Recent media reports have been that 94-year-old leader Mr Aaron Mhukuta, also known as Mudzidzi Wimbo of the Johane Masowe Vadzidzi VaJesu, was allegedly abducted by church members and is currently living in captivity at the sect’s shrine in Shamva, Mashonaland Central province.
In some of the recent reports, which mostly emanated from the private media, serious allegations were made to the effect that the sect has its own militia and is closely linked to some top military officials, some of whom were said to have taken part in the abduction of the sect’s leader.
A pending murder case, several cases of assault and multiple cases of arson have also been associated with the sect, one of the largest churches in the Mashonaland province.
The Sunday Mail Extra has it on good authority that nothing can be further from the truth.
Last week, this publication sought and was granted permission to visit the sect’s shrine which is often viewed as a no-go area for non-congregants.
We spent a day, not only with the congregants, but also with the revered and mystic Madzibaba Wimbo who first shot to prominence in 1980 when his 1957 prophecy was fulfilled.
Back in 1957, he had said that independent Zimbabwe would be led by a man with the name of an angel – Gabriel – and in 1980, President Mugabe was elected into office.
After mixing and mingling with vadzidzi, it was clear that although Madzibaba Wimbo’s congregants have their own fair share of problems, they, like the moon, also have a brighter side.
The shrine is located in Pfute Village under Chief Madziva and is about 20 km from Mount Darwin.
As one approaches the 20-kilometre mark from Mount Darwin on the Mount Darwin-Harare highway, a small, grey sign post suddenly springs into view around the sharp corner.
Inscribed on the square surface are the words “Sangano Jowani Masowe Vadzidzi VaJesu VeChishanu.”
Negotiating the curve, The Sunday Mail Extra crew turned right and drove straight towards a big, black gate.
With reports that a senior police officer had been savagely beaten at the shrine the previous week, fear naturally gripped us as the big gates were shut behind us.
Upon entering the compound, whose main entrance is manned by an armed guard, our attention shifted to the hundreds of pitched tents. Congregants were busy preparing for the day’s church service.
We later learnt that close to 300 congregants are always at the shrine seeking healing and deliverance from their revered leader.
A guide led us to a big, well-furnished house which serves as the guest house.
The big sitting room, which has space to accommodate as many as 20 guests, is immaculately furnished.
We were warmly invited to take our seats by some of the sect’s leaders, among them Madzibaba Shepherd Magodi, whom we were told was appointed by Madzibaba Wimbo as his deputy.
After explaining our mission, the sect leadership, which comprises Magodi, Shepherd Chingwena, Zex Pamacheche and Eddison Mukohwa, reluctantly agreed to take us on a tour of the 25,7 hectare compound.
Our first port of call was a huge, modern building that serves as a maternity ward.
They also have a number of other modern buildings, one of which serves as the church’s administration block.
Among some of the infastructure at the compound is a water system and a school – the Centre Zimbabwe Africa High School which is a modern, single-storey building. The school currently houses 46 students, boarding facilities are under construction.
Then came the moment to meet Madzibaba Wimbo, the leader of this church that has congregants in large numbers.
We were anxious to see the “deplorable conditions” in which the church leader is reportedly living under.
However, we were directed to a beautiful, spacious house that stood out amongst the rest.
On our way to Madzibaba Wimbo’s tiled, 12-roomed house, we passed through an open space where hundreds of congregants, who were draped in a sea of pink, blue, green and white garments, were singing and praising the Lord.
Contrary to media reports that claimed that Madzibaba Wimbo is living in a “toilet” under captivity, we were ushered into the sect leader’s fully-furnished living room.
Neatly tucked in a two-door garage was a sleek Mercedes E250.
We learnt that the machine was bought by the congregants as a gift to their leader. The congregants said they pooled resources and imported the car from South Africa for $110 000.
However, Madzibaba Wimbo, who appeared healthy for his age, was not in a good mood that afternoon. His fourth wife, Jesta, was by his side.
When he was told that he had visitors from the Fourth Estate, Madzibaba Wimbo fumed.
“You reporters have been writing falsehoods, claiming that I am living in a toilet and that I can no-longer walk but crawl. Does this house look like a toilet? Do I look like I am in captivity? Vanhu imi munovirima,” said an infuriated Madzibaba Wimbo, banging the table in anger.
It took a while for the church leaders to calm him down and explain that this particular news team was not behind the alleged falsehoods.
When he was calm and collected, Madzibaba Wimbo then took time to explain how and why he left his house to stay at the shrine.
He said he left his home on his own will and was dedicated to serving his congregants at the shrine.
He even produced the police statement that he was requested to sign at the local police station, stating that he was never kidnapped and was not living in captivity.
Madzibaba Mugodhi also explained the circumstances behind the leaders’ choice to stay at the shrine.
“Mudzidzi Wimbo was never kidnapped as alleged. Instead, he left his home with his fourth wife and two of his children and several grandchildren. He was not happy with what was transpiring at his home,” said Madzibaba Mugodi.
“Madzibaba’s sons want to inherit the leadership of the church as if the church is a family business. Our doctrine does not claim that leadership of the church passes from father to son. Those that led the church in the past were not related in any way,” he explained.
The church was formed in 1931 by Shonhiwa Sixpence, who was originally from Gandanzara in Manicaland. According to the leaders, the founder of the church married 300 wives but none of his hundred children claimed leadership of the church.
They said the next leader of the church was Mudyiwa Dzangare from Chiweshe who handed over the spiritual leadership of the church to Madzibaba Wimbo in 1987.