18 July 2012

Zimbabwe: Bishop Kunonga Faction Accused of Destroying Mission Schools

A faction of the Anglican Church controlled by excommunicated Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, is being accused of running down several high profile mission schools, which were violently taken over as part of a larger property grab.

The latest drama involves the revered St. Augustine's Mission School in Manicaland, which is now reported to be facing closure two weeks before the official term ends. Officials have said the school faces food shortages caused by a lack of sufficient funds.

But it has become clear that the crisis has more to do with the battle for control of Anglican church properties, which started following a split in the church back in 2007 when Bishop Nolbert Kunonga was ex-communicated.

Reverend Dzavo from the Harare Diocese told SW Radio Africa that the properties seized by Kunonga are not being managed well and most of the church buildings have been turned into private colleges.

"They are also renting some of the properties to other churches which are not Anglican. If you look at some of the major mission schools like St Johns Chikwaka, the standards have gone down. Teachers are being victimised and some have relocated," Reverend Dzavo said.

He added that bills for electricity and water are not being paid and the buildings are not being maintained. According to Reverend Dzavo, kids at one orphanage taken over by Kunonga have complained of hunger.

Bishop Elson Jakazi, who is loyal to Kunonga, has said the fees at St Augustines need to be raised because the current $333 is not enough "considering the needs and challenges the school is facing". He has advocated that fees be raised to $498.

However, parents are said to be resisting the increase, saying they pay enough to maintain the school. Other parents are said to be insisting that the school set up a School Development Committee (SDC), to manage the funds.

A parishioner in Mutare, who chose not to be identified fearing reprisal, said parents at St. Augustine are aware of Kunonga's greed and destruction of the church and have decided to withold funds that support the school.

Bishop Chad Gandiya was officially appointed to run the Harare Diocese by the Church Province of Central Africa. But Kunonga, known as Mugabe's Bishop and with support from ZANU PF, was granted custodianship of Harare Diocese properties by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku last year.

Kunonga has since used that ruling to illegally acquire properties in other provinces, using the police and ZANU PF thugs to intimidate clergy and parishioners loyal to Bishop Gandiya.

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