Greatness Tapfuma, 33, of Cowdray Park who is the founder of Kingdom Rulers International Church broke into tears soon after Bulawayo regional magistrate Chrispen Mberewere convicted him on two counts of rape.
His followers who had come to court in solidarity with their leader immediately joined him in weeping following the verdict. Tapfuma’s emissaries, the court heard, attempted to bribe his victim with a house, a car or cash so she could drop the charges against him. The pastor, who was recently acquitted of raping two other congregants will, however, serve an effective 25 years in jail after five years of the sentence were suspended on condition that he does not within that period commit a similar crime.
Magistrate Mberewere, in his judgment, ruled that although Tapfuma’s victim tested HIV positive, there was no evidence that the pastor is the one who infected her.
“I don’t find that the victim was aware of her HIV status prior to the rape. She only became aware of it after the doctor who examined her recommended that she gets tested for HIV following genital warts. I, therefore dismiss the link between the victim’s HIV infection and the rape,” said the magistrate.
In passing the sentence, Mberewere expressed concern over the high prevalence of rape cases committed by pastors, including the infamous Gumbura who reportedly had sex with almost all female church members.
“Tapfuma committed a very serious crime. The community has for long looked to the courts to impose exemplary and suitable punitive sentences on rapist. The protection of the girl child and women in general is of paramount importance when considering an appropriate sentence for any sex offender,” said Mberewere.
He said it was the duty of the courts to serve societal interests by removing sex offenders from the community through long jail terms. “In this case what is aggravating is that Tapfuma is not just one of the rapists but is a typical wolf in a sheep’s skin.
“A long prison term will therefore send a strong message to these false men of God out there who have a tendency of preying on female congregants. A sentence that sends Tapfuma to jail for a considerable time is the most appropriate,” said Mberewere.
Tapfuma’s victim said she decided to speak out on the abuse after she was treated for genital warts early this year. Prosecuting, Robin Mukura, said between October and November last year Tapfuma called the girl to his home and raped her in exchange for prayers for her father who was said to be facing death.
The court heard that after raping the girl, Tapfuma ordered her to keep the sexual act a secret as divulging it would provoke the death spirit to kill her father immediately. The girl began to notice some blisters on her privates and reported the matter to her mother.
“On unknown dates but during October and November, Tapfuma raped the girl twice. The matter came to light when the girl sought medical attention after she noticed blisters on her privates and went to the hospital,” said Mukura.
As her condition worsened in December, she tested HIV positive and that was when her mother asked how she got infected. She then revealed what had been happening and a police report was made leading to Tapfuma’s arrest. The court heard that a church elder approached her and tried to entice her to drop the charges in exchange for a house, a car or cash but she refused.
In mitigation, Tapfuma through his lawyer Bruce Israel Masamvu from Dube-Tachiona Tsvangirai Law Firm, pleaded for leniency telling the court that he was a married man looking after his family and his ministry.
“The case has tarnished my client’s name and his ministry is already in shambles. I humbly submit to this court to exercise leniency given that he is a first offender who has a duty to look after his family and the ministry,” said Masamvu.
In his defence, Tapfuma claimed that the girl had connived with her parents and a rival pastor to fabricate the charges.