A lay view from the Anglican Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe - the forthcoming election of a new bishop.
ANGLICAN-INFORMATION says: Following the terrible ‘Nolbert Kunonga’ era in Zimababwe where renegade former Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga has used the Mugabe state apparatus to intimidate and control the diocese (something which still continues despite political power sharing) the Central African Province is engaged in arranging an election for a successor to caretaker Bishop Sebastian Bakare. The election will take place on 26th April.
Unsurprisingly, it is not a straightforward matter and various parties and interests are competing for influence. We have been asked to publish a very long letter from a parishioner at St Luke’s, Greendale, Harare. It represents one point of view in a complex situation.
This is a time that requires wise and steady leadership on the part of those charged with the conduct of the election in one of the most difficult situations in Africa. It is essential that the election be seen to be fair and properly representative and that the new bishop is able to command the full allegiance and authority that comes from a free democratic election.
We will bring news of the result to you as soon as we receive it.
From: Mafirakurewa Kubvoruno
Parishioner St Luke’s Greendale, Harare
Flagrant ecclesiastical vote rigging in the Diocese of Harare CPCA on the eve of the election of its next Bishop PreambleFollowing its worst experience in its history when the chief shepherd – Nolbert Kunonga tried without success to withdraw the Diocese of Harare CPCA, from the Anglican Communion, Bp. Sebastian Bakare was brought in as a Caretaker Bishop with a specific mandate to set up the structures of the Diocese that had been destroyed.
The mandate was very clear and needed no explanation. This mandate also had a time frame which we hoped would be respected. A lot has happened since he came into that office, including a synod held in 2008. A time has now come for the Diocese of Harare to choose its next shepherd and yet, it appears history is repeating itself.
Reports from those with inside knowledge already reveal that this election will not the choice of the people of the Diocese of Harare but, that of the so called “Search Committee”, [an animal which is not canonical, hence its recommendations do not hold any water].
I will try to put the people of the Diocese of Harare into the picture of what is happening, from the point of view of someone who is a faithful lay member of this Diocese. As I write this email my heart bleeds on the goings on in the Diocese and the Province at large. Where is God in all this? If Bishops show clearly that they are good at rigging elections what should we do as the laity? Where do these people want us to belong, when we have been born in this church and grown up therein?
1. The Fall of Kunonga and the coming of Bakare
The fall of Kunonga needs no comment for it is public knowledge that he fell out of grace and found himself forming his own church – which has bishops and clergy without any following. The province did well quickly to jump in and appoint someone with experience to come to the rescue of the Diocese of Harare CPCA, and protect God’s church from this ravenous lion that had come to it in sheep’s clothing and attacked it from within. The love for power for Kunonga led him into forming his own church and his continued harassment of the Anglican Diocese of Harare is a concern to everyone in the Anglican Communion. We are all aware that this prelate enjoys political support from ZANU PF as such the judgement to decide who owns the Church properties in the Diocese of Harare is expected to take much longer than expected.
2. Persecution of the Anglican Believers
Kunonga’s departure ushered in a protracted persecution of the Anglican members in the Diocese of Harare. This persecution took the form of the historical persecutions protracted under the Roman Emperors. Many clergy and the faithful Christians were beaten, motor vehicle accidents were created for some, and others were put behind bars for what they believed.
At the beginning Bakare seemed to work together with the clergy as such we saw a good rapport in the diocese. However once he settled in his new office and started to enjoy the accolades of the international community, flooding him with prizes for his so called ‘stands for democracy’, we began to see him fall into the power trap and adopting the same style of leadership which Kunonga was known of – dictatorship and autocracy.
