POLICE have blamed Prophetic Healing and Deliverance ministries (PHD) security staff for a stampede at an all night prayer meeting, which left 11 people dead and several injured in 2014 at Mbizo Stadium in Kwekwe.
Giving evidence at the ongoing inquest before Taurai Manwere, acting as coroner, at Kwekwe magistrate courts yesterday, Chief Inspector Tara Mayiberi said the service deployed 40 police officers at the stadium.
He said the police were not in charge of security at the event and therefore could not be held responsible.
Chief Insp Mayiberi said the officers were paid hourly by PHD and therefore were obliged to take instructions from the churches security personnel.
The prosecutor, Fiona Mkwena, had asked him why the police had failed to act swiftly when they saw the situation getting out of hand.
“You were supposed to be on the lookout and ensure proper crowd control and act as trained police officers to avert the loss of life. Do you think you acted accordingly?” asked Mkwena.
In response, Chief Insp Mayiberi said, “We deployed 40 officers who were being paid by PHD and were taking instructions from the church. So the police can’t be held responsible for the deaths.”
Another witness, Chief Insp Edgar Moyo said he was in the stadium standing about 20-30m from the gate when the incident happened adding that the big gate was closed.
“PHD security personnel wanted to do a head count when people were coming out of the stadium and had to use four small gates and wanted one person to move out at a time. He said this caused people to pile at the small gates, resulting in a stampede,” he said
He said there was proper crowd control because there were no incidents of misconduct adding that the stampede had nothing to do with crowd control.
When asked by Manwere who was to blame for the death of the people, Chief Insp Moyo said, “I put the blame on PHD security officers who refused to open the big gate to enable people to walk out gradually. PHD should have allowed two or three pastors to continue preaching when Prophet Walter Magaya left abruptly.”
Manwere asked church lawyer Everson Chatambudza the specific duties for the police at that particular day.
“The police were responsible crowd control, movement of cars and other things,” said Chatambudza.
Chatambudza said the police had instead of sticking to their core business had rather delegated their duties to PHD security officers without even notifying the superiors.
In the aftermath of the stampede police were roundly condemned for heavy handedness with allegations that they had used tear gas in an attempt to contain the crowds at the all night meeting.
The inquest which opened on January 28 continues on March 17.
Those who were killed were identified as Ian Nkomo, 40, Tendekai Bafana, 9, Tamuka Chivasa, 11; Winnie Chikanda, 12; Rachel Zvinei, 16; Cynthia Jane Katsholo, 47 and Juliet Mawere, 55 all from Mbizo suburb in Kwekwe.
The victims from Redcliff were identified as Shadreck Gumisidzo Kurebwa, 59 and Grace Gwinji whose age was not given. Albert Ndure, 13 and Bridget Mukarati, 34, were the victims from Gweru.