CATHOLIC vicar-general for the Harare archdiocese, Fr Kizito Mhembere, is embroiled in controversy in Highfield where he is resident priest for two parishes
Mhembere is heading the archdiocese following the death in April of Archbishop Patrick Chakaipa.
Parishioners at St Marys Old Highfield and New Highfield have accused the clergyman of misappropriating funds.
A group of Catholics from the two parishes plan to submit a petition to the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference on Monday demanding the removal of Mhembere who is already facing a boycott from members at the two parishes.
The parishioners said they had tried to lodge complaints with Chakaipa before he died but were unable to see him.
There were protests at New Highfield last Sundayafter the morningservice when Mhembere announced that he wanted to organise a fundraising project.
“We should firstly know the whereabouts of the money raised from previous fundraising projects,” shouted a parishioner, to a round of applause from the congregation.
The parishioners at both Old Highfield and New Highfield said since Mhembere came to Highfield six years ago, there had not been elections to choose a new leadership. The priest has been handpicking members for executive positions as well as parish councils who play to his whims, they alleged.
In an interview this week, Mhembere admitted that he had never held elections at the parishes. “It’s very difficult to talk about over the phone,” he said.
“It is true that we have not had elections. For some reason, there was no time (to hold the elections). But they will be held soon. I can’t comment on the problems regarding funds or fundraising projects,” said Mhembere.
The parishioners said since Mhembere came to Highfield, there had not been any financial reports issued. They said about $10 million had been raised through fundraising projects in the six years Mhembere has been at the parish.
“We have never seen any financial report,” said a parishioner at Old Highfield.
“All he does is ask for money now and again which he claims he wants for construction, yet he hasn’t constructed anything at all. We believe that about $10 million has been raised through fundraising projects, some of which we hold jointly with New Highfield,” he said.
Joseph Chakabva, a former council chairman at New Highfield said there was no transparency in Mhembere’s leadership and regretted that things were getting out of hand.
“There is no transparency on financial matters,” said Chakabva. “Parishioners are deeply disgruntled.”