By Rumbidzai Ngwenya

POLICE yesterday raided three Harare properties, including the home of prominent preacher Walter Magaya.

Authoritative sources told the Daily News last night that a team of detectives, military officers and CIO operatives swooped on Magaya’s residence in Mt Pleasant at the crack of dawn.

Law enforcement agents would only say the raids entailed “investigations on suspicious criminal movements”.

National police spokesperson, Paul Nyathi, confirmed that authorities had indeed raided houses in Mt Pleasant, Sandton and Avondale in Harare.

The Mt Pleasant house belongs to Magaya, the leader of Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries.

It was also later confirmed that police had arrested one suspect and recovered firearms and ammunition during the raids.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police confirms that acting on credible information and ongoing investigations on suspicious criminal movements, police obtained warrants of search and seizure, leading to raids at three premises in Harare today (yesterday),” Nyathi said.

“As a result, one suspect, Ashref Kara, of number 66 Argyle Road, Avondale West, Harare, has been arrested for possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.

“The firearms are listed as follows: one Plainsman Pistol, one Gabilondoy CIA Victoria Pistol with a magazine of four rounds, one Auto Pistol 6.35mm with a magazine of three rounds, one Brevete Autoque Pistol, a CZ magazine with one round, and a pistol holster,” Nyathi added.The suspect, according to police, would face charges of contravening provisions of the Firearms Act.

“These raids were not targeting specific individuals or personalities, but criminal activities based on information given to the police,” Nyathi also said.

“At the Mt Pleasant  residence, we were especially looking for drugs, as we had reports indicating that the occupants of the house could have been involved in drugs.

“We also had the intelligence that the occupants could have been harbouring dangerous criminals. At the other residence in Sandton City, the teams were also looking for drugs and dangerous criminals that were said to have been sheltered there,” a well-placed security sector source told the Daily News. Repeated efforts by the Daily News last night to reach the preacher did not bear fruit, with his lawyer Everson Chatambudza refusing to comment. The raid on Magaya comes as the popular preacher is currently under a Zimbabwe Gender Commission probe — on allegations of sexual abuse. The Supreme Court last year dismissed with costs an appeal by Magaya seeking to nullify a 2019 High Court ruling which authorised the commission’s investigations.

In delivering her judgment, Justice Anne-Marie Gowora ruled that the High Court’s decision should be upheld — as barring the ZGC from conducting the investigations would be a violation of the law.

“The premise of the interdict was that the intended investigation was illegal from several bases, the first being the want of jurisdiction to conduct an investigation and the alleged illegal exercise of that jurisdiction by the commission.

“It was the intention of the appellant to subject the decision to issue the notice to a review process. It is pertinent to point out that for every law that is gazetted, there is a presumption of validity and appropriate legal mechanisms have been put in place in terms of the law where one intends to challenge the validity of a legal instrument,” Justice Gowora ruled. Until it has been set aside, the general notice has the force of law and anything done under it is presumed to be lawful and valid.

“An application for an interdict is not and cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered as one of those mechanisms. In the premises, the appeal is devoid of merit and is dismissed with costs,” she added.Magaya had initially approached the High Court in September 2019, challenging the ZGC’s decision to issue General Notice 1444 which instructed its officers to conduct an investigation into complaints of sexual abuse that had been made against him.

In that application, the PHD leader demanded a review of the ZGC’s decision and argued that the investigation constituted an illegality, as neither the country’s constitution nor the Act afforded the commission the authority to conduct the contemplated investigation. This had seen the commission opposing the application, arguing that it had investigative functions in terms of the constitution and it’s enabling Act.

ZGC also told the court that it had received numerous complaints of alleged sexual abuse against the preacher, which necessitated the issuance of the notice to facilitate the investigations.

The High Court subsequently dismissed Magaya’s application, ruling that the commission — under Section 7 of the Act — had the power to conduct such an investigation and make a report to Parliament on its findings.

Unsatisfied with the outcome at the High Court, it was then that Magaya proceeded to file an appeal at the Supreme Court.

Magaya had grabbed media headlines in July 2019 after an actress accused him of having allegedly raped her.

However, the actress made a surprising U-turn a few days later, this time saying the preacher had never harmed her.

She went on to apologise, saying the allegations that she had made were false — further claiming that she had been used by demons to “distract the work God was doing” through Magaya.

Besides this case, the self-styled prophet had also faced several accusations of sexual abuse — including a claim that he impregnated a 17-year-old girl.