Samuel KadungureÂ Senior Reporter
A MEMBER of the Johanne Marange Apostolic Church, John Magangazha is alleged to have died in mysterious circumstances at a church gathering and was secretly buried.
Magandazha, of Watyoka Village, in Dewedzo died early Saturday morning at the on-going Rusape Central pass-over convention at their shrine behind the Rusape fly-over after spending the night tied on a tree while his mouth was strapped.
The death left the Magangazhas with more questions than answers as suspicions swirl that he could have suffocated to death.
His relatives alleged that the church frustrated their attempts to have the incident reported to the police to pave way for a post-mortem to ascertain the actual cause of death.
The body was buried on Sunday in Dewedzo.
Magangazha was allegedly punished for â€œhallucinating demeaning allegations that one of the prophets in High Priest Noah Tagutaâ€™s circles was plotting to kill the church leaderâ€.
A family member, Mr Reaben Magangazha, said: â€œThe explanation we got about his death was not convincing and left us with lots of unanswered questions.
â€œWe had no control over funeral proceedings and the church turned down our request to have the incident reported to the police since he had earlier that day complained that he had been beaten and had visible wound and stripes on his back. The whole family is not happy.
â€œWe met the church leadership, which took us to where prophets were holding his body. He died on a tree where they had tied him for the whole night without a blanket or warm clothes. Their explanation was that it was the only way they could rein him from being violent. They alleged he was mentally challenged, but when we recommended that he be taken to hospital on suspicion of cerebral malaria, they refused, saying it was against their beliefs.
â€œThey promised to take care of it and the next thing we heard was that my brother John had died. It was unbelievable because he had escaped from captivity earlier that Friday and went to my house in Magamba.
â€œHis first wife accompanied some church members to my house and he clobbered one of them as revenge for earlier beatings. They insisted he should not be taken to hospital and my brother James and his friend dropped them at the church gate.
â€œHe was not tied as they allege. He was walking freely and without problem,â€ said Mr Magangazha.
Church members who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there were desperate attempts to sweep the matter under the carpet and congregants were censured from discussing the incident.
A check at ZRP Rusape Urban shows that no report was made, yet even cases of sudden death have to be reported first before burial, but in Magangazhaâ€™s case, his body was allegedly whisked away in Chief Mbaimbai Chidukuâ€™s truck for burial in Dewedzo on Sunday.
Rusape District police spokesperson, Assistant Inspector Muzondiwa Clean, said no such case was reported.
â€œWe are hearing it for the first time and if it is true that a person died during their gathering in Rusape, then police should have been advised to attend to the scene before evidence was tempered with.
â€œIt is policeâ€™s duty to investigate if the death was as a result of natural cause or there was foul play.
â€œNow we are aware of that case, we will investigate,â€ said Asst Insp Clean.
When contacted for a comment, Prophet Katito denied being involved in Magangazhaâ€™s death.
He said the allegations were being made by his detractors within the church to settle scores.
â€œI do not know anything about that. Nothing like that happened and I am with Chief Chiduku right now, he can tell you that nothing of that sort ever happened,â€ said Katito, before handing his mobile phone to the traditional leader.
Chief Chiduku instead confirmed Magangazhaâ€™s death and burial on Sunday.
Chief Chiduku absolved the church of any wrong doing, accusing Magangazhaâ€™s relatives of acting against his advice to have the incident reported to the police.
â€œThat man was mentally challenged and violent. He escaped the church gathering on Friday afternoon and went to see his brother (Reaben) in Magamba and it was his relatives who brought him back that same evening complaining about his violent nature. They brought him with his hands tied.
â€œThey surrendered him for safekeeping and in our church such cases are referred to prophets.
â€œHe eventually died in the custody of the prophets and we informed his relatives who said they were not suspecting any foul play and saw no need to report the death to the police.
â€œI released my truck to carry the body to Watyoka Village in Dewedzo, Makoni West where burial took place on Sunday.
â€œPeople making such allegations are doing it out of malice and you need to talk to his relatives before you injure other peopleâ€™s reputation because it is an offence,â€ said Chief Chiduku.
Another church member, Mr Jereniah Makoni, said Magangazha was tied by his relatives due to his violent nature.