THE Anglican Diocese of Manicaland has been rocked by divisions after fierce fighting erupted in January over the handling of funds and church administered schools leading to the temporary ex-communication of 40 church officials.
The 40 leaders and congregants mainly from St Agnes Chikanga who have since been restored to their positions had been suspended after complaining about the mishandling of funds raised in 2015 and 2016 to develop St Catherine Girls High School in Rusape.
Of the 40 ex-communicated, 26 of them were arrested and appeared in court charged with inciting violence.
In addition it is said individuals who were handpicked by the diocese leader, Bishop Erick Ruwona to handle finances and administration of schools which include St Catherine Girl’s High went on to borrow funds at a local bank to finish up the developments.
It took a personal visit by Zambian Archbishop, Albert Chama, the Church’s Province of Central Africa (CPCA) leader to resolve the conflict and reinstate the suspended officials to their positions.
Tensions however remain high at the diocese as questions remain over the handling of finances and administration of schools which include St Faith Boy’s High, St Catherine Girl’s High, Bonda Mission and St Mathias Tsonzo among others by the six cherry picked officials.
There have also been complaints that tenders for supplying school items like uniforms have been corruptly awarded to a couple who are congregants of the church as well as part of the six accused of mishandling finances.
Sources close to the matter told The Sunday Mail Religion that Archbishop Chama’s decision was to uphold peace in the Diocese.
However, the priest at St Agnes, Reverend Gilbert Mbona who had also been suspended during the conflicts but has since been reinstated last Wednesday told this publication that the fragile diocese is faced with more serious issues that are threatening to tear them apart.
“Yes I can confirm that the Archbishop was here and he nullified the decision to ex-communicate church members. Everyone is back in church but there are more serious issues that have to be addressed as soon as possible.
“As you are talking to me, I am holding a document with information that all Anglican schools in the diocese are being run by a trustee which comprise of only six people.
“The trustees were appointed by Bishop Erik Ruwona without the knowledge of the church and they are looting church’s resources,” Rev Mbona alleged.
Rev Mbona said St Faith Boys High, St Catherine Girls High, Bonda Mission High and St Mathias Tsonzo among others are seemingly personal properties of the six trustees.
“We are not happy with what is happening in the diocese and it is no longer a secret here that church properties have been hijacked,” he said.
The Anglican Manicaland Diocese Registrer, Mr Ashel Mutungura refuted the claims.
“There are no issues here, everything that we are doing is above board. These people are up to something and it will not deter us from doing what we are supposed to be doing,” said Mr Mutungura displaying Canons of a decision made in 2004 which outlines measures to deal with members who perpetrate violence.
The Canons highlighted that those who do so have to be ex-communicated including anyone else who aligns themselves to the ex-communicated bishop.
Mr Mutungura added that the diocese was now united and everything was going on well.
Confirming the developments, Anglican Council of Zimbabwe (ACZ) chairperson, Bishop Chad Gandiya said he attended a meeting which resolved problems in the diocese three weeks ago.
He however said he was not the right person to comment on the matter.
“The issue was not brought to ACZ. They took it to the Archbishop that is why I am saying I am not qualified to comment,” said Bishop Gandiya.
However, when asked to shed more light on the meeting, Bishop Gandiya said, “Recently Archbishop Chama visited Zimbabwe with the aim of solving the crisis that had erupted in the diocese of Manicaland.
“The Archbishop responded swiftly and we had a closed door meeting which was attended by him, the provincial secretary Rev William Mchombo and Bishop Ruwona.
“The meeting overturned the decision to excommunicate church members and the Archbishop ordered those who had been affected to return to their churches.
“He also ordered the Manicaland Diocese leadership to withdraw all cases that were before the courts,” he said.
Bishop Gandiya said Archbishop Chama’s decision was in line with the church’s Canons which stipulate that no individual, laity; clergy or bishop has powers to ex-communicate anyone from the church.
One of the priests who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation said, on top of hijacking schools, the six were also awarding themselves tenders to supply the church with different items.
“In 2015 the Dioceses of Manicaland hosted a fundraising event for St Catherine Girls High School in Rusape and raised US$89 000 and again borrowed US$350 000 from Agribank for the school construction. But to date, nothing has been done.
“Last year another fundraising event was hosted for St Catherine and US$53 000 was raised but there is sluggish progress.
“These people are misusing the money and the person who was given the tender to supply material at St Catherine is one of the six (name supplied). There is corruption in the church,” said the priest.