Abel Zhakata Mutare Bureau
Manicaland Diocese Anglican Bishop, Eric Ruwona, yesterday appeared in court on fraud charges involving $700 000 which he, together with three other accomplices, allegedly siphoned from church coffers.
Ruwona, who is denying the charges, was granted $15 000 bail and ordered to report once every Friday at Mutare Central Police Station.
Presiding magistrate, Mr Tendai Mahwe, also ordered him not to interfere with State witnesses and to continue residing at Number 1 Oak Road, Murambi.
Mr Tirivanhu Mutyasira prosecuted while Ruwona was initially represented by Messrs Ashel Mutungura and Passmore Nyakureba.
However, Mr Mutungura later recused himself from the case after the State, through the investigating officer Mr Eric Chacha of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), complained that he was conflicted on the grounds that he signed some important documents that resulted in the fraudulent transactions at the church.
Allegations were that the bishop and his three accomplices, who are still at large, hatched a plan to defraud the diocese.
“To achieve their plans and on 26 February 2016, the accused person and his accomplices, fraudulently applied for a loan of US$100 000 from Agribank Mutare branch in the name of the Anglican Diocese of Manicaland Agribank account misrepresenting that they would construct St Catherine’s Girls High School in Rusape and purchase a vehicle for the bishop.
“The accused person and his accomplices committed to Agribank Mutare to taking the loan under a mortgage bond of a certain piece of land situated in Mutare District being Stand Number 78, Mutare Township as collateral security without the knowledge of the standing committee and the church congregants,” said Mr Mutyasira.
He said as a result of the misrepresentation, the loan was approved and the accused persons took the money.
The court heard that the suspect and his accomplices also took a bank overdraft of $250 000 from the church’s Agribank account without the knowledge of the standing committee.
“The accused had no lawful right whatsoever to defraud the church of its money in the manner he did. His conduct caused an actual prejudice of $700 000 and nothing was recovered,” said Mr Mutyasira.
The case goes for trial on January 29.