HARARE – Christians in Zimbabwe have ganged up against Zanu PF apologist and ex-communicated Anglican Bishop Nolbert Kunonga as the Supreme Court today begins the long-awaited hearings into the violent takeover of church properties by the fired clergyman.
The Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) recognises another prelate, Chad Gandiya, as bishop of Harare and has for years struggled to regain control of mission schools, orphanages, hospitals grabbed by Kunonga, often with the help of state apparatus such as the police.
Local churches’ mother body, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), says millions of Christians from various denominations are praying that at last, the Supreme Court may put to rest the case and let sanity prevail.
The world also has its focus on the Supreme Court hearings, which are likely to run all week.
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town, South Africa, said during a recent visit: “Zimbabweans should know they are not forgotten by the global church.”
Locally, the ZCC has rallied its 26 member denominations to stand with “persecuted Anglicans” in “their hour of need”.
“As you are aware in the past few years the Anglican Church Dioceses of Harare, Manicaland and Masvingo have been going through some serious challenges commonly referred to as the Anglican Conflict,” reads a letter written by ZCC secretary-general Solomon Zwana.
“The ZCC is calling on all churches, Christians and like-minded individuals and organisations worldwide to stand with the Anglican Church in prayer, fasting and moral support as well as offering any other necessary support.
“Pray especially for Bishops Chad Gandiya (Harare), Godfrey Tawonezvi (Masvingo) and Julius Makoni (Manicaland) as they lead their flock during these anxious moments. The church of God may be troubled but can never be destroyed,” said Zwana.
Kunonga, a fervent supporter of President Robert Mugabe, was excommunicated from the Anglican Church for violence in 2007.
He argues he left the church because he is against gay tendencies in the church and with support from Zanu PF bigwigs and the state machinery, he has held on to most of the properties belonging to the CPCA.
Mugabe is also known for a hard-line anti-gay stance and has described them as “worse than pigs and dogs”.
CPCA leaders say the gay claims are an outrageous fabrication which Kunonga uses to gain credibility for his violent actions.
Kunonga now has control over the main cathedral in central Harare as well as churches, schools hospitals and other church properties following violent takeovers that have left children and priests traumatised.
Most of the property under his control is deteriorating fast, with formerly respected schools such as St Augustine’s in Penhalonga and the girls only Bonda Mission facing closure and student protests over poor food and education quality.
Kunonga argues a Supreme Court judgment by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku last August empowered him to take over all Anglican Church properties across the country.
The Chidyausiku ruling allowed Kunonga to retain control of Anglican properties until a court appeal by the mainstream Anglican Church, which starts today, is resolved.
Head of the Anglican Communion worldwide Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams visited the country in October last year and met Mugabe whom he handed a dossier of human rights violations by Kunonga.
But, as observers noted, then, it was always going to be tough for Mugabe to rein in the man he counts among his “religious” friends.
One of the affected CPCA bishops, Gandiya has described Kunonga as “an excommunicated man who has nothing else to do than focus his attention on destroying what generations of Anglicans built using their own resources.”
Kunonga: Rise and fall
Until September 2007: Kunonga was Bishop of Harare in the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA)
– September 21, 2007: Kunonga writes to CPCA withdrawing himself and the Diocese of Harare from CPCA
– October 16, 2007: CPCA tells Kunonga that CPCA laws (Canons) do not allow the Diocese of Harare to sever its links with the CPCA in this manner
– December 20, 2007: An Extraordinary Episcopal Synod unanimously resolves that Kunonga has ceased to be the Bishop of the Diocese of Harare and his licence is revoked. The meeting appoints Bishop Sebastian Bakare as Interim Bishop of the Diocese of Harare until a new bishop is elected
– January 12, 2008: Kunonga announces the formation of his own church, the Province of Zimbabwe
– May 12, 2008: Kunonga is excommunicated from the Anglican Church, together with his followers
– February 2009: Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) announces they do not recognise Kunonga, and his counterpart Elson Jakazi from Manicaland, as bishops within the Anglican Communion and calls for the full restoration of Anglican property within Zimbabwe to CPCA
– July 26, 2009: Dr Chad Nicholas Gandiya becomes Bishop of Harare. – USPG