THE Johanne Marange Apostolic church has apologized for the death of 14-year-old Anna Machaya at the church’s schrine recently, and said it will also punish Anna’s husband Hatirarami Momberume once the courts are done with him.
Anna died while giving birth on 15 July and was allegedly buried in a hurry inside the shrine, and the church has been under pressure over its tolerance of child marriages.
While the late Anna’s grave is yet to be located six weeks, the church has come forward saying it is sorry for the incident and will be ready to assist police with investigations.
The church’s spokesperson, Nyasha Marange, told Zim Morning Post that it regretted the incident, describing it as ‘unfortunate.’
“First of all, we are sorry of the incident and it was so unfortunate. But, we want to make it clear that our church abides and respect the laws of our government,” said Marange.
“Our leader High Priest Noah Taguta and the followers of the church, we all respect the laws that govern Zimbabwe. We have high respect to our government and as a church we also have our laws that clearly state that girls under the age of 18 are not married,” said the church’s spokesperson.
Marange said the leader of the church, Noah Taguta Momberume, has always been urging and advising his priests to preach the word against child marriages in their entire preaching sermons.
“We make it a point that in every preaching sermon, our priests always preach the word against child marriages. It is one of our church doctrines that is against the practise of child marriages,” he said.
He said the case of Machaya was an ‘isolated case.’
“This was an individual case that must be separated from the church. Yes, our church is very big and there are such elements within the church. We accept that there are rogue elements within the church who might be practising child marriages and the church will deal with such cases accordingly,” Marange said.
“When we heard that Evans (Hatirarami) was wanted by the police, we actually handed him over to the police. The police have the duty to make investigations and arrest. The courts have their duty to prosecute and sentence if one is found on the wrong side of the law. We hope that the police and the courts will do their jobs,” he said.
Marange said the church will also act accordingly against Momberume.
“As a church we are going to have a disciplinary action against him. We have measures that we are going to take and this will be after the court case,” he said.
Commenting on the issue of the late Machaya not receiving medical attention and being buried at the church shrine, Marange said:
“There is freedom of worship. As Johanne Marange Apostolic Church we do not go to hospital to receive any medication. We have prophets who use our holy water and prayers. This has been happening from way back. So there is nothing amiss regarding that,” he said.
“We have trained midwives within our church. They have been helping a lot of church members in delivering.
“It is all the same in hospitals there are also cases where some people die while giving birth. Nobody ants anyone to die and the issue of death is God’s will,” explained Marange.
He said there were no graves at the church shrine.
“This has been hearsay. It is unfortunate that there is misinformation regarding the issue of graves at our shrine. There are only few graves in the shrine that belong to the previous owner of the land where the shrine is located.
“We only meet for three to four days having our church meetings,” he added.
The church spokesperson said the church has now putting measures that at will see that such cases of child marriage do not continue in the church.
“We are putting the message right across the church members all over the world that we condemn child marriages. Everyone who will be caught on the wrong side will face the full wrath of the government law. The church will not support anyone who will be caught practising child marriage,” he said.
“Our church elders and priests will be monitoring if there will be nay acts of child marriage. We will continue preaching against any practices of child marriage,” Marange said.
Zimbabwean law criminalizes marriages for anyone below the age of 18. □