One interesting thing was the announcement at the Synod of 2008, that the money which he had received from some dioceses in UK was personal donations to him and his wife as such when they purchase a vehicle which was meant for the Bishop, upon retirement, he would take that vehicle with him. I am not sure if this was the intention of those dioceses that donated this money in the first place. This is exactly what Kunonga was known for – diverting donations meant for the diocese for his personal use. What it means basically is that the next Bishop of Harare will have to fund raise also for his motor vehicle from his friends. Such a thing confused me then and still does today even more now because many other things have happened since then.
In the same vein although accolades were sung for Bakare for being the champion of democracy through fighting Kunonga and his surrogates, the actual fact is that he never tested the beatings of those who persecuted the church, neither did he spend time in jail even a single day. Sadly those people who supported him and were jailed for the truth they stood for, their love for their diocese, and their Church have been removed from their parishes and sent to work in places which are known to be dangerous for political reasons.
Fr. Thomas Madei is a good case in point. Just before Bakare came to Harare, Fr. Thomas was one of those vigilant clergy in the Diocese who withstood kunonga’s shenanigans and opposed him in his face at the risk of their ministry. When he came, Fr. Thomas actually went out of his way to invite Bp Bakare to have an office at Greendale Parish. A thing which was dangerous at that stage and a sign of the zeal and support he had for the new Bishop.
At the same time Fr. Thomas was rector at St Luke’s Greendale Parish, and he suffered immense persecution under the Kunonga people and was jailed for some days, and yet the prize he received for all that was redeployment to Bindura a hot seat for ZANU PF, thugs. Upon his arrival there he was threatened and when he reported this to Bakare, there was no help forthcoming.
As I write this communiqué, Fr. Thomas is back in his rural village Tandi in Rusape – sad thing indeed for a Bishop who promised to hold the diocese together for the short time he was given. As if that was not enough, Bakare fell out with a number of dedicated clergy in the Diocese of Harare who stood with him during this trying time.
These clergy include people such as Fr. Christopher Tapera, who is the Diocesan Secretary. Whereas he was the spokesperson of the diocese during those hot days, when he tried to advise Bakare, all he received was a cold shoulder with Bakare opting instead to align himself with those who sang his song all the time. Fr. Christopher actually warned Bakare at one stage that he should concentrate on holding the Diocese together as opposed to redeploying clergy at a time when he was just left with a few months to leave office. This advice fell on deaf ears. Instead he was told in plain terms that “I am preparing the way for the next Bishop”. One wonders why an outgoing Caretaker Bishop needed to prepare for an incoming Bishop as if that incoming Bishop was so naïve as to fail to work form the diocese into what he considers proper.
We have witnessed some wanton and careless transfer of clergy left right and centre, at the most conspicuous time when children are in the middle of their school terms. I wonder why Bakare did not learn from Kunonga’s mistakes. We have also witnessed how Bishop Bakare has repeatedly done what he used to do from Manicaland – that is poaching clergy from other diocese, even those clergy who were on disciplinary suspension and those whom he considered his colleagues. We have seen the Diocese of Harare being flooded by clergy from Manicaland, and these are the priests who currently are in charge of all the good parishes. Just to name a few, Mandirahwe has replaced Madei at Greendale; Marandu replaced Zimbudzana at Mount Pleasant.
The Diocese of Central Zimbabwe also lost 6 clergy to Harare despite spending so much money to train them, most of these clergy have been supported by their diocese up to University level and upon completion, without serving their sponsoring diocese for even one day, they were taken by Bakare, without realising the damage that he was doing to his fellow bishops. In the same vein the Diocese of Masvingo which is also in a desperate need for clergy lost about four clergy to the Diocese of Harare. It must be known that the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe is not in competition to see which diocese has the best clergy instead the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe should work together. But Bakare deliberately decided to do his own thing and has caused too much strife, not only in Harare but in the whole country.
