Friday, 11 December 2020

CORRUPT ANGLICAN PRIEST ARRESTED

THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) this week arrested Anglican Diocese of Manicaland bishop — Eric Ruwona — on allegations of corruptly firing a priest who had availed information to the watchdog over a case concerning the theft of a motor vehicle.

Yesterday (Thursday), the cleric was hauled before Mutare provincial magistrate, Mr Rich Ramaboea, facing charges of contravening Section 14(2) (c) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, Chapter 9:16 or alternatively defeating or obstructing the course of justice as defined in Section 184(1)(e) as read with Section 184(b)(2) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23.

He was granted $10 000 bail and told not to interfere with State witnesses. The case goes for trial on December 30. Area public prosecutor, Mr Tirivanhu Mutyasira, said Gilbert Sambona, a priest, was the complainant in the matter.

“Sometime in 2018, ZACC received a report on allegations of theft of trust property against Ruwona and four other accomplices, Samuel Magada, Kuziwa Sagwete, Daniel Nemumba and Ashel Mutungura. The key witness in this case was the complainant, Sambona. During the same year, ZACC investigators come to Mutare to investigate the reported case and recorded a statement from Sambona. The statement covered evidence of how a church vehicle which was in the custody of Sambona was sold by Ruwona and his accomplices,” said Mr Mutyasira.

The court heard that on November 14, 2018, the complainant was subpoenaed to testify at the Mutare Magistrates’ Court against the bishop.

“Soon after testifying against the accused person, the bishop threatened the complainant with termination of his employment. On November 19, 2018, the complainant received a WhatsApp message from a UK registered number stating that he had been fired from the Anglican Diocese of Manicaland and the number had Ruwona’s profile picture and his friends. On December 13, 2018, Sambona received a letter from Ruwona notifying him that his licence as a priest had been revoked in terms of Canon 16(2) of the constitution and Canon of Church of the Province of Central Africa.”

On February 5, 2019, Sambona allegedly wrote a letter to Ruwona objecting to the revocation of his licence.

On March 11, 2019, Sambona’s lawyers wrote a letter to Ruwona formally lodging an objection to the revocation of the complainant’s licence citing that the statement and evidence given by the complainant to the police were not false and the fact that Ruwona was acquitted does not make Sambona statement false.

The same year on November 1, Ruwona allegedly chaired a commission of inquiry to revoke Sambona’s licence, but the complainant did not attend.

Mr Mutyasira said Ruwona ceased paying Sambona’s salary as from 2018 to date and kicked him out of the church accommodation and gave it to another priest.

“The accused person being the bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Manicaland acted in a manner calculated or likely to prejudice the complainant because he had given information to ZACC concerning the theft of a motor vehicle,” said Mr Mutyasira.

The bishop’s lawyer, Mr Passmore Nyakureba of Maunga and Maanda Associates, successfully applied for bail after telling the court that by firing Sambona, his client had acted lawfully according to the Canon dictates of the Anglican Church and the State must not use that episode as interference.

Although the State had initially opposed bail on grounds that the accused person had a propensity to interfere with State witnesses, Mr Mutyasira finally consented to bail. Manica Post


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