HARARE – Eleven people Â were killed in a church stampede in the early hours of Â this morning and Â as of this evening relatives were helping the police identify the victims of a church, the state run ZBC reports.
A pregnant woman and three children are among the dead. ChurchÂ officials Â say the death the toll may rise.
At least 40 other people were injured in the stampede, which happened as a crowd of about 15 ooo people tried to leave Â Kwe Kwe’s Mbizo Stadium at 2am this morning.
State radio said the police fired teargas into the crowd, but this has not been confirmed.
Initial reports were that the police blocked all but one exit to the stadium.
“Police closed all access, causing around 15 000 congregants to useÂ only one exit point,” ZBC radio reported.
“To relieve pressure mounting at the exit point, congregants forced downÂ the precast wall on the western side of the stadium.”
Pictures posted on social media Friday morning showed the stadium’s collapsed perimeter wall of the stadium.
Walter Magaya, the head of the Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD)Â Ministries, told the Zimbabwean tabloid H-Metro: “I am gutted. I hadÂ already left the venue when I got news that there was a commotion… Within minutes I was told that eight people had died.
“I rushed back to the venue and it was very sad, the saddest moment ofÂ my life. As of this morning I am made to understand that three moreÂ died,” Magaya said.
Zenzele Ndebele, the head of the independent Radio Dialogue inÂ Bulawayo said in a tweet: “I don’t understand why police will blockÂ exits and then throw teargas on innocent people.”
This is the second incident in less than a month allegedly involvingÂ police firing teargas at crowds in an enclosed space.
A number of people were reported injured at a dancehall competition in Harare on November 8 when police fired teargas to disperse fans of two rival dance artists.
This comes barely two months 116 South Africans and three Zimbabwean were killed Â when a church guest house belonging to Nigerian pastor TB Joshua collapsed in Lagos. -Â Sapa
Meanwhile T, Sapa-AFP reports that Â TB Joshua’s lawyers for Nigerian Â said Thursday they had mounted a legal challenge against a coroner who has ordered him to testify about a fatal building collapse at his Lagos megachurch.
Joshua has been summonsed twice to give evidence at an inquest examining the circumstances of the September 12 tragedy in which 116 people were killed, but failed to appear on both occasions.
The latest no show by the popular televangelist on Thursday angered coroner Oyetade Komolafe, who said he would order his arrest.
But the pastor’s lawyer, Olalekan Ojo, told reporters after the hearing: “We have gone to the high court to challenge the jurisdiction of the coroner to issue a witness summons.
“The coroner has unconsciously exceeded his jurisdiction in that he has started inquiring into matters that are not causative of deaths.”
Komolafe was furious that Joshua, known to his followers as “The Prophet” or “The Man of God”, was not present for the start of proceedings on Thursday after failing to appear on November 5.
On that occasion, Ojo said Joshua had been “unavoidably absent” and failed to receive the summons. “We don’t want the impression to be created that The Prophet is avoiding the court,” he said.
On Thursday, Komolafe said: “Any of the witnesses who is not in court today will be arrested. I think the court has been lenient enough.”
Joshua, who counts presidents and powerful politicians from across Africa among his flock, has claimed the collapse was caused by a mysterious aircraft seen “hovering” over the building at the time.
The self-styled miracle worker and seer has also suggested that it was a deliberate attack.
But expert witnesses have ruled out the theory of aerial sabotage or an explosion.
The hearing has been told instead that the stricken guesthouse did not have planning permission and that a number of other buildings at Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations complex were structurally unsound.
A total of 81 South Africans were among the dead. Seventy-four bodies were repatriated from Lagos last weekend.
Ojo confirmed that his client had received the latest summons and added that his appearance was conditional on the outcome of the high court challenge.
“The Prophet has respect for the law of the land and will not do anything that will hurt the law,” he said.
“If at the end of the day, it is appropriate for The Prophet to appear he will be in court. We do not intend to abuse the legal process.
“Besides, The Prophet has a milk of human kindness. He is still grieving over the horrendous loss of lives. Coming to court is not proper. It is not a good way of showing respect for the dead.”
There have been calls for Joshua to be prosecuted over the building collapse after the Lagos State authorities suggested it was caused by the illegal addition of extra floors.
But Komolafe has said that the inquest was not a criminal court.
“We are here to find facts, find out what has happened, why, where, when and how so as to prevent a recurrence,” he said on the opening day of the hearing on October 13.
Source : Sapa-AFP