Tendai Rupapa Senior Court Reporter
Madzibaba Ishmael Chokurongerwa Mufani has been sentenced to five years in prison for leading the attack on police officers, journalists and members of the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe members at his Budiriro shrine last year.Mufani was convicted after a full trial and will now join 11 members of his sect in prison who were jailed last year for the same offence.
Magistrate Mr Milton Serima set aside one year for Mufani on condition of good behaviour, leaving him with four effective years to serve behind bars.
In passing sentence, Mr Serima castigated Mufani’s behaviour, saying that as a leader of the church he was supposed calm down his followers.
He said the police were called names and ridiculed by members of the public due to Mufani’s behaviour, hence the need to restore sanity.
“I agree with the State’s submission that the accused’s moral blameworthiness is of high degree,” said Mr Serima.
“You committed a serious offence and your behaviour is so abhorrent, to say the least. You were a respected leader at your shrine and you should have led by example as an ordained man of God.
“Your behaviour of inciting violence, let alone at your shrine, leaves a lot to be desired.”
Mr Serima added: “You belittled the police and treated them as useless people such that they lost their respect. The courts will not allow that to happen again, for our duty is to support the police and deter potential offenders.”
During mitigation, Mufani pleaded for a non-custodial sentence on the basis that he was the breadwinner and his family looks up to him.
In aggravation, prosecutor Ms Francesca Mukumbiri called for a stiffer penalty, arguing that a fine or community service would trivialise the offence.
“The most aggravating part is that you beat up the police who were in uniform, yet they should be respected when performing their duties,” she said.
“You overlooked that and ridiculed them and tarnished their name. There is need to restore sanity and as such the State proposes a custodial sentence.
“An exemplary sentence should be passed so that now and going forward, the police force would be respected.”
During trial, Mufani, through his lawyer Mr Tawanda Takaendesa, called six witnesses, including his look-alike, who testified in his favour in a bid to exonerate him.
Mufani was denying the charges arguing that he was not at the shrine on the day in question.
At one time he wept uncontrollably in court while defending himself.
He said he was being “fixed” by Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe president Bishop Johannes Ndanga for refusing to pray for him and former Vice President Dr Joice Mujuru so that they could take over leadership of the country.