PROPHETIC Healing Deliverance (PHD) leader Walter Magaya has been sucked into a suspected murder case after a Dotito woman claimed that her seven-week-old baby boy died under mysterious circumstances at the cleric's church service in Harare last week, police confirmed yesterday.
The woman, Viola Chingara, confirmed the incident yesterday saying she had reported the matter at Waterfalls Police Station in Harare on July 9 under case number RRB2134808.
It is understood that Chingara, fell into a trance when she was being attended to at the church and PHD ushers reportedly took away the baby from her.
Chingara, who visited PHD for "spiritual deliverance" said the ushers brought the baby back two hours later after he had already died.
She could not, however, give further details of the matter, referring questions to her husband's brother who could not be reached for comment last night.
Harare provincial police spokesperson Inspector Tadius Chibanda told NewsDay yesterday that the police were investigating Magaya over the mysterious death of the baby boy.
Chibanda said: "We are investigating a case that occurred on July 9 at the church's premises in which a seven-week-old baby from Dotito [Mt Darwin] died. The baby was in the company of the mother who had come to seek divine intervention. The matter was reported to police and the body was conveyed to Harare Central Hospital mortuary."
This became the second death at Magaya's church after a Mvurwi man — Munyaradzi Muvhami also collapsed and died at the church, two weeks ago on July 6 this year.
Magaya's investigation came at a time Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi told Parliament that his ministry would next week unveil a new religious tourism policy where prominent local church leaders — Emmanuel Makandiwa, Uebert Angel and Magaya — would be endorsed as tourist attractions.
Mzembi also disclosed that the Celebration Centre in Harare would also be accorded the same status at a function to be held in the capital, Harare, next Thursday.
"Post the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Assembly, Cabinet directed me to pursue religious tourism and as you will be aware we are busy doing that and with Makandiwa's successful Judgment Night in mind, a new tourism policy shall be launched on July 24 at the Celebration Centre and we shall be unveiling a new thrust to religious tourism to demonstrate our seriousness," Mzembi said.
"There will [also] be designation of the Celebration Centre as a religious facility of tourism attraction after the ZCC Mbungo in Masvingo was accorded the same status."
Mzembi was responding to Zanu PF legislator Anastancia Ndlovu [Midlands proportional representation] who wanted clarity on the government's position towards religious tourism following disclosures that six out of every 10 tourists who toured Nigeria would be visiting Synagogue Church of All Nations Prophet Temitope Balogun (TB) Joshua.
Mzembi said United Family International Church leader Makandiwa, Spirit Embassy's Angel and Magaya attracted a huge weekly flow of human traffic from local and international religious visitors.
It was, therefore, imperative to ensure Statutory Instrument 172 and 173 on tourism included incentives on religious tourism, Mzembi said.
He said there was also economic benefit from religious tourism.
"For example, about 180 000 parishioners attended Magaya's service in Waterfalls during the weekend and if each person buys mineral water at $1 that is $180 000 in circulation. Those people would also use kombis to Waterfalls and recently kombi operators said if churches were closed during the weekend the transport sector would sneeze. Movement of these people going to church on Sundays is important," he said.
Mzembi said it was imperative to allow churches to import duty-free transport vehicles for congregants.
He added that the country would adopt an open skies policy.
"We now have 16 international carriers and our target is to go back to 1999 when we used to have 48 planes landing in Harare and we were busier than Oliver Tambo Airport in South Africa. I hope by the time President Robert Mugabe hosts the Sadc Summit the univisa facility will be operational," he said.
Mzembi said negative incidents such as the recent beating up of police officers by followers of Madzibaba Ishmael Mufani of the Johanne Masowe eChishanu apostolic sect would not affect their thrust.
MDC-T MP Ruth Labode said for the policy to work smoothly, there was need to ensure there were no unnecessary delays at the country's ports of entry.