PRESIDENT John Magufuli yesterday joined Tanzanians to mourn tragic loss of over 40 lives, including dozens who perished in a stampede during a religious event in Moshi Municipality in Kilimanjaro region.
The nation is going through an unspeak- able misfortune following a double tragedy that struck hardly within a week. Still reeling from a downpour that hit the southern region of Lindi, killing over 20 Tanzanians during last week, the nation was stunned yet again at the weekend when 20 people died in a post-prayer stampede as worshippers rushed to get anointed with ‘blessed oil’.
Scores of believers packed Majengo grounds in Moshi District on Saturday eve- ning for a worship service led by Pastor Boniface Mwamposa of the Arise and Shine Ministry of Tanzania. However, the worship turned into tragedy after the big crowd was directed to walk through a narrow entrance while stepping on ‘blessed oil’. This resulted into a stampede which resulted in 20 deaths with 16 other left injured.
Pastor Mwamposa was arrested yester- day morning for his role in the incident as he sought to leave the country, the Minister for Home Affairs, George Simbachawene confirmed.
President Magufuli grieved the tragedies expressing great sadness over the untimely deaths of Tanzanians in the two incidents. The president prayed for the deceased Tanzanians and wished swift recovery to those injured so that they may continue with their responsibilities.
The president asked Regional Commissioners for Kilimanjaro and Lindi, AnnaMghwira and Godfrey Zambi respectively to convey his condolences to the families, relatives and friends of the deceased.
Dr Magufuli called upon Tanzanians to take precaution in incidents with risk indicators, including huge crowds and heavy rains. He directed the security organs to ensure that they effectively execute disaster management.
The late Saturday night incident occurred as worship- ers of the church led by the popular ‘Apostle’ rushed to get ‘anointed’ with the blessed oil administered by the pastor. Casualties from the stampede include 15 adults and five children, according to Moshi District Commissioner, Mr Kippi Warioba and the Re- gional Police boss Mr Salum Hamduni.
Head of Emergency and Casualty department at Mawenzi Hospital confirmed to ‘Daily News’ that they had received a total of 20 bodies from the incident. It was an open service that attracted around 10,000 people according to observes.
The worshippers had re- portedly kept a vigil as they waited to be administered with the ‘blessed oil’ when all hell broke loose. Mr Warioba said they were still assessing the situation and expressed fears that the death toll could possibly rise with some of the worshipers seriously injured.
Those who survived the stampede blamed the Pastor and church ushers for ‘im- proper administering’ of the blessed oil. “People trampled on one another as they jostled to step on the blessed oil…this would not have happened if security organs were at the scene to oversee the administering of the when everyone was scrambling for it,” explained Ms Maureen Faustine, a resi- dent of Mirerani in Manyara region.
Deputy Mayor at Moshi Municipal Council Mr Anthony Benedict on his part urged worshipers to shun such prosperity churches which lure un- suspecting believers through tithes.
The popular pastor is revered for drawing huge crowds by promising prosperity and cure for disease to wor- shippers who walk on what he describes as “blessed oil” dur- ing his church services.
The flamboyant pastor also runs his services at the then Tanganyika Packers Fac- tory buildings in Kawe, Dar es Salaam. When reached on his mo- bile phone, a lady who intro- duced herself as the Pastor’s personal secretary received the call, but was non-committal on the incident.
On the church’s website, the pastor who is also known as ‘Bulldozer’ claims to have received calling and a vision from God in 1999 in Mbeya with instructions of touching people’s lives through rising and shining them for the glory of the Lord. In the last decade, Tanzania has witnessed a rise in the number of “prosperity gospel” ministers, who preach about lifting people out of poverty and perform what they claim to be miracle cures.