30 March 2018 | Two Adventist entities, SDA Harare City Centre and the Adventist Church’s East Zimbabwe Conference, stand accused by the government of Zimbabwe of financial crime. Specifically, they are accused of failing to repatriate USD 223,208 and USD 13,408 respectively, funds said to have left the country illegally.
According to The Zimbabwe Mail the names of the Adventist entities were published alongside those of hundreds of other companies and organizations that the relaltively newly-installed President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa claims had illegally transferred cash outside the country during former President Robert Mugabe’s administration.
On December 1, 2017 Mnangagwa announced a three-month amnesty during which entities accused of externalizing funds could return the money that had been transferred out of the country with no questions asked and no charges advanced against them.
He framed the effort to bring back the funds as a fight against corruption and an attempt to improve liquidity in the country.
Mnangagwa’s administration claimed that USD 1.4 billion had illegally left the country. Since the announcement, USD 591.1 million has supposedly returned to the country and USD 826.5 million allegedly remains outside.
Three categories of illegal externalization of funds were identified in the government effort:
Funds externalised through non repatriation of export proceeds.
Funds externalised through payment of goods not received in Zimbabwe.
Funds externalised to foreign banks in cash or under spurious transactions.
The Adventist entities are accused of the second category of financial crime: externalizing funds through payment of goods not received in Zimbabwe. A number of organizations connected to other denominations are also accused of externalizing money this way and failing to return it to the country within the three-month window of grace which closed at the end of February.
Mnangagwa claimed that due to the extent of financial crime, “authorities have no other recourse to cause these entities and individuals to respond, other than to publicise the names of the entities and individuals so that the concerned parties take heed of the importance of good corporate governance and the legal obligations of citizenry and, where necessary to ensure that those responsible for such illicit financial flows are brought to justice.”
It remains unclear what lies in store for the accused Adventist entities now that they have been publicly identified.
According to the Adventist denomination’s Office or Archives, Research and Statistics, the Zimbabwe Union Conference of the denomination has 863,932 members and 2,144 churches. The East Zimbabwe Conference has a membership of 176,071 spread between 450 churches.