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Harare eviction order appealed: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 2, 2011 September 7, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Zimbabwe.
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Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Diocese of Harare has appealed the ruling by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku that gives breakaway bishop Dr Nolbert Kunonga custody of all of its church properties.

The 4 August order has also unleashed a new campaign of violence, with one priest reported as having been badly beaten by supporters of Dr Kunonga when they attempted to eject him from his vicarage.

On 4 August, Chief Justice Chidyausiku handed down an order in chambers permitting the Diocese of Harare to maintain its lawsuit against Dr Kunonga and to defend its ownership of its churches. However, the judge also ordered that pending a final ruling custody of the buildings would remain with Dr Kunonga’s faction.

“For the avoidance of doubt,” a lower court judgment that awarded custody to Dr Kunonga “will not be suspended by the noting of an appeal against it,” Chief Justice Chidyausiku held.

While the order was intended to preserve the status quo, where the Diocese’s churches were held by Dr Kunonga, the ruling has been used to evict Anglican clergy from their vicarages — which had so far remained under the control of the Anglican diocese.

In a 24 August email to supporters Harare Bishop Chad Gandiya, reported that Dr Kunonga’s henchmen were using force to evict clergy from their livings. “I have just spoken with our priest at St Matthew’s Church in Chinhoyi a few minutes ago who informed me that he had just come from hospital where he was attended to by a doctor on duty because of beatings in the head he received early this evening from Kunonga’s priest and a thug,” the Bishop wrote.

The Rev Jonah Mudowaya was beaten after he “refused to vacate the church house. He has made a report of the incident to the Chinhoyi police. This is an alarming development taking place because of the latest interim judgment given by the Chief Justice.”

“Elsewhere in places like Highfield, Kunonga’s priests broke into church houses. In other places they have gone in the company of the police in order to intimidate our priests into vacating the houses but our priests have insisted on them producing court eviction orders and the presence of messengers of Court and thankfully the police have not forced the evictions,” Bishop Gandiya said.

On 24 August lawyers for the Diocese filed an appeal with the Zimbabwe Supreme Court asking for an en banc review of the chief justice’s order.

In their appeal, the diocesan lawyers argued that the chief justice’s ruling that the “noting of the appeal should not suspend the operation of the order” violated the rules of judicial procedure set down in Section 18 of the Zimbabwean constitution. They asked the full court to mark the order “null and void” and to preserve the status quo pending a final resolution of the dispute.

Dr Kunonga did not respond to emails asking for his view of the proceedings. However, Bishop Gandiya told CEN “we continue to cry out for justice. Please pray with us during these very difficult times in the history of our diocese.”

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