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Magaya Crusade Disaster Puts Public Safety in Focus

A somber mood was hanging over the mining town of Kwekwe, in Midlands Province, on Friday following a stampede that killed 11 worshipers at a soccer stadium.

The victims were among thousands of congregants who had converged for an evening crusade by one of the so-called prosperity gospel preachers Walter Magaya.

Offering his condolences, Magaya said the bereaved families will receive a $1000 donation each from his Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries for burial purposes.

The deadly pandemonium, whose trigger remains a subject of debate, broke out as thousands were filing out of Mbizo Stadium at the end of the service.

Some eyewitnesses blamed the police, saying they touched off the tragedy when they deploying teargas and started assaulting people. But they wouldn't say why.

Others were circumspect, calling for an inquiry before blaming anyone.

Either way, analysts say the incident raises questions about public safety and security at large church gatherings that have become commonplace in Zimbabwe.

Most of the churches are led by flamboyant, often controversial self-proclaimed miracle performers who pull large crowds, numbering several thousands at a time.

A police spokesman in Midlands refused to comment.

Magaya is a protégé of Nigerian preacher TB Joshua, whose Scion church is also smarting from a recent tragedy that killed over a 100 worshipers when a hostel toppled.