SCOTLAND – The sentencing of disgraced Zimbabwean bishop Walter Masocha, who was convicted of sexually assaulting members of his congregation, was today postponed to 14 June because social work reports and risk assessments of his danger to women and children were not completed.
Masocha a former university lecturer who led the Stirling-based Agape for All Nations Church, groped a young deaconess while he was supposed to be praying for her stomach complaint and put his hand down a schoolgirl’s trousers saying he was trying to remove demons.
The deaconess, a 32-year-old mother-of-four, was also told Masocha — who was known as “The Prophet” — had been “trying to remove ‘something’ from her genitals”.
The schoolgirl, then aged 15, was left in tears after Masocha groped her bottom claiming she had ants or demons in her pants.
Both were targeted between April 2012 and January 2014 at the 51-year-old’s seven-bedroom home, Coseyneuk House near Stirling, where the Zimbabwe-born man ran his church.
After a six-day trial in April this year, the jury at Falkirk Sheriff Court found Masocha guilty of both charges. Masocha’s name was entered on the sex offenders register and the sentencing deferred to give time for reports, to include an assessment of the risk Masocha poses to other women and girls.
During the trial the schoolgirl, now 16, said she regarded Masocha as her “spiritual father” and, like many people in the church, called him “Dad”.
She said in late 2013 she was with four other girls in an upstairs games room when Masocha came in. Giving evidence by video link she said she had been wearing “stretchy trousers”.
She said: “He waved me over. He placed his hand round my lower back, and moved his hand down until he got to my underwear, and he sort of pinged my underwear.
“He repeatedly pinged my underwear, ran his hand down my bottom, and grabbed and pinched my bottom.”
The pupil said she felt violated and later asked Masocha why he had done it. He replied that he had seen “demons and things that shouldn’t be there” in her pants and he was clearing them away.
She added: “I just broke into tears because I thought I had been doing things wrong without realising. I felt like I had been bad.”
In another incident, when the girl was 13 or 14, she said Masocha had been sitting down at his home, very close to her, advising her about school when he suddenly said: “You’ll always be mine.” He then kissed her on the lips.
She said at the time she was happy, because members of the church had been taught that anything they received from Masocha was a blessing from God, but now she felt “disgusted”.
The deaconess said Masocha had hugged her “very intimately”, caressing her back and kissing her round the neck, and saying “receive my love”.
On another occasion said she had once gone to his office for prayer with a stomach complaint.
She said: “He said he was going to pray it away. He touched my tummy, then his hand went down my body, on to my private parts.
“I was so shocked. At that time I saw him as somebody who could never do any wrong, because that was what he used to teach us.
“He used to teach us his hugs were anointed.”
She told her husband, a devoted member of the church from whom she has since separated, who replied: “The Prophet is seeing something in your genitals that needs to be removed, so he was removing that.”
The woman, a trained nurse, later fled her matrimonial home with her children, and spoke about what had happened to her brother and others before starting an online blog to expose the activities of the church, which she called “a cult”.
In other incidents, she described how as part of her involvement with the church, she had to undergo an all-night “deliverance” after her husband told her she had to be delivered from demons.
Shortly before she left the organisation for good, church members called an ambulance to a service she was attending in England and tried to get her sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Paramedics declined to act, concluding the call had been an “act of public humiliation”.
Mascoha had denied the allegations.
Defence advocate John Scullion QC subjected the deaconess to five hours of cross-examination, claiming she was at the centre of a conspiracy to bring down Masocha and the church after he postponed publication of a church magazine which she had been working on.
After the verdicts, Mr Scullion said imprisonment was “not inevitable”, and said he would reserve his submissions in mitigation to the sentencing hearing.
The court heard the Agape For All Nations Church had grown in less than eight years from a gathering in Masocha’s living room to an international organisation with branches and more than 2000 members across the UK, USA, Canada, and Africa.
Masocha told the court he had been combining his full-time job with a part-time role as a pastor in a Pentescostal-style church, the Forward With Faith international ministry, which met in a community centre.
Then in 2007, he went on a prayer retreat to St Andrews and after a week of fasting he had “a divine visitation” instructing him to set up his own church and call it Agape, Greek for God’s love.
Despite taking a master’s degree and a PhD at the University of Strathclyde, as well as a full-time lectureship at the University of Stirling, Masocha soon turned to ministry full-time.
Masocha was earlier found not guilty of two other charges, alleging he engaged in sexually activity with another girl, then 13, by inducing her to massage his half-naked body with oils, after she retracted her claims.
Allegations he had acted in a similar way on various occasions towards her then 16-year-old sister had also been dropped by the prosecution before the trial began.Additional reporting by STV News