As if that was not enough, at Bishop Gaul College, a seminary co-owned by the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe, suddenly became Bakare’s baby upon his assumption of power. Decisions of who becomes principal there should actually be made by the Trustees of the College who are the Bishops of the Anglican Church is Zimbabwe. Sadly and in the same footsteps of Kunonga’s leadership style, Bakare took to firing and hiring principals without consulting. We suddenly heard of the removal of Fr. Julius Zimbudzana from being the principal of that college and the unilateral appointment of Fr. Fundira, a person who is in retirement from government, and whose theological educational credentials are questionable. This decision was made unilaterally without any consultation of the other trustees - typical of Kunonga’s style. As if that was not enough, the other diocese found themselves wondering what was happening in Harare as such they have now resorted to finding their own means of training their clergy, a thing which must not happen especially in this country where unity is the buzzing word these days.
It was in the context of all these wrong doings on the part of Bp Bakare that, the Diocesan Synod of 2008, was highjacked to endorse Bakare’s wish to stay at the helm of the Diocese of Harare CPCA, “for another two years” so that he would prepare the way for his choice of the next Bishop of Harare CPCA. To this effect he chose a few of his colleagues to push this suggestion so that it would not sound as if it was out of his love for power, but for it to sound as the diocesan request to have him stay. No one had been consulted in the Diocese about the extension of Bakare’s term of office. It was his desire to remain in office, and get the international attention which he has been getting and prepare the way for his chosen successor. In fact when the current Electoral College was chosen, he is understood to have publicly expressed a view that, this group of men and women would not fool themselves thinking that they will elect the next Bishop of Harare. This was so because the people he wanted to be in that committee were not chosen. How could the sane clergy and laity of the Diocese of Harare choose people who have recently joined the Diocese of Harare from Manicaland most of whom they do not know. It was therefore a shock for Bakare that his desire to get an extension was refused flatly by the Provincial Bishops although he wanted to criticise Bps Ishmael Mukuwanda and Godfrey Tawonezvi as the people who costed him his desired stay in the Diocese of Harare.
In fact according to the Provincial Diary of the Church of the Province of Central Africa 2009, it is on record that after the agreed retirement of Bakare by the end of February, the elections for the next Bishop of Harare were to take place on the 14th March 2009.
The acting Dean of the Province was instructed to communicate this to Harare, but upon his arrival he was welcomed by his long time seminary friend – Fr. Eric Ruwona and whisked to the Diocesan Offices where he, Fr. Eric and Bp Bakare locked each other for some time before meeting the Diocesan Officials and telling them openly that he – [Chama] was changing what the Provincial Bishops had suggested that Bakare should retire by the end of February. He went on to insinuate that he suddenly realised that the Diocese “would be left fatherless”. What a surprise! One would question the motives behind Chama’s actions here and especially that this came out after his meeting with Bakare and Eric his teacher in seminary and his friend respectively. Since his time as Bishop of Manicaland, Bp. Bakare has always taken Fr. Eric as his heir apparent.
It is clear that Bakare wanted to buy time and ensure that he prepares the way for his self-appointed successor as Bishop of Harare. Why the acting Dean of the Province would be allowed to change what other Bishops decided upon as colleagues, and make his own decision if there was transparency in the whole thing leaves much to be desired.
Some of us are not surprised because we have watched Bp Albert Chama’s trend of leadership with great interest and laughter. One thing that had come out very clearly since he took up the office of Dean and became the acting leader of the Province of Central Africa following the retirement of that erstwhile Archbishop Bernard Malango, we have seen the highest levels of cronyism as he has shown clearly that he wants to put his friends into the positions of Bishops in this Province so that when all is set they in turn will vote him Archbishop. This is clear vote rigging par excellence.
Chama should not think that we are not aware of his whims, we are watching carefully how he is flouting the Canons and we are very concerned hence my decision to write this communiqué so as to warn the people of this diocese that Chama and Bakare do not have the good of this diocese at heart. For them this is an opportunity to reward their friends with Bishopric and the electors of the Diocese of Harare should be warned before they cast their vote this coming Sunday.
