From the Church of England Newspaper
The end appears nigh for Dr. Nolbert Kunonga and his stranglehold on the Diocese of Harare, sources in Zimbabwe tell The Church of England Newspaper. Kept in power solely through the support of regime, “Mugabe’s bishop” appears to have lost the support of the security services.
On Sunday, Anglicans were able to worship unmolested inside some of their churches for over a year after the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Commissioner Augustine Chihuri publicly withdrew his support for Dr. Kunonga.
Following his split with the Church of the Province of Central Africa in 2007, Dr. Kunonga created the Anglican Church of Zimbabwe. The Province responded by deposing Dr. Kunonga and appointing retired Bishop Sebastian Bakare to the see. Litigation over the control over diocesan properties ensued and last year the Harare High Court issued an order directing Dr. Kunonga and Dr. Bakare to share the use of church facilities pending the outcome of litigation.
Support for Dr. Kunonga is almost non-existent among the lay members of the diocese, and is confined to a handful of family members and clergy supporters. However, he has had the backing of the Mugabe regime, and supported by the security services he has defied the court’s order to share the properties.
Anglicans attempting to worship inside their churches have been met with force, with arrests and beatings at the hands of the police have been reported across the diocese. However, in the wake of last month’s power sharing agreement between President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and the opposition MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, support for Dr. Kunonga appears to have softened in Harare’s corridors of power.
In a letter to his diocesan clergy sent earlier this month, Dr. Bakare reports that Police Commissioner Chihuri has signed an affidavit denying he ordered the ZRP to ignore the high court order. Dr. Bakare has urged his clergy and their congregations to return to their churches, and last Sunday led worship in one parish.
Sources in Zimbabwe tell CEN the security services entered the Sunday service while Dr. Bakare was presiding, but backed away from a confrontation. The Times’ correspondent in Harare reported that when confronted by the riot police—a special shock force used by the regime to quell dissent, Dr. Bakare stated, “If you want to attack me, I am in your hands.”
Confronted with the police commissioner’s affidavit and Dr. Bakare’s stand, the riot police backed down and the service continued.