BY FARAI MATIASHE/PRECIOUS CHIDA
Women’s groups have called on the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to launch an inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse against Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD) Ministries leader Walter Magaya.
Several women who minister at Magaya’s church have levelled sexual abuse allegations against him.
The call by the groups, under the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), followed reports of increasing number of women who have been opening up alleging that they were sexually-abused or exploited by Magaya.
“As the Magaya allegations have caused public interest and alarm among the women of Zimbabwe and the society at large, WCoZ, therefore, calls upon ZRP, Zimbabwe Gender Commission Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and other relevant authority to commission an inquiry into
Magaya and his church in order to establish the truth behind the allegations,” WCoZ chairperson Ronika Mumbire said at a Press briefing in Harare yesterday.
“Also, (we call upon) the Parliament of Zimbabwe for the development of regulatory framework that ensures that there is human rights oversight and safeguarding in churches.”
Mumbire said church leaders and congregants should exercise collective oversight of the church space to ensure human rights were upheld.
The WCoZ chairperson said women and girls who have allegedly been sexually-abused by Magaya should come forward as they were committed to provide support, security and ensure the cases were reported to the police.
Nude pictures purportedly showing Magaya and an unknown woman have also gone viral on social media, with some members of his church and those who sympathise with him questioning their authenticity and arguing that they had been doctored.
Musasa Project director Netty Musanhu said the general populace must desist from vilifying women who speak out against sexual violence.
“It is highly regrettable that the society thinks every sexual abuse case that is reported is an issue of extortion. Not all women are looking for money, one should wonder why the cases are only circulating around Magaya. Why him? So, let us stop denigrating women and subject these issues to an inquiry,” Musanhu said.
According to Musasa Project, five rape cases against Magaya were reported to them last year.
Gender and Media Connect director Abigail Gamanya chided journalists and police officers for allegedly getting bribes from Magaya to suppress sexual abuse cases.
“Journalists are being bribed to cover up the story, but are we doing justice? We claim to be the watchdog of the society, but are we really playing the role?
We know some of us are on payroll. We should revise our editorial policies and be gender-sensitive,” she said.
But police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said in the case of Charity Dlodlo and Sarah Maruta, there were no records to show that any such charges were brought before the police.
“And what has been disturbing with these accusations is that when the police were ready to pounce, the victims would turn around and say they never made such allegations,” he said in a statement.
“This makes the work of the police difficult, especially that such allegations involve adults. It would have been a different case if minors were involved. For
the justice delivery system to work, we need consistent and reliable witnesses, who will not turn around and say otherwise.”