Police in Mchinji have arrested five Seventh Day Apostolic Church leaders for allegedly keeping children, including young girls aged 12 and 18, in a camp for three weeks on Mchinji Hills without their parents’ consent.
Mchinji Police Station spokesperson Kaitano Lubrino said the elders, who came from the Southern Region, claimed they wanted the children to be closer to God, a situation which forced the children to miss classes.
“The group is not opening up to tell us its destination,” he said
Lubrino said they received a complaint last week through one of the parents of the ‘abducted’ children, Juliet Kapalamula of Katsache Village, Traditional Authority Zulu, that her two girls were being detained.
The parent reportedly went to the mountain to plead with the church leaders to release them but did not succeed.
Kapalamula told the police that she had sent the girls to fetch firewood in one of the hills when suddenly, a group of men and women wearing white robes coaxed them to join them in the camp.
She said: “Police and the District Social Welfare Office and other stakeholders went to the camps to meet the church elders on Monday evening, but they refused to release the children.”
Mchinji district social welfare officer Rodwel Chunga said the girls were taken to Mchinji District Hospital for medical examination to establish if they were sexually abused, but the results are not yet out.
The suspects, who refused to give their details, will answer a charge of abduction.