If the original arrangement according to the Provincial Diary of the CPCA 2009 was followed, then the next Bishop of Harare should have already been confirmed on the 18th April 2009 and Bakare should have retired by the end of June assuming that the new Bishop would have been consecrated in May.
All these plans were put aside because the situation was not yet ready to produce what Bakare and Chama wanted as the next Bishop of Harare. On one hand Bakare knew that the members of the Electoral College in Harare would not vote for his choice of candidate for Bishop of Harare, as such he now undertook to appoint his own using different methods. For instance out of nowhere he decided that he needed to force Canon Nhema into retirement before the election of the next Bishop of Harare, knowing fully well that as a member of the Elective Assembly, who was not likely to vote for his chosen candidate, he would then replace him with his own chosen Alternate – Fr. Ruwona.
We should thank Canon Nhema for standing his ground and refusing to go, because the almighty God had revealed Bakare’s evil intentions to him. With that having failed he now went on to replace three other clergy, by alternates of his own choice a thing that raises questions on the authenticity of the outcome of this election.
People need to be reminded that as similar thing happened in the Diocese of Manicaland, when the previous elections were held after Bakare’s retirement. Bakare and his cohorts tried to replace the primary members of the electoral College of the Diocese of Manicaland and when this was exposed the Archbishop had to intervene and correct the situation. I wonder if the same will be done by Chama who seems to be pursuing an agenda to bring his colleagues in so as to get the top post of Archbishop of the CPCA eventually.
Having said that let me turn to the Electoral process itself. It is only less than three days before the election takes place in Harare and up to this time, Bakare had never officially summoned the elective assembly to prepare them on the procedures of the election of the next Bishop of Harare. Instead he spend his time working with his created grouping called a “search committee”. This animal has no provision in the Canons of the province of central Africa. This is Bakare’s creation. The canons [Canon 6], provides that a bishop shall be chosen by the elective assembly and NOT THE SEARCH COMMITTEE. This elective assembly is made up of 6 clergy and 6 laity of the vacant diocese and 3 Bishops and three clergy and three laity, “chosen after due consultation and consideration and national and geographical factors…”. In total there are 22 members of the Elective Assembly inclusive of the Chairperson. The rigging of this election therefore has to be looked at in this context. The following points should be taken into consideration;
- Bakare has not prepared the Diocese of Harare Electors on what is expected of them on the voting day. Instead he has spent his energy and time on the Search Committee, which is a useless organisation canonically. In fact it should be noted that members of this Search Committee are Bakare’s personal choice as such one should not expect anything against Bakare to come out of that. Bakare has basically told this group the person he wants to succeed him. It is a surprise actually to note that Mr. Bob Stumbles (who is considered highly as someone who has a good experience in church matters) actually acceded to the formation of this animal called “search committee” which has no legal standing, and he also participated in its many meetings.
- Secondly Chama has played his cards very close to his chest in this matter, fearing that the people of Harare will quickly spoil his broth. He has therefore not send any official invitations to the members of the Diocese of Harare Electoral College neither has he communicated the dioceses outside of Harare which were going to participate in the elections until quite recently. If he communicated this information to Bakare, his teacher in Seminary, then Bakare has denied people information so that they get confused and restive and eventually play to his choice of the next Bishop of Harare. Canon 6 of the Canons and Constitutions of the CPCA, clearly states that due consideration and consultation should be done in choosing the diocese that participate in any election from outside the vacant See. This has not been done unfortunately. There is no indication that Chama has consulted any of his fellow Bishops in this matter or is there any sign that geographic considerations have been made. I say this considering the following;
3) The information at hand which has now surfaced is that Chama has single headedly picked up the following Dioceses to participate in this election – Matebeleland, Lusaka and Southern Malawi.
