An Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) pastor who was accused of fondling a female congregant’s privates while praying for her to pass her driving test has been acquitted of the charge.
Benny Hwata, 57, of Highlands, Harare pleaded not guilty to indecent assault before he was acquitted at the close of the defence case by Harare magistrate Victoria Mashamba.
In acquitting Hwata, Mashamba said evidence points to the fact that there was another man who came into the office twice but the complainant never screamed for help.
Mashamba said after the prayer session, the woman walked through the church which was full of congregants and never reported the matter to anyone.
She said she did not report the matter to the police, nor any adult but only did so months later after the matter came to her husband’s attention.
Allegations against the cleric were that on March 21 this year, the complainant went to the Vehicle Inspection Depot for her driver’s licence road test but failed as she could not clearly see the road markings.
It was alleged that she later visited Hwata’s office in the evening and narrated her ordeal.
The court heard that Hwata told her to kneel close to his desk and he laid his hands on her head but she proposed that they move to the centre of the room where there was more space.
During the prayer, Hwata allegedly moved his hands from the complainant’s head to the neck, breasts and fondled her. He allegedly unbuttoned her blouse and touched her stomach and back.
The complainant allegedly tried to remove his hands, but was overpowered and she stood up and sat on the sofa.
Hwata allegedly pulled the complainant from the sofa and forcibly touched her private parts.
The State alleged the woman protested Hwata’s conduct and started crying as he switched to praying in tongues while inviting the complainant to come back for more prayers.
She allegedly dashed out of the room and reported the matter to the police, leading to Hwata’s arrest.