ELEVEN people were crushed to death while dozens were seriously injured after police allegedly fired teargas into the crowd at Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD) Ministries leader Prophet Walter Magaya's all night crusade at Mbizo stadium in Kwekwe.
The incident occurred at around 10pm on Thursday soon after the service, which attracted about 30,000 congregants.
The injured sustained broken legs, ribs, bruises all over their bodies while some dislocated joints.
In a bid to maintain order, police closed all the exits forcing the PHD members to use a single gate.
Congregants brought down a precast wall at the stadium to create other exit points as police fired teargas into the crowd, resulting in a stampede.
Eleven people including three minors, died while 54 others were seriously injured as a result of the stampede to escape the teargas.
The news crew arrived at the scene as police were removing the bodies which were later ferried to Kwekwe District Hospital mortuary.
The injured people were taken to the same hospital for treatment.
Officer Commanding Midlands Police Senior Assistant Commissioner Shadreck Mubaiwa confirmed the incident.
"I can confirm that there was a stampede at PHD Ministries yesterday (Thursday) during the first day of the two-day crusade. Prophet Magaya finished preaching around 8:26 pm and it was announced that the crusade had ended. There was only one exit point at the stadium which resulted in the stampede as congregants left the stadium," said Mubaiwa.
He said people fell on top of each other as they ran and police had a torrid time trying to rescue those who had fallen.
"Four people died on the spot while seven others died on admission at Kwekwe General Hospital," he said.
Snr Ass Comm denied reports that police fired teargas into the crowd.
However, when we caught up with some of the injured people at Kwekwe District Hospital, they insisted that the chaos started after police manning the sole exit point fired teargas into the crowd to force them to retreat and form a single line.
Sithembinkosi Dube who had gone to the crusade to have her mentally ill husband healed, said police fired teargas into the crowd.
"I was close to the entrance when one of the police officers instructed a junior police officer to fire teargas into the crowd so that people would retreat. People started pushing each other while rushing for cover. People started crying out for help as some fell to the ground as a result of the stampede," said Dube.
She narrated the horror of learning that a majority of people she fell on top of, were dead.
Dube said she fainted, only to regain consciousness on her way to hospital.
Another victim, Sekai Mpofu who went to the crusade with her family, said police were beating up people. "People were pushed back into the crowd by the police who also assaulted some of the congregants. They then fired teargas resulting in the stampede," she said.
PHD head of security Fanuel Kanyoka blamed the police for the stampede.
"Police failed to control the crowd. They fired teargas into the crowd as if the people were violent. Some fell to the ground as they ran away from the police," said Kanyoka.
He said the crusade would still go on as the church had re-strategised to ensure no one would be injured.
Prophet Magaya visited the injured people at Kwekwe District Hospital before visiting the families of those who died.
He offered to pay medical bills for the injured congregants.
The names of those who died could not be released as their next of kin are yet to be informed.