This raises eyebrows to anyone who knows the connection between Chama and the Bishops of these Dioceses’s especially the first two. Chama, Lunga and Njovu were Classmates at Bishop Gaul Theological Seminary. Chama and Tengatenga (Southern Malawi) are also close friends. Given this scenario any reasoning person will realise that this vote is already rigged. There is no way that friends will not help their fellow friends to ascend to positions of authority where they are themselves.
One would question the wisdom of choosing Lunga – Matebeleland to be part of this election, a Bishop who is barely two months in office. He is still having to learn what his new office is about. He is still to hold a synod in his Diocese and yet Chama picks him up to be one of the Diocese’s to participate in this election. If this is not a clear sign of rigging the outcome of this election what else should we call it. We are aware that Njovu was the preacher at Lunga’s consecration again as a friend – now he comes back as a member of the elective Assembly.
There are five Dioceses in Zambia, five in Zimbabwe, one in Botswana and three in Malawi and yet Chama continues to involve Njovu in two successive elections in Zimbabwe. One would ask what “Geographic" consideration was done if any in this case if it’s not all to do with ensuring that the Anglican Church becomes a Church in which friends are at its helm. In short what I am saying here is that the members of the elective assembly from the Diocese of Harare should realise the way in which this election is already manipulated by Bakare and Chama to have a person of their choice to succeed Bakare. If that approach fail they aim to have this election failed so that they can then manipulate the other Bishops to vote for their choice.
Thirdly, if Chama had done his consultation well he would be able to realise that his choice of the Dioceses to participate in this election leaves a lot of questions on the authenticity of the results. It seems Chama is not learning from his experiences of elections in Malawi. Whereas that situation was being brought under control by the able leadership of Bp Mwamba of Botswana, Chama took over and spoiled the whole thing. If he is not careful he will cause more problems in this province - a thing that will spoil his ambitious plans to be the next Archbishop of this Province. By this time he should have learned that Malango is not a good teacher to emulate – a thing which he seems to be doing. He should have learned that the Canons should be followed and ensure that the correct thing is done to avoid problems in the province.
Chama seems to be oblivious of the situation in the Diocese of Harare. This is a Diocese that has gone through a lot of pain and suffering. It is a Diocese that is in need of leadership that surpasses personal ergo, cronyism and nepotism and all the other isms that we know of. The Diocese of Harare should be allowed to choose a leader of its choice, without collusion from Bakare, the “search committee” or Chama.
We have now heard that the “Search Committee” has now provided the Electoral College of the Diocese of Harare, with a fait accompli – that their choice of the next Bishop is Chad Gandiya. This is a clear travesty of the Canons which we have in the province of Central Africa. As far as we are aware, there were several candidates whose names were proposed by the parishes and that was right. The need for these candidates to produce their CV’s was in order, but the removal of some of those names from the list by the so called “search Committee" was unconstitutional. There is nowhere in the Acts where such is stated.
We learn that at the previous meeting held by Bakare at which the so called “search committee” and the Electoral College met last week, in Harare, it was made clear that the Choice of the “Search Committee” was Chad Gandiya. In essence what was being said here was that the Electoral College of the Diocese of Harare was simply expected to rubber stamp what the “Search Committee” has decided.
This should be rejected by all members of the Electoral College because it makes a mockery of their role as mandated to them constitutionally by the Synod of the Diocese of Harare 2008. I repeat that it is the role of the Elective Assembly to elect the next bishop of Harare, after prayerfully considering the needs of the Diocese of Harare and not the needs of the Search Committee, Chama or Bakare. In this regard let me bring out certain facts that the electors need to know on what has happened before in this Diocese of Harare;
a. The Diocese of Harare has always had problems at choosing Bishops. After the retirement of Bp Hatendi, the Elective Assembly failed to choose a Bishop for Harare, again because there were people who tried to impose their choices without considering the needs of the Diocese at that time and also those who tried to manipulate the process. After failing to choose a Bishop, the Bishops of the province chose the late Bishop Clement Shaba of Central Zambia and he turned this down. It was then that the Bishops settled on Bishop Jonathan Siyachitema who accepted the challenge. When Bishop Siyachitema retired, the Diocese went for elections again and this is the election which as we know was stolen by Kunonga.
