term ‘sister’ in the church is used in a more deliberate sense in reference to sisters from the House of Covenant.
They do not marry, and it symbolises their roles as mothers of the world as a whole. As the manifestation of the Ark of the seventh and last covenant between God and man, the Sisters of the House of Covenant occupy a sacred and pivotal place in the Gospel of God Church,” she said.
“This is so because the existence of the House of Covenant is not a product of human wisdom, but the fulfilment of a covenant which God gave to Baba Johane.”
She added that the House of Covenant (Imba yeChirangano) was the symbolic bride depicted in the book of Revelation as “the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”. (Revelation 21:2)
“Every church member regards the House of Covenant with the same reverence and sense of duty that was accorded to either the biblical ark of the Israelites or Noah’s Ark,” she said.
“Before his death, Baba Johane ordered his followers to take care of these vi_rgins properly so that they would forever remain Holy before God”.
Since then the institution has grown resulting in a large institution of sisters drawn from diverse nations.
“They are found in South Africa, Botswana and here in Zimbabwe they are kept at three places here in Chitungwiza, Hatfield and in Rusape at Gandanzara were Baba Johane was buried,” a source said.