Police officers were on Thursday reportedly blocked from exhuming the body of child bride Anna Machaya, who died whilst giving birth at a Johanne Marange Apostolic sect shrine in Marange in July last year.
Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers were barred from accessing the shrine at Mafararikwa village.
Anna, who was 14, was illegally buried at the shrine in an apparent bid to conceal her death as the “marriage” and nature of her death had legal consequences for those involved.
The police officers were armed with an exhumation order to recover Anna’s remains as part of their investigations into her death.
Her husband, Hatirarami Momberume alias Evans Michael Momberume, who is in his late twenties, has been charged with her murder.
When contacted for a comment by ZimLive, ZRP national spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said he was out of office and did not have details of the incident. But an unnamed police officer told the publication:
The church’s leader Noah Taguta sent his devotees to tell the officers that they should bring authorisation from the president [Emmerson Mnangagwa].
He did not recognise the exhumation order signed by the district administrator. He runs the shrine as if it’s an embassy, he’s the law.
Taguta, who styles himself as a “high priest” of his church, receives senior government officials at his shrine from time to time.
Even President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been a visitor to the shrine and Taguta has spoken publicly of his support for the ZANU PF party.
Anna died on 16 July last year from excessive bleeding, hours after she gave birth at the shrine near Mutare.
Congregants buried her at the shrine without a burial order.
In January this year, Anna’s parents Edmore Machaya, 45, and his wife Shy Mabika, 36, were jailed for nine months each after being convicted on charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice.
They were charged after they lied to police investigators that Anna’s name was Memory Machaya, to conceal the fact that she was a minor.
They also claimed that Anna was born on 2 January 1999, which would have made her 22 when she died.
Police however established that the deceased teenager’s name was Anna Machaya, and she was born on 5 July 2006.
That was after the police obtained a copy of the dead girl’s birth certificate from Wanganui High School where she was a student before she got married to Momberume.
Anna had been forced to drop out of school whilst doing Form 2 after falling pregnant and her parents married her off to Momberume.