What right and authority does Nolbert Kunonga have to claim ownership of the Cathedral of St Mary and All Saints and all the parishes and all the assets in the Anglican Diocese of Harare? The straightforward answer is – he has no right whatsoever. Nolbert Kunonga, the ex-Bishop, of the Anglican Diocese of Harare, (the Diocese) has been excommunicated (banished) from the Anglican Church. Since about September 2007 he has not been recognized as an Anglican nor has he been associated with the Anglican Church since then.
Some months ago he announced that he had appointed himself Archbishop of an “Anglican Province of Zimbabwe” and had selected a few associates, also excommunicated Anglicans, as Bishops subservient to him. He had already unlawfully seized the Cathedral and churches in the Diocese for his own use.
In August 2007 he broke away and deliberately defected from the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA). The CPCA is the ecclesiastical body which controls all the Dioceses throughout Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe – including the Diocese of Harare of which Mr Kunonga was once the Bishop. Like all other Dioceses within the CPCA, the properties in the Diocese (the Cathedral, churches, and other buildings as well as other assets) are owned by the CPCA not by Kunonga. They were acquired with funds raised by Anglicans for the benefit of Anglicans. The occupation and use of the Diocesan offices, churches, houses and other property by Mr Kunonga and his close associates, therefore is a premeditated, irreverent, intentional act amounting at least to invasive and unlawful possession and use of another’s property; trespass; the unlawful preventing of entry to property to its rightful owners and the taking of the fruits of benefice under pretended title which in law is called spoliation.
Although he has been expelled from and is rejected by the Anglican community worldwide and is not permitted to have anything further to do with Anglicanism, Mr Kunonga maintains he is the head of a fictitious Anglican body. He and Harry Rinashe, William Morris Gwedegwe, Claxton Mabhoyi, and Alfred Munyani (apparently described as “bishops” by Mr Kunonga) chose to remove themselves from the Diocese to form this organisation as did Barnabas Machingauta, Secretary to this group. Their so-called “Anglican” church of Zimbabwe simply does not and cannot exist because there are already five Anglican Dioceses which cover the entire country, are part of the CPCA, and are recognized worldwide.
Mr Kunonga and his group are not Anglican shepherds of any Christian flocks. The Bible says that he who climbs into a sheep pen by some other means instead of entering by the gate, comes to steal and plunder. The sheep never follow him. Rather, they keep away from him because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice. By their words, action and habits, Mr Kunonga’s group pretend to be what they are not.
Bishops are told not to embark upon bouts of brawling and not to be quarrelsome or grasping (1 Timothy 2). Yet this small Kunonga circle behave in a disreputable, profane way towards the Diocese. They take no notice of and make a mockery of the law and of Christian values and principles. Since August 2007, allegedly with the support of just a few senior police officials, they have directly or indirectly threatened, assaulted and chased away from church services peace-loving Christians who wish to worship in the house of the Lord – not in the house of Kunonga. His group and assistants allegedly cruise around in cars and by other means to see where church services and other events are being held by Anglican worshippers, and immediately call in riot police and others to disrupt the event and order the innocent people to leave the premises. Some church goers are beaten and arrested in the process. His group call the police to remove Diocesan vehicles from Anglican Priests in the Diocese. The group prevent Anglican congregations from entering the Cathedral of St Mary and All Saints by padlocking all the doors. The group’s agents have demanded from the Diocese “severance packages” for all those (including Mr Kunonga and his “bishops”) who were once priests in the Diocese but who voluntarily decided to resign and support Mr Kunonga. The offices of Bishop Sebastian Bakare, the legitimate Bishop of the Diocese, were padlocked in an attempt to prevent him from attending to his administrative work.
What crime does Mr Kunonga and a few senior police officers allege the Diocese and its parishioners have committed to justify the invasions of churches by riot police and others, the removal of Diocesan vehicles and the forceful barring of Anglicans from worshipping in Anglican Churches? Is this treatment permissible in terms of the Zimbabwean constitution? Is it a crime for a lawfully constituted body to use its own property? Surely, the fundamental right of freedom of worship has not been torn out of the law books.
Mr Kunonga’s emphatic behaviour early on heralded an intention to persecute and abuse the faithful churchgoers (about 98% of the entire Diocese) and deprive them from having access to their usual places of worship on CPCA property. These churchgoers do not admire or accept his conduct. Instead they support wholeheartedly the CPCA, and the lawfully installed and enthroned Bishop of the Diocese, Bishop Sebastian Bakare who has taken over from Kunonga.
Despite his persistent efforts to shut down churches and oppress congregations, the vast majority of parishioners still flock in huge numbers to worship where they can under the leadership of Bishop Bakare. They abhor the intimidatory tactics of the Kunonga group to blockade and keep them away from the Lord’s house. They strongly disapprove of the attempts to make the CPCA churches accessible only to Mr Kunonga so that he, his group and assistants and no others may with unbridled impunity use the possessions and spend the money of the very Diocese they have spurned, turned their back on and left. The law, commonsense and logic all tell us that if you resign or are dismissed from your employment, you cannot turn around and tell your employer that he must leave, because you are not going to depart from the work place and, intend to take over the property of the business and operate the business yourself. However, regardless of the law, Kunonga is endeavouring to do just that.
He and his group have exposed their true colours. Their goal does not seem to place particular emphasis on the propagation of the gospel. Theirs are not the acts expected by faithful, law-abiding, wise and understanding people. Just look at their harsh treatment of parishioners, their apparent self-aggrandisement, materialism and hunger for power, the trail of relentless persecution. Their announcement of their status as Anglican Archbishop and Bishops expresses an illusion, a mirage incapable of fulfilment. Significantly none of them are now recognised by the Church as anything but discredited, excommunicated Anglicans, whatever they may try to portray.
The most salient facts are –
1. Mr Kunonga and his associates have all been excommunicated from the Anglican Church worldwide and are no longer clerics nor Anglicans.
2. Mr Kunonga and his associates have broken all ties with and purposely left the Anglican community to become members of another organisation which has no connection whatsoever with the Diocese or Anglicanism.
3. Consequently, for both the above reasons, they have no right to possess, hold, use, occupy or spend any of the assets of the Diocese as these are owned by the CPCA.
4. The group are trespassers unlawfully attempting to control the assets of their previous employer.
5. Those who have chosen to follow Mr Kunonga and his self-styled “bishops” or to act on their instructions or help them in any way in projecting, causing or supporting violence, intimidation, quarrelsome or grasping behaviour are themselves parties to illegal and in some cases criminal acts.
6. Mr Kunonga and others are responsible for any loss, damage or injury caused to the Diocese and individuals by their acts or omissions since August, 2007 and are liable to recompense the Diocese and affected individuals.
7. It would be a fitting and humane gesture if Mr Kunonga and those supporting him were to withdraw graciously from occupying, using or claiming any right to the assets of or interfering with the Diocese of Harare immediately. Such a move would show there is a sense of righteousness, justice and understanding in their hearts and minds. What is more, it would hopefully lead to an element of forgiveness and restore to them some of the respect in which they were held before they embarked upon an exercise which has damaged their integrity and brought low the reputation of the Church of God.
Deputy Chancellor of the Church of the Province of Central Africa
18th April, 2008.