Fidelis Munyoro-Chief Court Reporter
By Grace Ministries Pastor Onbert Mapfumo yesterday walked out of prison this week after the High Court overturned his conviction of raping a woman congregant at his prayer room in New Canaan, Highfield, Harare.
Pastor Mapfumo was convicted of rape in July 2017 after he took a woman congregant into his room to pray for her deliverance from evil spirits, but then said he had to be intimate with her. The trial court after hearing the complainant said this was unlawful pressure, and so was rape, but the High Court disagreed and found the woman had consented.
Pastor Mapfumo (43), was on Wednesday acquitted after serving four years of the effective 22-year-jail term imposed on him four years ago by a Harare regional magistrate.
Justice Pisirayi Kwenda allowed the appeal by Pastor Mapfumo.
In his judgment, he questioned the conduct of the woman who laid the complaint and called on the society to create programmes that help inform members of the public about outdated and gullible practices so that they can make better decisions.
This would empower women to enable them to make knowledgeable decisions before submitting to possibly dangerous practices.
Said Justice Kwenda: “The legislature may consider amending the constitution to create an independent commission that can act as a watchdog regulating the conduct of churches and with a specific mandate to promote and protect freedoms of persons in religious communities.”
The trial court’s assessment of the totality of the prosecution evidence provoked sharp criticism from Justice Kwenda, who could not find how the victim was subjected to unlawful pressure to induce her to submit herself to being intimate with the pastor.
He noted in his judgment that Pastor Mapfumo had made his intention clear that he wanted to bed the woman as part of the “spiritual healing process”.
And after the first act, the woman even went back to receive her final intimacy healing, with Justice Kwenda finding that she let him do it because she wanted to derive benefit from it.
He said the woman was not under any apprehension about the fact that she was indulging in intimacy with her pastor.
“To the enlightened, the method of spiritual cleansing which the complainant said she underwent was clearly of no benefit to her, and disgusting, but in her own words she sought treatment and voluntarily partook in the healing process because she believed in its efficacy,” said Justice Kwenda.
Pastor Mapfumo appeared in court facing six charges of raping female congregants, but was convicted on two counts of raping the female congregant on two separate occasions sometime in 2015.
He was slapped a total of 28 years in jail, but six years were suspended for five years on condition of good behaviour.
Pastor Mapfumo was, however, acquitted of three counts with one of the charges having been withdrawn before the matter went for trial.