Zimbabwean pastor Walter Magaya convicted over ‘HIV cure’

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A court in Zimbabwe has convicted a popular self-styled prophet of fraud and fined him $700 (£540) for falsely claiming he had a herbal cure for HIV and Aids.

Walter Magaya earlier pleaded guilty to contravening the Medicines Control Act by selling an unapproved drug.

Police arrested him in November, and seized a herbal drug which he said could cure people who had HIV and Aids.

Zimbabwe has the sixth highest HIV prevalence rate in sub-Saharan Africa.

About 1.3 million people were living with HIV, according to UN data compiled in 2016.

The 35-year-old Magaya is among a group of young, brash and flashy religious figures who have emerged during Zimbabwe’s economic crisis, attracting a huge number of followers with promises of miracle healing and miracle money, says the BBC’s Shingai Nyoka in the capital, Harare.

He told his congregation in October that the drug, named aguma, had magical powers to destroy the Aids virus within 14 days, the privately owned New Zimbabwe reported at the time.

“The herb is 100% organic. Why I saw so is because we found out that there are no side effects,” he was quoted as saying.

The government branded his claim as criminal, and police raided his offices.

The charge sheet said that just before the search, Magaya “destroyed some of the exhibits by flushing them in the office toilets and burning containers which were, however, recovered half-burnt”.

“Several aguma sachets and other torn sachets were also recovered in an office bin,” the charge sheet added.

The pastor’s lawyer, Everson Chatambudza, told the court that Magaya believed the drug was authentic but admitted breaching the law by distributing it without the health ministry’s approval, the state-run Herald newspaper reported.

“There was an attempt on part of the accused to comply with the law. Three days before announcement he wrote to the ministry and notified them of the discovery… Unfortunately he did not get any response,” Mr Chatambudza was quoted as saying.

Magaya had also launched a lipstick last year which he claimed could improve blood pressure.

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