12 October 2007

Zimbabwe: Anglican Church Moves to Seize Control From Bishop Kunonga

The controversial reign of Harare Bishop Nolbert Kunonga might be coming to an end if the Anglican Church has its way in court. The Church will now seek court intervention to seize control of its assets from Kunonga. This follows his decision to withdraw the diocese from the province over a feud on homosexuality that exploded at a meeting in Malawi. In papers submitted by lawyers the church says it has a well-founded fear that the bishop, 'will fund his new ministry with the Church's resources as he has access to the Church's investments and funds.'

The bishop who has strong links with Zanu PF announced plans to set up a breakaway province drawing on the Anglican community in Zimbabwe. He boasted in an interview in the state owned Herald that he had support from the dioceses of Central Zimbabwe and Manicaland, and expressed surprise that the other 2 dioceses of Matabeleland and Manicaland have refused to support his stance. A parishioner at the Cathedral in Harare however said this was not true. Only a former ex-combatant that Kunonga helped to install as the Bishop in Manicaland has backed his crusade. Within the church Kunonga remains isolated and has been offered state protection from the angry parishioners eager to demonstrate their displeasure at his running of the diocese.

Meanwhile the mother church has banished Kunonga and wants him to hand over church property including 3 vehicles, a Mazda 626, a Toyota Fortuner and a Toyota Hillux single cab. The court application will seek to bar Kunonga from accessing bank accounts and church investments, and from using church property in anyway. Harare law firm Gill Godlonton and Gerrans have been brought in to represent the church, and they will argue that since Kunonga withdrew the diocese from the church he has no right to remain in charge of it's assets. We were told that Kunonga, banking on political support to thwart the legal challenge, described the case as, 'the joke of the century.'

The Harare bishop has for years dominated headlines with his blunt support for violent land grabs that saw him receive a farm from government as a 'thank you' gesture. He has faced allegations of using state security agents to harass, intimidate and even threaten death on those parishioners who opposed his rule. To ensure support for his reign as bishop he has planted his supporters in positions of authority in the different parishes across Harare. Those victim to his threats have meanwhile fled the country fearing for their lives. But his latest decision to withdraw the diocese from the province has backfired and offered a legal route for the church to expel him.

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