From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Africa University officials stress school's independence
Fri, 17 Sep 2004 17:24:49 -0500
Africa University officials stress school's independence
Sep. 17, 2004 News media contact: Linda Green * (615) 7425470*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Africa University does not fatten the wallets of
Zimbabwe's leaders in order to operate independently, said the school's
Members of the Africa University Development Committee emphasized that point
in response to a letter to the editor that appeared in the Sept. 1 issue of
the UMConnection, the newspaper of Baltimore-Washington Annual (regional)
Conference. The letter sparked an e-mail discussion across the United States
about the university and dominated conversation at the committee's fall
The letter, written by retired U.S. Navy Capt. Larry Lutz, asked if the
United Methodist-related university used donations from church members to pay
off Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his staff in exchange for
operating without government interference.
Lutz asked how Africa University, a Christian school, has been able to
survive in a country "run by thugs and criminals" when other entities across
Zimbabwe face intimidation.
The Rev. Jerome King Del Pino, top executive of the United Methodist Board of
Higher Education and Ministry, and James Salley, the university's associate
vice president of institutional advancement, both said the school is one of
the most audited entities in the United Methodist Church, and there is no way
it could pay off anyone.
"Africa University is one of the most controlled institutions, financially,
in the denomination," Del Pino said. "The auditing process of the university
is far more rigorous than any local church in the denomination in the United
"It would be impossible for the university to pay off somebody and people not
know it. Every dime that you give can be accounted for," Salley said.
Providing a Zimbabwean perspective was Grace Muradzikwa, a member of the
Africa University Board of Directors and the chief executive officer of the
one of the largest property and casualty insurance companies in her country.
Although the country is plagued with hyperinflation, she attributed Africa
University's success to "its staying away from politics and focusing on its
The "university is safe, and the students remain safe," Muradzikwa said. One
reason is the distance between the Mutare-based school and the capital city,
Harare. "The locale of Africa University is ideal," she said. "It is remote
and removed from the bustle of Harare."
In his letter, Lutz referred to a teachers' union representative being
arrested at the school after addressing students without police clearance-a
statement that university officials and other committee members deny. No
grounds exist for that claim, they said.
"I was on campus every day, and there is no way that I would not have heard
about an arrest," said Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, a fixture at the university
before his Aug. 20 election as the new United Methodist bishop of Zimbabwe.
The development committee and Africa University will formally respond to Lutz
and send the UMConnection a letter to the editor.
During a Sept. 10 banquet celebrating the contributions people have made to
the "school of dreams," Nhiwatiwa spoke about the university's impact on the
continent and described the 12-year-old institution as a living legacy.
Africa University will remain "the greatest undertaking of all times (that)
the United Methodist Church has implemented on the African continent," he
said. Increased awareness is needed, he said, so that the entire church knows
of the great thing it has developed.
The bishop echoed a report by Salley who determined that while the university
remains "one of the most energizing ministries" of the denomination, he said
it also is "still one of the best-kept secrets in local churches of the
connection." He told the development committee that one of its goals is to
assist in making the university known to at least one million United
Methodists during the quadrennium.
Nhiwatiwa said that Africa University is a "unifying factor" on the continent
through its graduates and has enhanced the global nature of the church.
"Our connectional system is lived at Africa University," he said. "The
university has, through the years, made the church leaders in the central
(regional) conferences more visible for African church members in a way not
The university has provided a forum for people to meet, dismantled language
barriers and developed a new breed of African leaders who take ethics and
Christian values seriously in their professional lives.
In other action, committee members:
7Learned that the university, through its Institute of Peace, Leadership and
Governance, is a potential major player in the campaign by the African Union
to improve the continent's leadership and assist in developing a proposed
Africa Governance Institute.
7Learned that building at the university continues and that the second phase
of the Jokomo-Yamada Library, a communications center, has been completed.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has provided funds to furnish
the library's new communications center.
7Learned that Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe's first lady, donated 25 computers to
the university in August, saying she was investing in the community from
which she came.
7Applauded the university's first female dean, Thoko Chitepo, in the faculty
of humanities and social sciences.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or
United Methodist News Service
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