19 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Anglican Row - D-Day for Kunonga

THE Supreme Court is today scheduled to pass judgment in the dispute over ownership of Anglican Church property in the Harare Diocese. The head of the independent Anglican Province of Zimbabwe, Archbishop Nolbert Kunonga, and the Bishop of Harare in the Church of the Province of Central Africa, Bishop Chad Gandiya, head the two entities in the dispute.

Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba, who presided over the three-judge bench that heard the arguments last month in a consolidated appeal, will deliver the court's judgments on the two cases in which the Church of the Province of Central Africa is seeking to overturn the High Court decision recognising Archbishop Kunonga and six others as the trustees of the diocese of Harare.

The two cases are set to determine the legitimate owner of the property and whether or not Archbishop Kunonga left the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

Justice Malaba is also expected to decide whether the defection or withdrawal by Archbishop Kunonga entitles him to the church property.

Today's ruling is set to end the six-year dispute that had seen the parties flooding the courts.

During the hearing, Advocate Adrian De Bourbon and Adv Thabani Mpofu appeared for the Church of the Province of Central Africa while Mr Tawanda Kanengoni and Mr Charles Nyika represented Archbishop Kunonga and the Diocesan Trustees of the Diocese of Harare.

Adv De Bourbon argued that the Province of Zimbabwe's actions amounted to schism and that they were not entitled to any property.

He argued that the property belonged to the Church of the Province of Central Africa and that Archbishop Kunonga and his Province should just leave the property to the parent church.

Adv De Bourbon said Archbishop Kunonga, through a letter dated September 21 2010, resigned from the Church of the Province of Central Africa and the church accepted the resignation through another letter on November 16.

He said Archbishop Kunonga and his followers created a rival province called the Church of the Province of Zimbabwe that ran parallel with the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

Arguing for the Archbishop Kunonga group, Mr Kanengoni claimed his faction was still part of the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

Mr Kanengoni said the only dispute was determining who should be declared the church's bishop for the diocese of Harare.

Mr Kanengoni said his client's resignation was not provided for in the church's rules and canons and that it should be declared null and void.

He argued that for one to resign from the church, an inquiry should be made before the resignation is approved.

On the hearing date, Justice Malaba struck off five appeals by Archbishop Kunonga's church group and one by Bishop Elson Jakazi of Mutare.

The cases that were thrown out include the one in which Archbishop Kunonga was contesting an earlier decision by the then Judge President Rita Makarau compelling the two groups to take turns to worship in the church premises.

Another appeal was the one in which Bishop Kunonga was contesting the dismissal of his application for control of the property by High Court judge Justice Charles Hungwe.

The third case involved an appeal by Bishop Elson Madoda Jakazi of Manicaland Diocese seeking to contest the dismissal of his application for control over assets of the church in Manicaland by Justice Chinembiri Bhunu.

The Kunonga group was also appealing against the decision by Justice Susan Mavangira allowing an application for stay of execution of Justice Ben Hlatshwayo's order by the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

They also lost another bid to quash the decision by Justice Antonia Guvava allowing the Church of the Province of Central Africa leave to execute Justice Makarau's judgment.

The notices of appeal filed in the five cases were defective and the matters had different defects that prompted the Supreme Court to strike them off the court roll.

However, The Herald understands that Bishop Jakazi has filed an application for condonation at the Supreme Court seeking reinstatement of the lost appeal.

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