26 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Kunonga Faction Resists Eviction in Some Parishes

Anglican clergy and parishioners who went back to worship in church buildings that had been seized by the former Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, have said for the most part parishes were peaceful but they faced resistance in some areas.

Kunonga's followers are also alleged to have poisoned a mango orchard at St Paul's Church in Chinhoyi, in what is believed to have been an act of revenge against clergy and worshippers in the main Anglican church.

The process of taking back the church buildings went peacefully in most parishes, following last week's Supreme Court ruling ordering Kunonga's faction to return all seized properties to the official Anglican church. The court also acknowledged Bishop Chad Gandiya as the Bishop of Harare.

Peaceful services were held in many parishes, including Avondale, Cranborne, Mabelreign, Mufakose, Budiriro and Norton, where church services were conducted midweek after Kunonga's bishops and priests moved out.

But strong resistance was reported at three of Kunonga's parishes on Friday, including St Philip parish in Tafara and St James parish in Mabvuku, where Reverend Raymond Makiwa is alleged to have threatened to unleash dogs on anyone trying to evict him.

Also resisting are Morris Brown Gwendenge and his wife Portia at St Philips Parish in Guruve. It is believed that Kunonga is directing the resistance from some hiding place and planning violence against the main church, from which he was ex-communicated in 2007.

Precious Shumba, spokesperson for Harare Diocese, told SW Radio Africa that it was Kunonga's son who poisoned the mangos, with unfortunate consequences for himself.

"Kunonga's son Rutendo reportedly sprayed mango trees with some undisclosed poisonous substance and unfortunately for him his son was playing outside picked one of the mangos and consumed it. Immediately he was taken very, very sick to Chinhoyi Hospital," Shumba explained.

He added that the child recovered and is fortunately out danger. But the news was disturbing to many Anglicans, who said they believed the intention had been to poison those who in the main church who opposed Kunonga. Shumba said they had been told that police are dealing the matter.

Shumba said inventories will soon be completed and a total of how much is owed to local authorities and the power company, ZESA, will be known.

He added that those responsible for the unpaid bills will be held accountable. According to Shumba, an average of $3,000 is owed by parishes in urban areas, with those in remote locations owing an average of $1,000.

Regarding the clergy who had left the main church and followed Kunonga after the split, and those who are resisting the supreme Court order, Shumba said the Harare Bishop Chad Gandiya has advised that they are welcome to rejoin the church as ordinary citizens.

"The Bishop said these people have to be forgiven and where possible, re-admitted as ordinary people, starting afresh to be rebaptised, reconfirmed and inducted on Anglican values because they had been lost, physically and spiritually," Shumba said.

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