A spokesperson for the Archbishop said Williams would be visiting Zimbabwe as part of a wider trip that would take him to Malawi and Zambia. “It is a pastoral visit to show support for the Anglican church there,” she said.
The former Bishop of Harare (Anglican) Nolbert Kunonga, a close ally of Mugabe and friend of Zanu (PF), has seized the cathedral in Harare as well as churches and other valuable property.
He was excommunicated in 2008 after he declared his diocese to be independent of the Anglican Communion.
A recent court decision in Zimbabwe gave custody of Anglican properties to Kunonga who has declared himself the head of his own church.
As a result, about 80 Anglican priests have been ordered to leave their rectories and vicarages which have been seized by Kunonga’s supporters, who claim to represent “the real” Anglican church in the face of the Western church’s liberal attitude towards homosexuality.
Mugabe’s office has not yet decided whether he will meet the archbishop, said a report in The Times ( 27 August, 2011). Ruth Gledhill, the paper’s religious affairs correspondent, said that in Zimbabwe, theological “justifications” have been levelled to sanctify what are in fact land and property grabs.
Chad Gandiya, the Harare bishop for the Anglican province of Central Africa, said Williams was pressing to meet Mugabe over this burning issue.
“At the moment there are parishioners being banned from church buildings by Kunonga with help of the police. They are worshipping in open spaces, under trees or booking other church buildings,” said Gandiya.
Churches taken over by the ‘Kunonga-ites’ include Borrowdale church, the main cathedral in Harare (St Mary’s), Dzivaresekwa Kuwadzana and many other Anglican parishes where police have been seen chasing away worshippers remaining with the true Anglican church.
Kunonga is also in charge of Anglican schools under the diocese despite his ex-communication. The ownership dispute is before the courts.
The Anglican Diocese of Harare has appealed a recent chamber ruling by Zimbabwean Supreme Court Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku giving Kunonga custody of all parish properties. The full bench of the Supreme Court sits as a constitutional court in such matters.
Lawyers for the Anglican diocese filed an appeal last week arguing that Chidyausiku’s ruling is null and void because it contravenes sections of the constitution.
It said Kunonga voluntarily left the church only to return with the support of the Zimbabwean police to eject Anglican parishioners from their longstanding places of worship. Kunonga’s agents have threatened and harassed diocese clergy, and drive many out of church properties.
Neither Kunonga not his spokesperson were available for comment. The Kunonga camp has until 5 September to respond to the Supreme Court appeal. – African Forum News Services (AFNS)Post published in: Opinions & Analysis