- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 17, 2002

Africa University in Zimbabwe, one of the largest U.S. church mission projects on the continent, suffered no setbacks during the violent election that returned Robert Mugabe to power, church officials say.
"We are weathering it very well," James Salley, the university's vice chancellor for development, said in an interview Friday. "We have had no land invasions."
The school, with 871 students from 21 African nations, has an annual budget of about $6 million a year, most of it covered by pledges from its founder, the United Methodist Church in America.
Though Zimbabwe's two-party system and 85 percent literacy rate makes it one of the most stable African nations, Western contributors need constant assurance, Mr. Salley said.
"We spend a lot of time informing people that the university is operating on a daily basis," he said. Contributors wonder "whether or not the investment is safe. What we have to tell them [is] that it's safe."
The school, founded in 1992, offers degrees in religion, agriculture, leadership, education and management, and is viewed by political and church groups as a training ground for Africa's democratic future.
"All of our faculty and staff move freely throughout the country," he said.
Africa University sits on 1,546 acres, some of it agricultural land, that were owned by British Methodists a century ago and donated in 1987 to build the school.
Church leaders, including five United Methodists, were among the Western and African observers who last week said the election was not "universal, transparent, fair or free."
"The university did not take a public position" in the election, said Mr. Salley, speaking from South Carolina. "We have friends on both sides."
He said that church officials have meanwhile "deplored the violence."
In Zimbabwe, United Methodist Bishop Cephas Z. Mukandi told reporters that the church, which has about 100,000 members among a population of 11 milion, plans to work with the Mugabe government.
"We are going to make efforts to talk with our government so we are able to arrive at solutions to the problems facing our country," the bishop said.
Mr. Salley said that the university student body is politically diverse.
Mr. Mugabe's opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, said that voting at polling stations in the capital of Harare, his main political base, were disrupted.
The U.S. State Department has called the election illegitimate and may impose sanctions, while African nations endorsed the results.
Africa University is located in Old Mutare, about 160 miles east of the capital, Harare, near the border with Mozambique. Zimbabwe, once known as Rhodesia, gained independence from British rule in 1980.
"The effect of the elections is that we are challenged more by the economic than the political situation," said Mr. Salley, citing a rise in inflation.
The university's annual solicitations are divided about evenly between scholarship and construction, Mr. Salley said. Next month the school opens a new library paid for by the Agency for International Development, a U.S. government agency.
"We do not get funds from the government of Zimbabwe," Mr. Salley said.
Each United Methodist member in the United States is expected to give 29 cents a year, but that annual $2.5 million usually falls short of operational needs.
Regional churches also donate funds to an endowment, which Mr. Salley hopes one day will make the school financially independent.
"We've already graduated 744 students, and that means a lot of hope for Africa," Mr. Salley said.


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