Police evict Kunonga from offices
Posted: 30 Nov 2012 @ 00:42
POLICE in Harare on Wednesday forcibly evicted Nolbert Kunonga, the excommunicated former Bishop of Harare, from the diocesan offices, after he failed to comply with a court order ( News, 23 November).
The move was not without its drama. The deadline was 4 p.m. on Monday, but, as the hour approached, Kunonga engaged a new lawyer and went to the High Court for an application to stop the eviction.
He was still claiming to be the legitimate Bishop of Harare, despite the Supreme Court judgment of last week, which ruled that the Rt Revd Chad Gandiya was the rightful Bishop, and that all property seized by Kunonga and his followers must be returned, and premises vacated.
Kunonga appeared in the High Court in Harare on Tuesday, claiming to have taken the churches “from the British”, a stance Bishop Gandiya described as “madness” and “totally unnecessary”.
Speaking just minutes after the eviction on Wednesday, he reflected: “It’s a long road to freedom. . . But now Kunonga is no longer located in the main diocesan office, this will send a clear message out to all his clergy, who have been lied to.”
Bishop Gandiya had expected resistance, but had sought, nevertheless, to have the business conducted amicably and quietly.
Kunonga’s followers, however, demanded eviction orders before agreeing to move out. These were being served from last Friday. Congregations began in great jubilation to return to their church buildings on Sunday, and some held midweek services, although the picture is still patchy.
All the buildings, many of which have been violated, misused, or put to secular use, are to be cleansed, beginning with St Mary’s Cathedral on 16 December. The cathedral stands opposite Africa Unity Square, where Anglicans are expected to gather in huge numbers for a thanksgiving, before as many as can be accommodated process into the building for its rededication.
Bishop Gandiya said that his churches now had an unexpected problem as a result of the adversity that they had endured. “Many of our congregations have grown so much that they no longer fit into the buildings. That’s a cause of great jubilation,” he said.
But the diocese of Harare faces huge financial problems as it reclaims the properties. Kunonga’s occupiers have not been paying bills, and large amounts of money are owed to local authorities and to energy companies. In just one parish, Glen View, the outstanding energy bill is reported to be in the region of $12,000.
Is this the end of persecution of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe by deposed Bishop Kunonga and his supporters? Time alone will tell. However, the latest news reveals that a recent High Court Judgement in Harare has ordered the return of all property to the rightful owners – led by bishop Chad Gandiya – who replaced the excommunicated Kunonga after he was deposed by a Church Court following his schismatic breakaway from the official Anglican Communion Church of Zimbabwe.
Despite a visit to the President of Zimbabwe by Archbishop Dr.Rowan Williams and South African Archbishop Dr.Thabo Makgoba – which secured a promise from President Robert Mugabe (who is a personal friend and supporter of ex-Bishop Kunonga) that there would be no interference from the Zimbabwe Government in what he described as an ‘Anglican Church matter’ – Kunonga has succeeded, by virtue of the support of the President, in holding on to properties of the Church, which he has claimed as his, by right – as claiming to be the ‘rightful’ Bishop of Harare.
In the meantime, public pressure, both from within and outside of Zimbabwe, has been brought to bear on the Government, and on Wednesday 28th November the news came of Kunonga’s eviction from the Diocesan Offices in Harare – presumably as an earnest from the President, the Police, and the Government of Zimbabwe of their intention to discontinue the policy of harassment against Bishop Gandiya and those in the Diocese of Harare who are loyal to him, and will comply with the latest direction of the High Court.
One can only hope and pray that this will lead to the end of Kunonga’s despotic treatment of loyalist Anglicans in Harare, and that he will no longer be able to rely on the patronage of President Mugabe to alienate the property of the Church.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand