11 October 2011

Zimbabwe: Anglican Dossier Exposes Kunonga Abuses

Photo: Lambeth Palace
Archbishop Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Church, at a school during his visit to Central Africa. He later urged President Mugabe to end the persecution of the church in Zimbabwe.

The visiting Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, handed over a dossier to Mugabe on Monday detailing abuses suffered by members of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe over the last four years.

The document, signed by bishops in Central Africa, chronicled the seizure of church property including schools, clinics and orphanages, by excommunicated Bishop Nolbert Kunonga and his followers.

Kunonga, who enjoys the support of Robert Mugabe's regime, has been able to use the state machinery of police, war vets and Central Intelligence Operatives (CIO's) to persecute members of the legitimate Anglican Church. The dossier chronicled the "harassment and persecution" of parishioners "at the hands of the police, often in direct contravention of court rulings."

In one example Jessica Mandeya, a parishioner from the Harare Diocese, was murdered on the 18th February. Her body was discovered two days later when friends came to join her to walk to church. The bishops have information 'strongly' suggesting "she was murdered because she belongs to the Diocese of Harare and had received threats to that effect in preceding weeks" to join Kunonga's Church.

Other abuses suffered by parishioners included "false imprisonment, violence, denial of access to churches, schools, clinics and mission stations." In both Harare and Manicaland, property belonging to the church has been taken over by Kunonga and Elson Jakazi (Kunonga's right hand man in Manicaland). This has prevented the church from continuing its work in providing healthcare and education in its communities.

Some of the more prominent educational institutions taken over in Manicaland Province by Kunonga's followers include St David's Bonda, St Faith's, St Augustine's and St Anne's Goto High Schools. Elson Jakazi is interfering with the work at all these schools, while demanding large levies to finance his activities.

On Monday a handful of Kunonga supporters blocked Dr Williams from entering the Anglican Cathedral in Mutare. Williams was able to meet about 5 000 worshippers at the Mutare Show Grounds. Just like in Harare, Kunonga supporters organized an anti-homosexuality demonstration against Williams.

Archbishop Williams also visited St Augustine's Mission School outside Mutare, in the company of Archbishop Albert Chama, Bishops Julius Makoni, Bishop Trevor Mwamba from Botswana and Bishop Gandiya. Again Kunonga's supporters demonstrated against him. The violent mob also blocked Williams from entering the church at St. Augustines.

In the document handed to Mugabe the bishops also asked him to put an end to the ongoing harassment of parishioners by the police. The reality however is that Kunonga has become a pawn used by ZANU PF. Mugabe's party has adopted an election campaign strategy to control churches and their ability to influence congregations.

Mugabe has visited several Apostolic Churches, even dressed in the traditional white robes, while trying to win the support of their millions of followers. In the case of the Anglican Church it's thought Mugabe wants to extend similar control and influence and Kunonga is trying to provide that.

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