By Farisai Gonye
Harare – Zimbabwe’s secret service has provided controversial cleric and top government ally Nolbert Kunonga with manpower and other support in his bid to stop a caretaker bishop from taking control of the Harare Anglican church, sources told Zim Online. The sources, who are members of the police, said the spy Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) assigned agents to assist Kunonga, while a state-trained youth militia – known for victimising opposition supporters – was roped in to help him seize control of the church’s Cathedral of St Mary’s and All Saints headquarters. Kunonga – who as Bishop of Harare tried to use the pulpit to defended President Robert Mugabe’s controversial policies – was dismissed by the Anglican synod of Central Africa after he attempted to withdraw the Diocese of Harare from the synod. The synod, the Church’s supreme authority in the region, appointed retired Bishop Sebastian Bakare as caretaker head of the Harare diocese, a move Kunonga is fiercely resisting.
“Kunonga is protected,” said a source, who spoke on condition he was not named. “This is why he has been ignoring court orders and using violence,” added our source. He was referring to Kunonga’s refusal to allow Bakare and his followers to worship in the St Mary’s cathedral despite a High Court order that the two men’s followers be allowed to use the cathedral. Kunonga’s followers, who have been accused of intimidating and beating up Bakare’s followers, two weeks ago, locked up the cathedral doors to prevent Bakare’s followers from entering. This was a violation of a court order but police details who were present did not intervene. When a court deputy sheriff forcibly unlocked the cathedral doors, the police responded by attacking Bakare’s followers forcing them to disperse. The involvement of the CIO, according to our sources, had weakened the hand of police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri who apparently had wanted Kunonga stopped from defying court orders.
However, police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka insisted the police were in control of the situation, adding the law enforcement agency had held meetings with both factions of the Anglican church to urge them to find a peaceful solution to their dispute. “We have been talking to both parties to ensure that they co-habitat peacefully until they solve their internal disputes,” said Mandipaka. Kunonga’s spokesman, Reverend Morris Gwedegwe, denied he was receiving support from the CIO, saying Kunonga did not need political backing or to use violence because he had the full support of the entire diocese. Gwedegwe said: “We have not been violent. We do not need political support to hold on to what clearly belongs to us. The decision to pull out (from synod of central African) was made by the diocese and not by President Mugabe or Kunonga. It was a collective decision.” Kunonga was elected Bishop of Harare in 2001. He has not made secret his sympathy for Mugabe’s government, which handsomely rewarded his support by giving him a farm seized from its former white owner.