A nurse has described a bizarre community exorcism in Auckland where a travelling pastor allegedly punched her in the face to cleanse her of demons.
Ketina Chivasa, who works at Auckland City Hospital, said the close-fisted punch was so hard she became dizzy, her face swelled up and she suffered a two-day headache.
"It was slap, slap, slap, punch, punch, punch, as he said: 'I'm going to hit this demon out of you'," Ms Chivasa claimed.
The event, at the Te Atatu South Community Centre on April 3, was targeted at Auckland's African community.
It was led by Pastor O Moyo, head of the UK-based Divine Apostolic Ministries.
Pastor Moyo was advertised as a "Prophet of God" who could deliver people from spiritual attacks, demons and dysfunctional marriages.
He told the crowd of about 40 that all but three of them were possessed by demons, Ms Chivasa said.
The pastor went on to punch or slap at least 20 people and later asked for donations, she claimed.
"It was pure witchcraft and just crazy."
Ms Chivasa, a 34-year-old mother, complained to police. They spoke to several attendees but did not find enough evidence "to warrant further investigation".
According to Ms Chivasa, the pastor:
• Punched one young woman after telling her a demon was preventing her from getting married.
• Kicked a man in the back while he was lying on the ground.
• And hit some people so hard they fell to the ground.
Ms Chivasa said others did not complain to police because they believed they were being "healed" by the pastor.
Another attendee corroborated Ms Chivasa's account of the event on condition of anonymity, citing fears of being shunned by Auckland's close-knit Zimbabwean community.
The woman said many Africans believed in demons and bad spirits and would never speak out against their church congregation.
Two other attendees contacted by the Herald hung up after saying they weren't allowed to talk about the event.
The event was organised by Zimbabwean community member Peter Muponda and promoted through social media.
When asked about the alleged assaults, he said: "I don't have any comment about that" and referred inquiries to Pastor Moyo.
Multiple emails and phone calls to Pastor Moyo and all five numbers listed on the Divine Apostolic Ministries (DAM) website were not returned.
Mr Muponda did not respond to numerous follow-up calls and text messages.
According to its website, DAM is a UK-based Christian movement with branches in Australia and New Zealand.
The site says Pastor Moyo is now in Sydney "delivering the enslaved from the bondage of the Evil One".
Auckland University Associate Professor Quentin Atkinson, who is studying the evolution of religion, said the idea people can become possessed by demons is tied up with witchcraft that is "very common throughout the developing world".
Demonic forces are deemed very powerful and that can allow people to justify extreme rituals, he said.
"The range of rituals that are associated with exorcisms is enormous and constrained only by your imagination," Mr Atkinson said.
In 2007, a 22-year-old Wainuiomata woman died during a botched exorcism when her family poured litres of water into her eyes to lift a curse. Five people were convicted of manslaughter after trial.
Ms Chivasa alleged Pastor Moyo asked people to line up at the Auckland exorcism, told them to close their eyes and then "started slapping and punching them in the face and chest to cast out their demons".
When she threatened to call police, Ms Chivasa claims she was told by a fellow attendee that she would be "hated by the whole community".
Later that night, she decided to call police anyway.
Police followed up but the case "did not meet the evidential sufficiency threshold to warrant further investigation," Detective Inspector Bruce Scott said.
Attendees told investigating officers they were invited to take part in a "cleansing ritual" in which they were touched on the forehead or upper body.
"Some described having fallen to the floor, but described this being as a result of being overwhelmed from the ceremony, rather than as the result of any assault," Mr Scott said.
No offences had been identified but the case would be reassessed if anyone else came forward with allegations of assault, Mr Scott said.