Ex-bishop must return property

Time of article published Nov 20, 2012

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Peta Thornycroft

Independent Foreign Service

RENEGADE Anglican bishop Norbert Kunonga was ordered by Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court yesterday to hand back all the Anglican properties he seized more than six years ago.

Deputy Chief Justice Luka Malaba told Kunonga that he had no right to continue to occupy Anglican cathedrals, shrines, mission schools, churches, clinics and orphanages.

He said Kunonga was not a member of the church which owned the properties.

Kunonga, who very vocally supports President Robert Mugabe, calling him a “Prophet of God”, was excommunicated by the Anglican Province of Central Africa, under which the Zimbabwean church falls, in 2007.

Kunonga had told the courts that he formed a new anti-gay Anglican community in Zimbabwe.

Few turned up for his services and police chased the real Anglicans away from their churches.

Since Kunonga's invasions of their churches, most of Zimbabwe’s Anglicans have worshipped in the streets, in bars, at a race course, in halls, and in garages – anywhere except in their churches which were kept locked by Kunonga's employees, some of whom claimed to be ordained priests.

Kunonga swore Mugabe into office in June 2008 after the first round winner, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out of the run-off after hundreds of his supporters were killed. Mugabe won a one-contestant ballot.

In previous years, Mugabe was usually sworn into office by Catholic clergy, but none chose to officiate at the brief ceremony in 2008 which was also ignored by the region.

Kunonga said he did not want to comment on the court order against him yesterday as he was “consulting with our lawyers”.

The then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, visited Zimbabwe last year when he met Mugabe and asked him to stop the repression against Anglicans.

Harare’s Anglican Bishop Chad Ghandiya, who has never been able to preach from St Mary’s Cathedral, in central Harare, said yesterday: “For six years we have waited. I am busy right this minute communicating with the Archbishop of Canterbury to tell him our news. This is a joyful day.”

He said congregants continued to ask who gave the orders for Kunonga to take Anglican property, or for police to chase worshippers away from their churches.

“We will have to renovate our churches and we will give time for Kunonga and his people to move out.

“We will hold our first services as a united community in Harare in the gardens of Africa Unity Square, next to the cathedral, in about three weeks because we do not want any conflict. We will listen to advice from our lawyers.

“We want to move along from this now.”

Kunongo has rented out many of the Anglican properties in Harare, especially the parish priests’ houses alongside locked suburban churches, as is the 10-storey building owned by Anglicans in central Harare.

The hall attached to St Mary’s Cathedral has been a great earner for Kunonga as it hosts weddings every week as well as other events.

Many schools financed by the world-wide Anglican community in Zimbabwe and which produced so many top scholars, are now dishevelled and many teachers are unpaid.

Adrian de Bourbon, advocate for Bishop Ghandiya, cautioned yesterday: “It may take a while and a few more court orders for the properties to be returned, but we hope sense will prevail.”

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