Because things of God are Holy and those who desire to serve as Bishops should be people who meet the dictates of 1Tim 3: 1-7, and Titus 1: 5-9, Kunonga fell by the wayside because what he wanted was title and not service. Now the time has come to replace him and this is the time when there should be cohesion amongst the electors in Harare, disregarding Bakare’s, Chama’s and the so called ‘search committees’ choices. It is the Elective Assembly including the Electoral College of the Diocese of Harare that has the responsibility of choosing the next Bishop of Harare.
b. It seems there was spread some lies to the “search committee” that all the financial help that the diocese of Harare has received from UK was mobilised by Chad Gandiya a thing which explains why they settled on him. Let me explain, that help came from the concerned faithfuls in England and Chad’s role was simply to send it through. If someone else was in the office where Chad is currently serving – USPG, they would have done the same. So people should not make decisions on wrong premises. If the electors settle for Chad let it be on honest facts. If people want to help the Diocese of Harare they do so, not because of whether or not they know a particular Bishop.
This is the reason why there is need for electors to elect someone who understands the context of the Diocese of Harare as of now, and the country of Zimbabwe at large. I raise these facts so that those in the Elective Assembly, most of whom do not even know the candidates should know what they will be throwing the Diocese into when they cast their votes.
I do not deny that Chad Gandiya is a good person with no criminal record, with a basic knowledge of the Acts of the Diocese of Harare and the Canons of the Province of Central Africa, he is also mentally stable with high educational qualifications which includes tertiary education and a sound spiritual life. However the person needed in Harare also needs to have a sound parish experience as well as a collegial working relationship with this fellow clergy brothers, in a collegial manner and not as the Father of them all who will be domineering and dictating what they should and should not do.
On the other hand disqualifying people chosen by the parishes without giving any reasonable causes as stipulated by the Canons like what we hear was done by Mr. Stumbles that Fr. Lameck Mutete was disqualified because he had not submitted enough documentation, when we know that he did send in his CV, is nothing but a clear sign of trying to sway the vote Chad’s way.
It must be known that the next Bishop of Harare should be someone who understands what the Diocese has gone through and someone who is bold enough to stand to the whims of kunonga because that war is not yet over. It should be someone whose parish and Educational qualification, spiritual maturity and leadership qualities are traceable. This is not the time for a Bishop who is always flying around the globe to attend all sorts of meetings because one has such links. The next Bishop of Harare should be where the flock is, at the time when the flock is being persecuted by kunonga. Such a person must not just earn popularity from the arm chair, but must be someone who will be able to work with every priest in the Diocese.
I have tried to show you all why I feel strongly that the forth-coming election in the Diocese of Harare on Sunday 26th April 2009, is already rigged. My appeal to Bakare as well as the so called “Search Committee” is to allow the spirit of God to lead in this election. Please spare us another kunonga fiasco. We do not want these people who will come in sheep’s clothing simply to adorn themselves in purple and perpetuate further oppression of the already oppressed clergy and faithful believers in the Diocese of Harare.
As a faithful lay member of the Diocese of Harare it really pains me that the Anglican Church which I have always believed to be a place of worship is now being turned into a denomination where cronyism nepotism are used to propel its leaders. We need leaders who are visionary, prayerful, faithful, communicate effectively, with a good track record and experience of successful parish ministry.
We need a leader who is confident, inspirational, empathetic, a gatherer, conscious of the needs of all people and someone who is a prophet a team builder, someone who is not a tribalist, and above all someone who loves his ministry and not money and fame. So to all the people who will read this communiqué please sound this bell to all those who will be electing our next Bishop in Harare this coming Sunday.
Parishioner St Luke’s Greendale, Harare