From the Zimbabwe Times
HARARE - The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) still provides fallen former
Anglican clergyman and ardent supporter of President Robert Mugabe, Nolbert
Kunonga, with tactical support long after he was ousted following a split in the
church early last year.
A member of the Anglican Church in Harare told The Zimbabwe Times this week
that police officers were still harassing worshippers who chose to remain loyal
to the larger Bakare group.
“The Anglican church members are always harassed by the police who prevent us from using church premises, despite a High Court order allowing us equal access to church facilities until the matter is finalised,” said Elizabeth Chimwe of the Greendale Parish.
“Our group has the support of three quarters of people who were part of
the united Anglican Church but now we have to leave a church with a seating
capacity of about 200 to a group of 38 people just because we have no political
The High Court ruled last year that both the mainstream Bakare group
and the much smaller rebel Kunonga faction should both have access to the church
facilities. For example it was agreed that the Kunonga faction would use the
church facilities for its services from 8 am to 10 am. The Bakare group would
then use the same facilities between 11 am and 1 pm.
Instead, the police have intervened at the time of the change-over and
prevented the Bakare group from using the facilities, it is alleged.
The Bakare group is said to have written to Police Commissioner
Augustine Chihuri to appeal to him to intervene but without success.
There is speculation now that the group is being victimised because
Bakare is profiled by Kunonga as a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
Other sources within the Anglican Church said at one time Bakare was
invited to officiate at St Michaels Anglican Church in Mbare. A truck-load of
riot policemen arrived to disrupt the service. It is alleged the police had been
informed that Bakare was hosting an MDC rally at the church.
Because of the presence of the police at Anglican Church facilities,
the Bakare group is now forced to rent houses or buildings close to church
buildings to hold Sunday service.
The Central Anglican Cathedral in the Harare city centre has become a
no-go area for the Bakare group. Worshippers now congregate in the Les Brown
Swimming Pool complex in the Harare Gardens, behind Crown Plaza Monomatapa
Hotel, for their services.
When Bakare was installed as the new Bishop of Harare the ceremony was
staged at the City Sports Centre because access to the cathedral was blocked.
The police have constantly refused to act on a High Court order granting Bakare
access to the church.
“The same method used to invade the farms is the method used by Kunonga
to invade our cathedral,” said Bakare on the occasion.
“It’s very much politically driven. Political involvement is clear in the way that Kunonga promised to deliver the diocese to Zanu-PF,” said a worshipper aligned to Bakare. “His protection from arrest is telling, even though he is defying High Court orders left and right.” Even a High Court’s deputy sheriff was harassed when he tried to open the doors to the church armed with a High Court order.
High Court judge, Rita Makarau, had ordered Kunonga to give Bakare and
the majority of Anglicans who support him access to all churches in Harare.
In her ruling she said, “The legal fight gives the impression that the
church has lost its focus, and instead of fighting the good fight and seeking
the Kingdom of God first, church members are fighting each other and are seeking
earthly power and control of church assets.”
But Harare’s chief police officer, Fortune Zengeni, sent a letter at
the time to Anglican churches ordering that only priests aligned with Kunonga be
permitted to hold services.
The Anglican Church arguably the second biggest religious denomination
in Zimbabwe after the Roman Catholic Church was split in January last year after
the Bishop of Harare, Kunonga, declared the diocese independent.
Previously the church was part of the Church of the Province of Central
Africa which dismissed Kunonga as bishop following his cessation. But after his
sensational sacking Kunonga refused to relinquish power and control of the
Anglican Church in Zimbabwe before setting up his own structures even though the
majority of the members of the church were against him.
Kunonga was appointed Bishop of Harare in 2001. He went on to use his new position to sing the praises of President Robert Mugabe and purge the church of more than half its trained priests. Kunonga made history when be became one of, if not the only, Anglican priest ever to be hauled before a special ecclesiastical court to answer to charges of inciting violence against Mugabe’s opponents, intimidating critics and misusing church funds.
For his loyalty to Zanu-PF Kunonga was rewarded with a sprawling
commercial farm near Harare which was seized from a white farmer. Kunonga
promptly evicted 40 workers and their families from the property.
Kunonga is a close friend of Didymus Mutasa, the Minister of State for
National Security, Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement. Mutasa also serves as
the Secretary for Administration of Zanu-PF. Also an Anglican, Mutasa was the
rebel clergyman’s classmate in primary school at Faiths Mission outside Rusape.
It was one of the earliest Anglican missions established in Southern Rhodesia.
Mutasa (74) remains the only member of Mugabe’s original inner-circle
still active both in Zanu-PF politics and in government. Observers believe he is
the power behind the fallen Kunonga.