PROPHETIC Healing and Deliverance (PHD) Ministries leader Walter Magaya and his administrators have been blamed for the death of 11 people following a stampede at their all-night service at Kwekwe’s Mbizo Stadium in 2014.
Police Inspector Phillip Nyateka, who was manning the main gate at the stadium on the fateful night, told an inquest hearing last week that he was of the view that PHD Ministries and Magaya caused the stampede after they hired a venue with a few exit points and for abruptly ending the prayer session.
Over 30 000 people were at the prayer meeting, Nyateka said.
“In my view, PHD Ministries hired a venue which had exit points that could not manage to contain the people that attended the prayer meeting and as a result of this poor planning 11 people died,” he said.
Nyateka also accused Magaya of causing pandemonium when he ended his prayer meeting abruptly, causing a stampede, as the congregants forced their way out of the stadium using small gates.
“They should have kept the music playing and people who had gathered would have taken time to leave the stadium. Instead, when Magaya finished preaching they just ended the session, cutting the music and forcing the crowds to rush to the exit all at once,” he said.
The police officer also dismissed earlier claims by his superiors that a burst gas cannister caused panic and eventually the stampede.
“The explosion happened when the stampede had already started and it caused little panic and had little effect on what happened that night. Even if the gas cannister had not exploded, the stampede would have happened,” he said.
Kwekwe City Council’s housing director, Newton Dete, said entrance and exit points at the stadium were adequate, adding the same venue had accommodated bigger rallies and football matches in the past without problems.
He denied allegations council had locked some gates and left a few of them open, saying every gate was unlocked and left at the control of PHD Ministries.
Dete told presiding magistrate, Taurai Manwere that PHD Ministries was to blame because it was their security ushers that directed that some gates be closed as thousands of people attempted to leave the prayer meeting.
Nyateka corroborated Dete’s evidence, saying at the time of the stampede, the main gate was partially closed.
The inquest continues on February 10, with Magaya and other witnesses expected to give evidence, as families of the deceased and the City of Kwekwe seek to get to the bottom of the issue.-Newsday