Pressure Mounts On Police To Thwart Marange Pilgrimage
MUTARE- A public interest litigation has been set in motion by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), to compel the police to disperse thousands of congregates of an apostolic sect gathered in Marange communal lands.
ZHLR filed an urgent demand that police disperse people gathered in Mafararikwa for an annual two-week church pilgrimage, as it violates the revised lockdown regulations set to curb the spread of Covid 19.
This comes in the wake on a rapid increase in COVID-19 positive cases and deaths in the country.
“We have written to [ZRP] Officer Commanding Manicaland Province complaining about cops’ complacency in enforcing COVID-19 regulations by not dispersing Johane Marange Apostolic sect worshippers, who are currently gathered at a vigil in Mafararikwa village.
“We expressed concern over this neglect of duty by police as this public gathering is a super spreader of COVID-19 and a public health hazard with far-reaching consequences on the community of Manicaland.
“We have asked [ZRP] to enforce the law impartially and to disperse the crowd and arrest and charge the church leadership for violating national lockdown regulations.
“We have asked [ZRP] to rapidly respond within 24 hours failure of which we will sue the State for facilitating a public health hazard,” said ZLHR.
Meanwhile, the villagers have also found solidarity and have since submitted a letter of demand to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) together with other Community-Based Organizations (CBO).
Bocha Diamond Community Trust which has been vocal over the issue, together with Zivai Community Empowerment Trust (ZICET) wrote to the Officer Commanding Mutare rural to disperse the gathering.
In the letter of demand, an ultimatum was given to police to disperse congregants by 14 July (today), failure which would result in a legal battle.
ZimRights, Marange Development Trust (MDT), and Young Entrepreneurs Trust Zimbabwe are the other undersigned organizations.
Other demands submitted include that members of the church which gathered undergo mandatory testing, as the meeting already violates World Health Organization (WHO) protocols.
“This letter serves as an official demand for the dispersal of Johanne Marange who have been gathered at Mafararikwa shrine for their annual July conference which runs from 03 July to the 17th of July 2021.
“The dispersal must be done by 14/07/2021 by 9 am.
“We demand compulsory COVID 19 tests for all members attending the annual event,” read part of the letter.
Provincial Medical Director (PMD) Dr. Simon Nyadundu of the Ministry of Health and Childcare has shied away from the debacle, stating that as an enforcement pillar of the Covid 19 response it was under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Last year, the same gathering caused uproar when it took place while other religious gatherings were not allowed to gather beyond the stipulated 50 people.