19 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Breakaway Anglican Bishop Ordered to Return Seized Church Property

Photo: Facebook
Nolbert Kunonga

The ex-communicated former Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, has lost another round at the Supreme Court in Harare and has been ordered to surrender properties that he seized illegally from the Church Province of Central Africa (the main church).

Judge Yunus Omerjee at the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Kunonga has no right to the church property because he voluntarily left the main Anglican Church. The judge also ruled that Bishop Chad Gandiya is the legitimate Anglican Bishop of Harare in the main church.

Known as Mugabe's bishop, after professing his support for the ZANU PF leader, Kunonga has used the police and thugs from ZANU PF to take over the main Cathedral in Harare, orphanages, mission schools and clinics in other provinces.

Precious Shumba, spokesperson for Bishop Gandiya, told SW Radio Africa that as Anglicans they were "excited" and "very happy" with the judgement, because it was well-articulated and settled disagreements on many issues.

"It clearly state that the departure of Nolbert Kunonga and his friends from the Province of Central Africa was not collective but they acted as individuals with a common purpose and have no right to claim ownership or possession of properties and institutions in the Anglican church," Shumba explained.

Kunonga seized the properties following a judgement in the High Court last year, which gave him temporary custodial rights over properties in Harare only. Parishioners in other provinces were blocked from entering churches and teachers and nurses were evicted from their mission schools and clinics.

Asked if they were concerned about Kunonga using his links with ZANU PF to resist fulfilling the court judgement, Shumba said: "What we are concerned about now is reviving the hopes of thousands of school children who had been starved of food, whose funds were being looted daily and orphans who were being deprived the right to access to medical drugs and other misdeeds.

Kunonga's fortunes started changing recently. Just last month the Supreme Court dismissed five appeals that had been lodged by his faction, as well as two others launched by his Manicaland counterpart and supporter, Bishop Elson Jakazi.

Although the new ruling has been welcomed by Anglicans worldwide, some observers have expressed doubts that it will translate into peaceful transitions on the ground.

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