Fired Anglican Bishop of Harare Nolbert Kunonga has reportedly claimed that he is being backed by Zanu PF in his battle to control the church against acting vicar-general Sebastian Bakare. This revelation came amid accusations that Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri and two other senior officers were aiding and abetting Kunonga to block Bakare – who is Harare’s acting bishop – from executing his duties. Kunonga is a known supporter of President Robert Mugabe and the ruling party. In an exclusive interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, Bakare said Kunonga had told parishioners that Zanu PF was in support of his move to cling to church property and to lock out the acting vicar-general’s followers from churches in a bid to bar them from conducting services. Bakare said the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) was forced last week to file an urgent High Court spoliation application after Kunonga despoiled the diocese of various churches in Harare on Sunday, January 13. The Diocese of Harare is a member of the CPCA – a grouping made up of various Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Botswana. High Court judge Justice Rita Makarau granted the spoliation order. However, Kunonga allegedly declined to abide by Makarau’s order last Sunday by refusing to let Bakare conduct a service at the cathedral in the capital. This, Bakare claimed, happened in full view of police officers who “did not bother to arrest Kunonga for contempt of court”.
“We are very curious to know what the police and the High Court are going to do with a person who obviously is saying he is above the law,” Bakare said. “Kunonga had made it known to some members of the church that he is doing all this because he is being supported by Zanu PF.” Bakare claimed that Kunonga was introducing politics in the church after he failed to execute his duties as bishop and was blind to the fact that there were members of opposition parties in the diocese as well as ruling-party supporters. “Kunonga told the world that homosexuality was high in church, but no one accepts homosexuality. This is an issue which is not acceptable in our church,” Bakare said. “Kunonga came up with the issue to draw the support of the president (Robert Mugabe) who has spoken out against the practice.” Bakare, the former bishop of Mutare, hit out at Kunonga and described him as someone who does not recognise the authority of the church or the courts. “The police should have arrested him soon after defying the court order, but I am not sure if there were some orders from above to leave Kunonga alone. I still believe that there is the rule of law in this country. I hope the law will take its course against Kunonga because if it does not it means there is anarchy.” In its High Court application, the CPCA said Chihuri, Senior Assistant Commissioner Fortune Zengeni and Chief Superintendent Ngwerume Zharara despoiled the CPCA of various churches in Harare. Among the churches affected were the Cathedral of St Mary and All Saints, St Luke’s Greendale, St Paul’s Marlborough, St Elizabeth Belvedere, St Francis Glen Norah, St Andrew’s Glen View, and St Stephen’s Zengeza.
Zengeni is the officer commanding Harare province and Zharara is in charge of the capital’s suburban district. In his founding affidavit, Harare Diocese acting secretary Christopher Tapera said each of the churches on January 12 received a letter from Zengeni – the officer commanding Harare province – ordering that no person of the Anglican Church can worship unless they align themselves with Kunonga. Zengeni said he was ordered to write the letter by Chihuri which he later gave to Zharara to forward to the churches. “On the 13th of January 2008 as is explained in the various affidavits from priests and church wardens the first, second and third respondent (Chihuri, Zengeni and Zharara) in apparent assistance to the fourth respondent (Kunonga) interrupted peaceful church service and forcefully evicted various parishioners who were attending those services,” read Tapera’s affidavit. Tapera said it was surprising and “quite disappointing” that Chihuri, Zengeni and Zharara – who have a constitutional obligation to keep peace – should in their efforts to assist Kunonga be at the forefront of disturbing the peace. “This is an urgent application for a spoliation order for the recovery of the applicant (CPCA)’s various churches in Harare in which the applicant was despoiled by the respondents on Sunday the 13th of January 2008,” Tapera’s affidavit read. “In this application, the applicant also seeks not only to protect its congregation’s constitutional right to freedom of worship but also to seek an interdict against the respondents from interfering with applicant and its congregation’s church and related activities.” Justice Rita Makarau granted the CPCA the spoliation order at the weekend.