Battle continues in Manicaland

From The Manica Post

Anglican Church saga turns ugly
By Cletus Mushanawani

THE battle to control the Anglican Church in Manicaland turned bloody on Sunday with a priest stationed at St Agnes Church in Chikanga, Reverend Basil Matikiti, being severely assaulted by thugs believed to have been hired by a rival faction.

Police confirmed the violence and said nine people from among those who were believed to have been bused from Bonda, Chirarwe in Chief Mutasa's area, Zimunya as well Dewedzo in Makoni were arrested in connection with the violence and were released on summons.The two factions are battling to gain control of the church's properties, mainly churches. The issue is pending in court, but this has not stopped the two now-bitter rivals from slugging it out openly.

Manicaland provincial police spokesman, Inspector Brian Makomeke, said: "Rev Matikiti from the Bishop Jakazi faction, who is staying at St Agnes Church in Chikanga high-density suburb, was assaulted by a mob at the church on Sunday. The incident happened at about 7am when a group of about 100 people drawn from Bonda Mission, Zimunya and Sakubva, who were being led by Rev Chawarika, went to the church wanting to have a church service there.

A misunderstanding ensued between the two factions, resulting in Rev Matikiti being assaulted. Rev Matikiti sustained swollen eyes. His reverend's collar and shirt were torn to pieces. His wife, Mrs Delight Matikiti (33), was also assaulted when she tried to stop the mob from assaulting her husband. She also sustained a swollen right eye.

"Nine people were arrested in connection with the violence and were charged with public violence. I do not have their names right now, but I understand that they were released on summons."

Insp Makomeke said the police, through the officer commanding Mutare Urban District, Chief Superintendent Mbeko Kunene, were trying to find a lasting solution to the feud.

Chief Supt Kunene said they had managed to pick up possible leads that would lead to more arrests of the culprits, who were involved in the Sunday incident."Some of the suspects have since been identified and we hope that more arrests will be made in the next few days. We want to ensure that normalcy returns to the church," he said.

On allegations that the police were partial in their handling of the matter, the officer commanding crime in Manicaland, Assistant Commissioner Charles Chagonda said the police were doing their best to ensure that peace prevailed in the church and were not taking sides in the feud.

"What you should understand is that there are accusations and counter-accusations between the two factions. We cannot just rush to arrest someone without enough evidence because that person will be expected to appear before the courts. The courts will only prosecute a person when there are reasonable suspicions that a person would have committed an offence. If the victims have the actual names of their assailants, they should not hesitate to approach their nearest police station. We are aware of cases that have happened at Bonda Mission and Rusape and they are before the courts. Remember that the courts are under the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, while us, we are under the Ministry of Home Affairs and we cannot tell them how to execute their duties.

"People should also know that only individuals are arrested and not factions. I believe in justice and if anyone has the evidence that the police are being corrupt, they should approach us with the necessary evidence," he said.

The feud over the control of the Anglican Church in Manicaland pits Bishop Elson Jakazi against Bishop Peter Hatendi and has been raging since last year when the latter was enthroned as a caretaker bishop of the diocese by the dean of the Church of Central Africa, Bishop Albert Chama of Zambia.

This followed events of September 23, 2007, when Bishop Jakazi wrote to the then Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Central Africa, Dr Bernard Amos Malango, notifying of the diocese's withdrawal from the Central Africa with effect from September 21, 2007. The decision to withdraw from the province came after the Diocese of Manicaland refused to acknowledge gay bishops in the church.

The province of Central Africa was not clear on its position regarding the issue of gay bishops in the church, with some sections of the church saying the province was in support of the gay bishops because of the money they were receiving from Western countries in favour of the appointment of gays as bishops.

However, on October 31, 2007, Bishop Jakazi retracted the withdrawal after consulting with the Diocesan Registrar of Manicaland, Mr Peter Makombe, a decision which the province of Central Africa refused to accept.

Bishop Jakazi has since defiantly clung on to the post, claiming to be the bona fide bishop, while the rival faction has refused to acknowledge him as such, swearing their allegiance to Bishop Hatendi as the legitimate bishop.

