Fellowship members unrepentant after conviction

Members of Mgwirizano Fellowship, who were convicted of conduct likely to cause breach of peace after their prayer session failed to resurrect the late Peter Simbi in Manyowe Township in Malawi’s commercial city of Blantyre, were on Friday fined K500 each or in default serve six weeks in jail.

However, amid jubilation which included lifting his wife in the air after paying the fine, the only male convict Patrick David was non-repentant in an interview saying he would continue doing what God commands him to which include even offering himself for burnt sacrifice.

First grade magistrate Joyce Tizifa said since the three — David, his wife Bertha and Hanna Chikhosi — pleaded guilty thereby serving the court’s time and also that they were first offenders, she would not give them a maximum sentence as stipulated by the Penal Code.

Tizifa also said giving the three a suspended sentence would be sending a wrong message to the public. She, therefore, ordered the three to pay K500 (about $3.20) each or serve six weeks imprisonment with hard labour in default.

During the hearing of the case in a jam-packed court, police prosecutor Inspector Moja Phiri said Bertha, who was the first accused, admitted in the caution statement that she was informed by God to go and pray for the resurrection of the deceased.

“The first accused [Bertha] demanded that the coffin be opened so that she could have a clear view of the deceased. In the course of the prayer, she put her hand on the forehead of the deceased but there was no sign of life,” said Phiri when stating facts of the case.

After seeing that things were not working, Phiri said, Bertha told the mourners that there was another person who could assist in prayers and that wonders would happen.

“Hanna Chikhosi, who is the second accused, also prayed but the deceased did not resurrect either as promised. The mourners became disturbed with the conduct of the three, especially because they claimed that they would resurrect the deceased and also that it was a close relative who was blocking the resurrection,” said Phiri.

Phiri said chaos erupted immediately it became apparent that the prayers yielded no results and that the fellowship members were assaulted. He said Chikhosi was not beaten up because she was known in the area.

Bertha said she had no mitigation before the magistrate passed her verdict while Chikhosi said she was looking after children and that this was farming season.

On his part, David said his employment was affected by the case, he looks after orphans and that as the sole bread-winner, he pays children’s school fees.

Tizifa said since the three pleaded guilty to the charge of conduct likely to cause breach of peace at a public place, the court would convict them as charged.

In an interview after the case, David, who was visibly excited at the outcome of the case, said it was unfortunate that his wife was stopped in the midst of the prayer when chaos erupted.

“If they had allowed her to finish praying, I tell you something could have happened,” he said. Asked if he meant that the dead man could have resurrected, David said: “I am saying something could have happened there, it’s sad that they stopped her prayer with the violence.”

He said the case would not make them relent in carrying out the instructions of God. He said even Jesus Christ met a lot of resistance and temptation when he was carrying out the will of God.

“Even if it means throwing myself on the fire as a burnt sacrifice, I can do that provided it is God who has commanded me to do so. Even Abraham was ready to offer his son as a burnt sacrifice; so, it will only be carrying out what God has told us to do,” he said.

Wilson Simbi, the deceased’s elder brother who dragged the three to Police, said he was not disappointed with the ruling, saying: “I hope they have learnt a lesson not to play with other people’s funerals.”

Interim spokesperson for Fellowship Association of Malawi Jafeti Phiri, who came from Lilongwe to be in court, said the mother body of all fellowships in the country was drawing up a programme to sensitise people to follow the Bible teachings.

“We believe that if people, especially our members, are sensitised, they would be able to do only things that are written in the scriptures and avoid things that would confuse people,” he said.

“The Ndirande incident was very strange and we have been condemning what happened there at each and every meeting that we have held since then. It was very pathetic that things went that way because there is nowhere written in the Bible that God can order a person to throw himself or herself onto fire,” he said.

On the Manyowe incident, Phiri said people should be careful with instructions they receive because some are not from God but from evil spirits. He said people who receive messages perceived to be from God should bounce them back with the scripture in the Bible.

Phiri said he would discuss with the three to see how best they could be assisted to ensure that the case does not discourage them spiritually and that they avoid conducting themselves in a way that would land them in trouble with the law.

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