Anglican feud: Government calls in bishops

Giles Mutsekwa

GOVERNMENT on Wednesday took the first steps towards resolving the long-running feud between the Anglican Church factions in Harare by meeting Dr Nolbert Kunonga Archbishop of the Province of Zimbabwe and Bishop Sebastian Bakare of the Province of Central Africa, following violent clashes between parishioners over control of church properties.

Home Affairs Co-Minister Giles Mutsekwa told Parliament yesterday that Government was disturbed by the discord in the Anglican Church.

"The ministry, indeed Government, is worried there is this disagreement. It has involved the police that we are in charge of and the image of the police has been tarnished," he said.

"This morning, I and my colleague (Minister Kembo Mohadi) had a chance to summon Bishop Kunonga and Bishop Bakare to our office. However, we ran into a snag."

Minister Mutsekwa said there were pending cases in the courts that required legal interpretation.

The ministry has referred the matter to the Attorney-General’s Office for interpretation.

"The AG will give us the guideline," he said.

Minister Mutsekwa said they instructed police to refrain from using force against parishioners.

He was responding to a question by Mutare West legislator Shuah Mudiwa on whether his ministry was aware of what was happening in the Anglican Church.

The rival provinces have clashed several times at Harare parishes following Archbishop Kunonga’s withdrawal from the Church of the Province of Central Africa to form the Province of Zimbabwe on January 12 last year, citing the former’s alleged tolerance of homosexuality.

The Central Province then deemed him as having left the Anglican Church and appointed Bishop Bakare, a retired cleric, to head the Harare Diocese in his place.

The province wants Archbishop Kunonga to move out of church property and hand over church assets on the basis that it is the legitimate owner while Archbishop Kunonga counter-asserts that these belong to his original diocese which broke away from the province and was then split into five dioceses to form the Province of Zimbabwe.

In January this year police summoned Archbishop Kunonga and Bishop Bakare over the clashes and warned them that the law would take its course should the skirmishes continue.

But the clashes — which of late have become violent — have continued despite the warning.

On Sunday seven people were arrested in Harare as police fired teargas to quell violence between the rival Anglican parishioners.

Parishioners aligned to the Church of the Province of Zimbabwe led by Archbishop Kunonga and the Harare Diocese of the Church of the Province of Central Africa led by Bishop Bakare clashed in Highfield, Glen View, Budiriro, Kambuzuma, Warren Park, Kuwadzana, Glen Norah and Mufakose.

Some of the parishioners are alleged to have turned hostile against police called to quell the disturbances, leading to arrests.

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