High Priest Noah Taguta, leader of one of the factions of Johanne Marange Apostolic Church, is allegedly on the run after fraudulently changing ownership of four vehicles belonging to the late leader of the church, Abel Muchabaya Momberume.
Detective Inspector Godfrey Rwafa of police Fraud Squad said they were keen to interview Taguta, the widow of Momberume, Chiedza Momberume, and her son Stephen Muchabaya.
Det Insp Rwafa said although Taguta was cleared of some of the charges at the Harare Magistrates’ Court last year, new evidence had cropped up indicating that the four vehicles now in his possession were fraudulently registered.
“We have discovered that Stephen and his mother used false information when they obtained the late Momberume’s death certificate in order for the other family members to be deprived of any benefits,” he said.
He said although Momberume had many wives and children, Chiedza and her children automatically became responsible for the administration of other properties before the winding up of the estate.
“Using that falsified information, Stephen Momberume fraudulently sold the four vehicles to Taguta,” he said.
The three, he said, have been on the run since last year after police visited them at their homes.
“They have since vacated the homes they used to stay and we have ordered the estate proceedings at the Master of the High Court to stop.”
Last month, Taguta is alleged to have fled from a ceremony to ordain a new leader at the church’s shrine in Bocha, south of Mutare.
Taguta allegedly fled from the event where one of the late Abel Momberume’s sons, Clement, was conferred the name of St John, to become the church’s high priest.
It is alleged that Taguta could not stand the pressure from Momberume’s sons who accused him of stealing their inheritance.
Taguta was last year cleared of theft charges involving church regalia by a Harare magistrate after Momberume’s sons had taken him to court seeking an order to compel him to return church property he allegedly took claiming that it was rightly passed onto him.
Taguta took over the leadership of the Johanne Marange Apostolic church, one of the oldest and largest African independent churches in the world, after the death of Momberume who was himself the son of founding priest, Johanne Marange, in 1992.
But this resulted in divisions in the church as some of the elders challenged the legitimacy of Taguta to head the church. The founding priest’s sons have been divided, with some backing Taguta.
However, the church’s tradition says the right to lead the church is confined to the direct descendants of the founding priest, also known in the church as Mutumwa.
Taguta is a descendant of Arnold Taguta, the founding priest’s brother, and allegedly took over the leadership on the pretext that he would step down soon after the outstanding problems have been solved.
Efforts to contact him for comment yesterday on the latest allegations were futile.
May 10, 2003