MUTARE– Anglican diocese of Manicaland top cleric was on Tuesday arrested by a special crack unit of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, for allegedly defrauding the church of thousands of dollars.
By Donald Nyarota
Archbishop Eric Ruwona allegedly defrauded the Manicaland diocese of US$700 000, after he converted to personal use three loans from Agribank which had been granted under false pretexts.
The ZACC crack unit was working on tips from a group of called Concerned Anglicans, which tipped them of the possible graft, led by former Finance chairman of the Diocese Standing Committee member Joseph Jambo who is the complainant.
Ruwona on Wednesday appeared before Mutare Magistrate Tendai Mahwe, in the special anticorruption court, facing charges of fraud as defined in Section 136 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act.
In his outline for the state, Mutare District Public Prosecutor Tirivanhu Mutyasira, said the accused on three occasions withdrew funds from Agribank and converted the money to personal use.
The loans, were mortgaged against property of the church as collateral, also included money for the purchase of the accused personal vehicle, which Bishop Ruwona together with other co accused converted to personal use.
Ruwona, acting with others, allegedly applied for a US$100,000 loan from Agribank in December 2016 claiming the money would be used for the construction of St Catherine’s Girls High School in Rusape and acquire a vehicle for his use.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) says Ruwona used a piece of land belonging to the church as collateral to obtain the loan without official authorization, while the money was not used for its intended purpose.
Ruwona will face a second count of fraud after he allegedly went back to the same bank in the same year for a second loan of US$350,000 which was approved.
The bishop is also accused of then withdrawing US$250,000 in February 2016 in connivance with others who are still at large, without the knowledge of the church’s standing committee and congregants.
Court proceedings on the bail application are still ongoing after a sideshow derailed proceedings as the ZACC Investigating Officer refused to answer question from the lead defense counsel Ashley Mutungura saying the lawyer was conflicted.
The ZACC arresting officer alleged that amongst some of the documents provided as evidence, Mutungura is one of the signatories, and also holds a post in the Manicaland Diocese of Anglican leaving him conflicted.
The court adjourned proceedings to allow for the defense counsel to deliberate on the matter, with Mutungura deferring the matter to Passmore Nyakureba, but continued giving counsel leading to the magistrate summoning the defense and prosecution to his chambers.
Bail hearings will continue as the court considers grounds of the prosecution to ‘vehemently’ oppose against bail of the accused over fears that he will interfere with witnesses, and was likely to abscond trial.