11 perish at Magaya crusade

KWEKWE - Eleven people died and 40 others were injured as they scrambled to evacuate Mbizo Stadium in Kwekwe on Thursday night after attending Prophet Walter Magaya’s mega crusade which was attended by tens of thousands of people.

While investigations were still in progress yesterday, PHD Ministries officials and witnesses blamed the police for blocking exit points, forcing multitudes to evacuate using one small gate resulting in the stampede that claimed 11 lives.

The stampede reportedly took place after 8pm on Thursday night after Magaya had left the pulpit.

Magaya started preaching at around 5pm on the day and finished around 8.30pm after which he departed from the venue and then tragedy struck.

The Daily News yesterday witnessed relatives of the deceased identifying bodies at Kwekwe General Hospital mortuary, but others were yet to be identified.

Witnesses told of horrific scenes of humans crushing each other as they scrambled to use one exit point after the show.

They said police refused to open the main exit points as they wanted to do a head count of people who had attended the show but it was not clear why they wanted to count the people one by one.

“When Prophet Magaya finished preaching, he departed nicely and people were really excited after the mega service.

“But because police had opened one exit point, they were then crammed on one exit resulting in them crushing each other while those who had fallen down were trampled upon by masses of people going out.

“It was all chaotic and people completely failed to control the huge crowds. Imagine about 30 000 people all wanting to go out using the same exit point at the same time.

“People were rushing to get transport back to their homes, some wanted to go to their lodges and hotels because the congregation attracted people from the whole of Midlands and even Masvingo.

“Nobody knows why police did not open more exit points,” said one worshipper who spoke to the Daily News.

But police had a slightly different version of events and claimed that it was the Magaya people who wanted to headcount people.

Speaking to the Daily News in Kwekwe yesterday, officer commanding Kwekwe, assistant commissioner Shadreck Mubaiwa confirmed the deaths, but said the police were not to blame for the stampede.

“Those who fell, failed to lift themselves up and four died at the scene as people rushed to the exit. Seven others died on arrival at hospital,” Mubaiwa said.

He said police were not armed and denied claims that they had thrown teargas into the huge crowd resulting in the tragedy.

“Police were not armed, it is false. What we suspect is that the Magaya people wanted to head-count people,” he said.

But Mubaiwa could not answer why they could not take precautionary measures of ensuring safety first for people to evacuate safely as opposed to using one small exit to head-count people.

He said those who were admitted were in a stable condition while some had been discharged.

But officials from Magaya’s office vehemently denied that they wanted to head-count people.

“That’s a strange explanation from the police. We never head-count people, we just use estimates. Surely how can we be so silly to head-count all those people, we have never done it before and we will never do it. The police must just carry out their investigations and discipline the officers responsible for this mess.

“We were told that it is the police officers who wanted to head-count people for their own reasons not us,” said the official.

Magaya had another crusade slated for the same venue last night and followers seemed not moved by the incident on Thursday night as thousands were already packed in the stadium by end of day yesterday.

A distraught Magaya had left for Harare but had to return to Kwekwe amid reports that police were reluctant to take charge of security saying they could not cope with the huge crowds.

Magaya was still to make a decision whether to proceed with the crusade or find a way of cancelling which would not cause commotion among the thousands that packed the venue yesterday.

But the people were not deterred by the deaths and remained camped at the venue.

Some women could be seen clutching blankets in anticipation of another service.

“Ndirimwana weMuporofita, saka ndoenda kuna baba (I’m a child of the prophet so will go to my father,” a woman was heard saying.

The incident comes after over 100 people died when a guest house belonging to popular Nigerian preacher, TB Joshua collapsed in Lagos recently.

Comments (5)

I have failed to understand why the policemen closed all exit points..The service had finished why would they close all the gates..Zimbabwean forces sometimes lack competence...

mwanawako - 23 November 2014

Why are the police laying claims of phd head counting people. Why would they do it on such a small crowd they would have done it on their al night prayer. The police will not admit because they are scared to take the blame but the wise prophet has taken responsibility. That was a noble move papa-so they call you

kimberlyhood - 23 November 2014

aah police you now playing micky mouse game..how can PHD members want to count the numbers of people, veduwee regedzai kunyepa handiti..you should tell the nation why you wanted to count the people now you have caused deaths of innocent people aha mhani

Dorothy - 23 November 2014

Its so sad that lives were lost here. The blame game here is not working and will not save any purpose especially to those who lost their beloved ones. But hay who had the authority to open the gates? The venue is a city Council property if I am not wrong. My understanding is the owners of the venue will be having the keys to the venue and acting as instructed by the organisers of the event. Who would need the statistics of the event more, the police or the PHD? Am sure the police have even never head counted the attendees of a gathering even panouya the head of state. I understand the organisers of the event are the ones who hire the police for this duty since it is a private event which the police will not offer for free. Its left to the PHD to answer on having taken all the necessary steps for the safety of the people. There is something I am not getting right here. Upon entering how many gates were opened. Who opened the gates? Who closed the gates if they were opened for the same crowd to enter? Hameno kwakungonongedzanao apa.

Bla A.B - 24 November 2014

Sei kwa Joshuwa TB, ropa rakadeuka, Magaya rakadeukao. Magaya akapihwa chinyembana cheuporofita naTB. Ko sei pane kufa kwevanhu pahuporofita hwenyu. Tinoziva kuchinzi vemabusiness ndivo vanochekeresa. Ko namaporofitao here? Zvokwadi kumzinda hakuna weko. Ndezvepano pasi izvi

violentpeace - 24 November 2014

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