7 September 2011

Zimbabwe: Anglican Priest Arrested By Police in Highlands

An Anglican priest was arrested by police on Tuesday for allegedly stealing church property worth over $1.5 million, as harassment of Zimbabwean clergy from the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) continues.

Church officials immediately dismissed the arrest of Reverend Julius Zimbudzana, who runs St Mary's Anglican Church in Highlands, and accused the police of taking instructions from the ex-communicated Bishop Nolbert Kunonga.

Reverend Zimbudzana was arrested in the morning and police spent the whole day at his home at the Highlands Anglican Church, claiming that they were searching for the "stolen properties".

Bishop Dr. Chad Gandiya, head of the Harare Diocese of the Church CPCA, described the charges against Zimbudzana as "unfounded, baseless and very strange" and explained that no parish in the diocese owns properties worth that much.

The Bishop told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that Reverend Zimbudzana had been denied bail. "We were told by the police that they have clear instructions not to release him. We don't know from whom," Gandiya added.

The Anglican diocese split with Kunonga back in 2007 after serious differences emerged. Kunonga, who was nicknamed "Mugabe's Bishop" after declaring his loyalty to the ZANU PF leader, started his own Diocese and has since used the police to harass clergy and parishioners who support the CPCA.

Last month Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku of the Supreme Court ruled that all Anglican properties were to be in the custody of Kunonga and six other trustees, until the courts make final judgments in the case. However Kunonga has used the ruling to evict priests illegally, with help from the police.

"Kunonga's people have been going around evicting our priests from their houses without even proper eviction orders. Last week Reverend Jonah Mudowaya was beaten up. Who is there to protect us," a frustrated Bishop Gandiya asked.

In a statement released Wednesday the CPCA said: "The right of worship as enshrined in the country's Constitution has been violated and the CPCA calls on the national political leadership to immediately intervene and put a stop to Kunonga's abuse of the police services."

Bishop Gandiya said lawyers are looking at all possible alternatives and will soon decide how to proceed with the situation.

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