About 40 Zimbabweans practicing various apostolic sects are set to be deported back from Namibia after being rounded off while conducting services in the bushes, Namibian press reported Tuesday.
The 39 were among people who were arrested at different shrines on Sunday after a crack team comprising of police and the Namibian immigration officials raided foreign-owned churches in Windhoek.
Nineteen babies and children were arrested alongside their mothers. Inspector Christina van Dunem Fonsech, who led the raid, said the majority of those arrested had no passports. Some of them had passports that had expired.
“Some of them even started working as domestic workers,” she said.
Chief Inspector George Mahoney from the local police’s legal department said it is not illegal for churches to conduct their services in the bush but that they need permission from the municipality or private owners of the land on which they practise their ceremonies.
“Did the municipality give them the right? That is not clear. We need clarity on that,” said Mahoney.
“Even if the churches say they are worshiping do they have permits? In terms of carrying out their functions as pastors, is the church registered? Where is it registered?
“Ultimately we need to have control. We have churches here and they are registered.”
Most apostolic sects religious crusades are conducted outdoors in the bush, in some of the impoverished areas, a situation which aroused the suspicion of the Namibian police, the paper said.
Fonsech told New Era newspaper that the arrested were being housed at a government shelter while awaiting deportation. She said it raises suspicion when a group of people assemble in the bush and when their activities are unknown.
Apostolic sects that conduct religious services have proliferated in Zimbabwe where they claim they can cure all manner of illnesses and conduct prayers to enhance the fortunes of followers.
“Most churches are misleading society and are the reason why some neighbours aren’t talking to each other,” she said, adding that the police are aware of several unusual activities conducted by churches in Namibia.
New Era said during the operation in Kilimanjaro area, some members of the Johane Masowe Chimwec chete congregation fled into the mountains when the police approached them.
Another group of more than 30 were found in the veld in the Northern Industrial Area. When the police approached them they continued singing and worshiping. The majority, who are Zimbabweans, wore white long garments and were bare footed.
The group initially said their church’s name is Johane Masowe but later changed it to John Friday Apostolic, reported New Era.
An elder from the church, Lucknodge Moyo, told the paper that the place they occupy was appointed by the Holy Spirit. Moyo also claimed that City Police authorized them to operate from there.
“If you do prayers here, they will be answered,” Moyo responded to the police when asked why they chose to conduct their services in the bush.
A church member said they also pray for people with different problems such as those suffering “bad luck” or sleepless nights, among others.
Johane Masowe Chimwechete leader Agnes Makanza said they chose the mountains because it is far from everyone. “We pray to God. We worship in the forest,” said Makanza to the paper.