“Prophet” Arrested in Zimbabwe, 16 Graves and 250 Child Laborers Found

(BrightPress.org) – A man was arrested this week in Zimbabwe and charged with exploiting children and denying them health services and access to education. Fifty-six-year-old Ishmael Chokurongerwa calls himself “Prophet Ishmael” and is the leader of a sect with more than 1000 members in Harare.

According to spokesperson, Paul Nyathi, police raided the compound and discovered 251 children being used for manual labor in the name of “being taught life skills.” These children were not receiving formal education and did not have access to traditional healthcare. Of the 251 children found, only 5 of them had birth certificates. Police returned to the compound the next day and bussed several children and women with infants to a shelter.

Zimbabwe has many Apostolic Christian groups, and this sect is believed to be one of them. Followers are usually recognized as wearing white robes and requiring white head scarves for women and girls. These groups are sometimes known to be reclusive, seek healing through prayer and faith, practice polygamy, and keep children away from school.

An aide to Chokurongerwa spoke with a local newspaper, H-Metro. He stated the sect’s beliefs come directly from God and not from scripture. The aide claims God told them to keep the children out of school or it wouldn’t rain. The newspaper reported that police officers staged a “spectacular raid” entering the compound armed with guns, dogs, and tear gas. Seven of Chokurongerwa’s aides were also arrested.

Sixteen graves were found on the compound, nine for adults and seven for infants. The bodies were buried without official registration.

According to a neighbor of the compound, the people of the sect were farmers and produced products such as soap, cooking oil, and furniture to sell. The nearby resident also said the farm grew crops and kept livestock, and was “run like a factory.”

Some members of the sect traveled to the court hearing in Norton to show support for their leader.

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