Johane Marange devotees block police from exhuming child bride Anna Machaya

MUTARE – Police were on Thursday stopped from exhuming the body of child bride Anna Machaya, who died whilst giving birth at a church shrine in Marange last year.

Officers was blocked from entering the Johane Marange apostolic sect shrine at Mafararikwa village where Anna, who was 14, was illegally buried in an apparent bid to conceal her death.

Police have obtained an exhumation order to recover Anna’s remains as part of their investigations into her death.

Her husband, Hatirarami Momberume alias Evans Michael Momberume, 25, has been charged with her murder.

Police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said he was out of office and did not have details of the incident.

A police source told ZimLive: “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.”

Police have shown an unusual amount of deference to Taguta, who styles himself as a “high priest” of his church.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been a visitor to the shrine and Taguta has actively campaigned for his Zanu PF party.

Anna died on July 16 last year from excessive bleeding, hours after she gave birth at the shrine near Mutare.

She was buried at the shrine without a burial order.

When police opened an inquiry, her parents lied that her name was Memory Machaya, to conceal the fact that she was a minor. They also claimed she was born on January 2, 1999, which would have made her 22 when she died.

Police exposed the lie after going to Wanganui High School where a copy of the dead girl’s birth certificate was obtained. It showed that her name was Anna Machaya, and she was born on July 5, 2006.

She had been forced to drop out of school whilst doing Form 2 after falling pregnant. Her parents married her off to Momberume.

Last month, her 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.

Anna’s death has shone a light into the secretive white garment church where child sexual abuse and child marriages are rampant.

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