Accessibility links

Zimbabwe's Ousted Anglican Bishop Appeals High Court Decision

Nolbert Kunonga, formerly Anglican bishop of Harare has gone to the Harare High Court to appeal a recent ruling which orders him to share Zimbabwe's only Anglican cathedral with a bishop recently appointed to take his place. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA the long-time supporter of President Robert Mugabe has also promoted himself.

Nolbert Kunonga this weekend promoted himself to the position of Archbishop, saying that Zimbabwe now stands alone as a so-called Anglican province. Kunonga was sacked by the Central African Anglican Province early this year after trying to withdraw the church in Zimbabwe from the regional body - he said because of the church's permissive attitude toward homosexuality.

But another church minister, Reverend Christopher Tapera says Kunonga has used the controversy over homosexuality and the church for his own reasons.

"We cannot in any way say to homosexuals your sin is worse than this one; we are not judges, they need our ministry, they need our service and we can't run away from them," said Tapera. "That is [Kunongo's] own scapegoat. To us homosexuality is not an issue at all. He has his own hidden agenda which has nothing to do with us."

Kunonga is no stranger to controversy, which began with his disputed election as Bishop of Harare seven years ago. He soon cleared out from the Anglican Cathedral artifacts and memorials to white Zimbabweans - including those who were killed in action in two world wars.

Two years ago Kunonga was brought to trial accused of plotting the murder of some parishioners and breaking church laws.

The ecclesiastical trial, the first of its kind in Zimbabwe, was abandoned before evidence could be presented.

Since his sacking, Kunonga has refused to leave the cathedral and will not allow his successor, Bishop Sebastian Bakare, into the cathedral. The dispute landed up in the High Court which ordered Kunonga to allow Bishop Bakare to hold Sunday services in the Cathedral - a decision he is appealing.

Bishop Bakare says that he has also appealed the court's decision to share the cathedral as Kunonga is no longer an Anglican bishop and should be evicted. Even if Bishop Bakare wins that case and gains access to the cathedral, he says the church has been defiled because it has been misused.

"It is not a question of just opening the door and worshipping as if nothing happened," Bakare. "This place has been so much misused that we feel humbled, I think we have been disgraced."

Kunongo does not have the acceptance of the wider Anglican community in Zimbabwe - and is unable to call on the support of a single diocese. Each Sunday only a few dozen people turn up to worship inside the cathedral which is always kept locked except at services conducted by priests Kunonga ordained recently.

A far larger number of Anglicans loyal to incoming Bishop Bakare worship on the lawn outside the cathedral each Sunday.

Kunonga openly supports the ruling ZANU-PF and may be the only Christian leader in Zimbabwe to openly encourage Zimbabweans to vote for President Mugabe at elections on March 29.

He has preached that God had raised Mugabe to "acquire white owned farms and distribute them to Zimbabweans," adding this was "democracy of the stomach." He said he was speaking on behalf of all Anglicans and that they see the president as a prophet of God who, in his words, was "sent to deliver the people of Zimbabwe from bondage".

Kunonga, who was given a white-owned farm shortly after he became bishop of Harare, was not available for comment.