HARARE – Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court will next week set down a final appeal by a renegade Anglican bishop who is challenging the dismissal by the High Court of an urgent application to stop evictions from church properties he had unlawfully seized.
Ex-communicated Bishop Nolbert Kunonga’s appeal against High Court Judge George Chiweshe’s dismissal of the church’s urgent application will be heard in the Supreme Court when the new term for the highest court in the land opens on January 14.
Kunonga’s lawyer Jonathan Samkange filed a notice of appeal on December 13 in the Supreme Court against Chiweshe’s dismissal of the Kunonga church’s urgent application.
The Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) has filed its response to the Supreme Court notice of appeal.
Kunonga’s High Court appeal was thrown out by the Judge President on December 10 on the grounds that the breakaway church was bound by the Supreme Court’s decision.
Chiweshe ruled the High Court is not the appropriate forum for that kind of exercise.
He concurred with the CPCA’s argument that the matter was “res judicata” or that when the highest court in the land has ruled on a matter, it is final and cannot be appealed.
In the Supreme Court’s judgment, Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba ordered Kunonga to hand back all church assets because he withdrew membership from the CPCA, thereby relinquishing the right to control CPCA property in the diocese.
“They left it, putting themselves beyond its ecclesiastical jurisdiction,” the judgment by Malaba reads.
That ruling quashed a High Court decision that gave Kunonga control of all church hospitals, orphanages and schools and allowed more than two million evicted Anglicans to return to their parishes to celebrate mass after they were banished to worshiping in parks, private schools and halls.
After the Supreme Court judgment, Kunonga went to the High Court in an attempt to avoid the consequences of the Supreme Court decision, seeking a court order stopping the evictions and another court order stating the Anglican Church property is owned by Kunonga’s new Church of the Province of Zimbabwe and the church was not part of the Supreme Court challenge which was lodged by the Diocesan Trustees for the Diocese of Harare.
This means Kunonga and his fellow former trustees, not his church.
After hearing arguments in the High Court chambers, the judge president on December 10 dismissed the application to stop the evictions with costs.
“The Supreme Court has spoken. I have no jurisdiction to entertain this application,” Justice Chiweshe ruled, dismissing the application to stop the evictions.
That conclusion left the CPCA in possession and control of church property in terms of the Supreme Court’s decision.
But Kunonga’s lawyer Samkange returned to the Supreme Court, seeking the overturning of the High Court decision to throw out the appeal.
Legal experts say Kunonga’s church has no sound legal basis, and the case is likely to fall flat.
In the aftermath of the High Court dismissal, thousands of worshippers last month held their first Eucharist service since they were exiled from churches and missions seized nationwide.
They cleansed the “defiled” church and threw out Kunonga’s chair from the church in the process. – Gift Phiri, Political Writer