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Anglican clergy under siege in Harare: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 19, 2011, p 7. August 23, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Zimbabwe.
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Bishop Chad Gandiya

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Harare writes from Zimbabwe that breakaway bishop Nolbert Kunonga begun evicting Anglican clergy from their homes.

In an Aug 15 email to supporters Bishop Chad Gandiya wrote “all our priests who were still in parish rectories have received stamped latest court judgement delivered by Kunonga’s people and in one incident they were in the company of the police. They told our priests to move out.”

The diocese and the local congregations are “busy finding alternative accommodation” for the evicted clergy, he said, adding “this is not going to be easy at all. It will disrupt their family life and ministry. I have been busy this evening getting in touch with my priests who are affected and encouraging them.”

Dr. Kunonga’s men also went to the province’s seminary “Bishop Gaul college and served the same papers to our principal Friar Joshua. They padlocked the library before they left.”

“I am very concerned about the college because our ordinands are coming back next week for their first semester and we had a full college this year. The college is not a diocese of Harare institution but belongs to all five dioceses and indeed to the province. Our registrar is going to try and bring that to the attention of the authorities later on this morning. I am concerned about our library too. If we lose the books we have that will take us back many years,” he said.

The latest move by Dr. Kunonga comes a week after the Chief Justice of the Zimbabwe Supreme Court handed down an interim order affirming a 2009 lower court decision that “gave the custodianship of the diocesan properties to Dr. Kunonga,” Bishop Gandiya said.

“To our surprise and that of everyone else, thirteen months after his promise to give judgement, the Chief Justice has now reinstated our appeal but upheld [the] Hlatshwayo judgement on the custodianship of the properties,” the bishop wrote on Aug 5.

In July 2009, High Court Justice Ben Hlatshwayo issued an order recognizing Dr. Kunonga as the Bishop of Harare and gave him custody of church properties, effectively overturning an order by Judge Rita Makarau which held the two sides should share the properties pending a final disposition of the dispute.

Justice Hlatshwayo’s order was stayed on March 3, 2010 when Justice Chinembiri Bhunu confirmed Judge Makarau’s earlier opinion.

However, on May 2, 2010 Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba ruled the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) had not followed proper legal procedures in appealing Justice Hlatshwayo’s order.   Justice Malaba wrote the fairness of the underlying ecclesiastical dispute was not at issue. The question before the court was whether the attorneys for the province had filed a proper petition for appeal.

Justice Malaba held the CPCA had not provided a bond for the costs of the appeal within the prescribed time and had failed to ask for a waiver of this requirement. The court had no recourse but to quash the province’s appeal, he said.

In last week’s ruling, the Supreme Court reinstated the province’s appeal, but affirmed in part Justice Hlatshwayo’s order giving control of the property to Dr. Kunonga.

Bishop Gandiya asked whether it was a “coincidence that this judgement is given only about a week after Dr. Kunonga had stated very clearly on national television that he was going to take all church properties?”

Dr Kunonga has been “abusing church members and misusing church properties with the support of some in the Zimbabwe Republic Police and nobody stopped him. We thought that the laws of the land would stop him but now we see the law legitimising his impunity. We have tried to engage various responsible authorities but to no avail.”

Bishop Gandiya added that Dr Kunonga was now “claiming ownership of properties that do not belong to him. This is day light robbery now with the support of the law. We continue to hope for the time when reason will prevail to the glory of God.”

“Please continue to pray for us,” the bishop wrote. “My main concern is the safety of my priests and their families. Pray that our efforts to engage the authorities succeed.”

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