UNRULY residents in Kitwe yesterday ran amok, razing a church building for Faith Deeper Understanding Church and Ministries before setting it ablaze after news went round that its pastor had turned into a snake.
The pastor at the centre of controversy, Apostle Anthony Musuku, commands a big following with the population of his congregation which is situated in Buchi-Kamitondo believed to be well over 1, 000 people and is known to posses healing powers.
But a mob of unruly residents yesterday in the morning around 10:00 hours stormed the church building with the view to lynching the pastor who they said had turned into a snake.
Confusion reigned as Police who moved in a bid to prevent the residents from razing the church building structure encountered opposition from the residents with the two sides engaging in running battles.
A Times reporter that rushed to the scene around 11:00 found the situations around Kamitondo tense with anti-riot Police firing teargas canisters while the residents reiterated with stones.
The residents placed stones and burning logs on the main road blocking flow of traffic from Buchi-Kamitondo to other areas.
Police reinforcement from stations around the district was called in to help quell the riots which had since escalated covering the whole Kamitondo even extending to the nearby Bulangililo Township.
The residents finally managed to raze the building and to set it ablaze around 14:00 hours after a long struggle with the police.
The church building structure, which was constructed using plunks and iron sheets was completely gutted by the inferno that also spread to the nearby auto garage belong to Everisto Kalenga where four vehicles parked there for repair, were burnt to ashes.
Copperbelt Commissioner of Police Joyce Kasosa who confirmed the razing and burning of the church building structure dismissed the basis of the residents’ action as mere fabrication.
Ms Kasosa said the residents acted out of superstition and condemned their action.
She said the Police managed to apprehend three people in connection with the fracas and were charged with riotous behaviour.
Janet Chitumbo, an eye witness who was at the church when the fracas erupted said she was with her daughter in one of the rooms at the church for prayers when a mob stormed the premises around 10:00 hours and started throwing stones and other missiles claiming that Apostle Musuku had turned into a snake inside the church while praying for patients.
Ms Chitumbo whose daughter was critically ill and unable to walk, said she struggled but managed to flee using a wheelchair fortransportation of the patient to the nearby shop where she sought refuge.
Some elders from the church told the Times that the story of their pastor turning into a snake was fabricated by people who were jealous of the success made by the congregation.
Elder Samule Mvula who was flanked by pastor Judix Nkandu said the people behind the fabrication of the story hired a mob which went and burnt the church building.
“The story of pastor Apostle Musuku having turned into a snake is fabrication because the pastor in the first place was not even at church when this mob came to cause havoc,” Mr Mvula said.