Church members of the Johanne Masowe eJerusarema Church, also known as JEANDIE, have said they hesitated from assisting the eight “prophets” who drowned on Saturday as they thought they were acting under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

The “prophets” drowned in Mazowe River in Nyamanyanya village, Rushinga, and were all buried at their different homesteads yesterday.

The church members and families of the deceased thanked the Government for assisting them with funeral and burial arrangements.

Mrs Shaudhai Joni said her son, Alexio Makombe, died as she watched and continued singing as she thought the “prophets” had been possessed by the Holy Spirit.

“We continued to sing while the prophets struggled for life,” she said. “We thought it was the Holy Spirit. We were not aware that they were now in need of help and they were drowning.

“When the first three were assisted to get out we then realised the gravity of the situation. Among the remaining eight, the first four were helped out immediately and we were hopeful that they would make it, but it was too late.

“We had to search for the remaining four using tree branches. When we went to the pool we were seeking the Holy Spirit, but unfortunately the evil spirit followed us. We cannot point a finger at anyone because it was not the first time for my son to do his prophetic duties. I cannot reject my God because of this incident.”

Church elder Mr George Kamhekete said: “There were multitudes of church members waiting to get baptised and I didn’t see if there was a ‘holy stick’ or not. I was also standing far from the pool.

“A few minutes after jumping into the pool, we could tell that they were struggling to swim. The three who were rescued said they were tired and refused to go back and assist the others. I don’t know what they felt in the water. I didn’t dare to enter. The eight died holding on to each other in pairs.”

Mr Kamhekete said all the church members were scared by the incident.

“I am the oldest of the church members and I am a prophet,” he said. “When the incident happened, they were all scared. It is not possible to accept such a devastating incident in Christianity. The incident has shocked the church and I don’t think we will go back to the pool for baptism.”

Mr Kamhekete thanked the Government for assisting with funeral expenses.

“The Government has assisted us tremendously because all the family members were in need of help,” he said. “As a church, there was nothing much we could do to assist the family in burying their relatives. We sincerely thank the Government.”

Mr Solomon Marera, who lost two younger brothers Peter and Tendai, said the family would not have managed to mobilise resources to give the two family members a proper burial.

“We thank the Government for helping us at the most critical time in our lives,” he said. “It is not easy to lose two family members at once and I am failing to believe that they are gone just like that.”

Mr Adwell Makombe said the deaths were least expected and the Government had extended help at a critical time.