The rivalry has been intensifying with each passing day with violent clashes now common in the church. In an interview at St Agnes Church on Wednesday morning, Rev Matikiti, who is recuperating at home, was at a loss for words to describe the incident, which he said was barbaric.

He said: "It was around 7am and I was preparing for a service at the church since our bishop, Bishop Jakazi, was to attend when my wife came and told me that a concerned church member had come to inform her that she had noticed a number of people gathered at the home of a member from the rival faction (name supplied). I instructed her to lock the gates since we did not want any noise at the church. At that moment, a truck belonging to one of the prominent persons in the faction (name supplied) came loaded with people and they forcibly opened the locked gate. I was in the church at that moment when the group stormed the church. All hell broke loose with the hired people taking turns to assault me. I tried to defend myself with a bench, but I was overpowered.

"The group tried to remove the bishop's chair from the altar and I rushed to the altar to stop them. They continued assaulting me at the altar and I told them that I was prepared to die at the altar. The thugs grabbed me and carried me outside the church where they continued to assault me."

The Manica Post has a list of some of the people implicated in the assault of Rev Matikiti.

He said at one time, he managed to break away from his assailants and rushed back into the church where they followed and dragged him outside and continued assaulting him."They carried me outside the church premises where they continued with their assault. Some of them were kicking me in the head. They also turned their anger on my wife who was trying to stop them from assaulting me. I was bleeding from the nose when Bishop Jakazi's car came. I jumped into the car and one of the thugs tried to grab the car keys, but failed. We managed to drive off and proceeded to Mutare Central Police Station where we made a report. We drove back to the church in the company of the police and the presence of the police forced my assailants to speed off," he said.

Rev Matikiti said he was now living in fear as he had received a threatening call later that night.

Approached for a comment, a bitter Bishop Jakazi said the issue was now bigger than what most people perceived.

"This is no longer anything to do with the church. To say the least, this is Satanism at its worst. It is a shame that people are no longer respecting the church. I know that there is money at play, but can we forsake our Christian values for the love of money?

"Our rivals are no longer preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, but the anti-Jakazi gospel. They should know that I am the legitimate bishop of the Diocese of Manicaland and all what they are using are guerrilla warfare tactics, which will not yield anything. I was elected by two-thirds of the electoral college, which is made up of 12 members from the Diocese of Manicaland and nine members from the Province of Central Africa. We said we do not want dirty money from homosexuals and that is why they are now crucifying us," he said.

Bishop Jakazi said the issue of the church property was still pending in the courts and that they had attended a pre-trial at the High Court in Harare last Tuesday.

"I do not know why they are pushing for us to share our churches with them when the issue is still pending in the courts. They should allow the law to take its course."

The Manica Post managed to trek Bishop Hatendi at his Yeovil home where he has just moved in and he narrated the events leading to the current problems rocking the church.

He said he was called from retirement to be the caretaker bishop of the Diocese of Manicaland until a new bishop was elected to replace Bishop Jakazi.

"Firstly you should know that I don't lead a faction. I am the rightful bishop of Manicaland who is recognised by the Church of the Province of Central Africa. I had retired in 1995 and I was only appointed on 16 May last year to call all pastoral and administrative work in the Diocese of Manicaland in the Church of the Province of Central Africa until a new bishop is elected. The problems in the church are stemming from the fact that the Jakazi faction are holding on to the church's property following their pulling out from the Province of Central Africa. My members are just claiming their property back," he said.

When pressed to shade more light on accusations that members from his faction were fanning violence, Bishop Hatendi said:

"As a grandfather or father I don't know everything that my children and grandchildren will be doing. If they are doing that I condemn violence and urge them to stop. I am here in Manicaland to bring order to the church and I am not a violent person. I am a grown up person and I no longer have any strength to fight. I cannot start fighting people now, something which I failed to do when I was young.

"My message to my followers is that of peace. Let peace reign until we achieve our goal of retaining our property. We believe we have the right of our property, which belongs to the Church of the Province of Central Africa. That is the right we will continue fighting for in the courts of law and not physically."

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