Kunonga keeps diocesan assets

25 October 2007

by Pat Ashworth

THE crumbling judicial system in Zimbabwe has allowed the discredited Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Nolbert Kunonga, to hold on to the assets of the diocese, including its bank accounts, (News, 19 October). An appeal by the Province of Central Africa against his retention of the money has failed.

A judge ruled on Monday that the matter was “not urgent”, and could take its course. Bishop Kunonga, who, at an illegally constituted diocesan synod meeting on Saturday, announced the withdrawal of his diocese from the province, still has all the money and goods at his disposal. In the view of the Chancellor of the diocese, Robert Stumbles, it could be three months before the case can be brought to court again.

The lack of any available member of the judiciary last Friday and Saturday also meant that the illegal “synod” convened by Bishop Kunonga took place as he had instructed. Documents requesting a court order stopping the meeting taking place had been prepared, to take before a duty judge in chambers. Lawyers took the papers to the registrar of the High Court, but no judge could be found.

In an unprecedented move, the meeting took place in Harare Cathedral, and was preceded by a 40-minute speech by Bishop Kunonga. Reports say that when the meeting was convened, Bishop Kunonga announced that rules no longer applied, and that the canons and constitution did not need to be heeded.

A loosely worded resolution followed, that the diocese could now link up with any province in Africa or the world. Someone is reported bravely to have requested a vote by houses, in the knowledge that a defeat in the House of Laity would have ended the matter. The assistant registrar, acting for the absent registrar, James Mutizwa, refused.

She is reported to have asked: “All in favour, say Aye.” Silence is said to have followed, after which she insisted a vote must be taken, and, hearing a few muttered “Ayes”, declared the motion carried. Objectors asking for their written objections to be lodged before the end of the meeting are said to have been told to return on Monday, which would have invalidated them.

The Harare Herald, which supports President Mugabe, reported this week: “The diocese is now seeking to join the Anglican Province of Kenya following a message of solidarity from Kenyan Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi in support of the anti-homosexuality stance taken by Bishop Kunonga.

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