THE disgraced former Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Nolbert Kunonga, reportedly resorted to forgery last week, in an attempt to block the appointment of Dr Sebastian Bakare as the diocese’s interim Bishop, and to blacken his name.
Bishop Kunonga, whose attempts to withdraw Harare from the Province of Central Africa resulted in his own dismissal from the province (News, 2 November), told the Harare Herald, a Mugabe-friendly newspaper, that Dr Bakare, retired Bishop of Manicaland, had turned down the appointment because the money was not good enough.
Under the headline, “Bakare Spurns Church’s Offer”, the Herald reported that Dr Bakare had demanded a $1500 salary. “Even a mansion in Harare’s posh Borrowdale suburb also failed to sway Bishop Bakare into taking up the post.” The “plot to oust Bishop Kunonga” had been “thrown into a quandary”, the paper stated.
It went on to quote “correspondence” between Bishop Albert Chama, Dean of the Province of Central Africa, and the “Anglican Church Harare Diocese”, allegedly sent to all the clergy and laity in the diocese. And it reported that the Church “has since appointed Zambian Bishop L. Mwenda as a replacement, further plunging the Church into administrative chaos”.
Bishop Chama was quoted as saying in the letter that, when Bishop Bakare had “turned down the appointment”, he had been “without an option but to appoint another. . . I hereby appoint Bishop L. Mwenda to be caretaker of the Diocese of Harare. . . My fellow Christians, may you support him.”
The Bishop of Botswana, the Rt Revd Trevor Mwamba, said that the letter, supposedly signed by Bishop Chama, was a forgery. “It is a propaganda warfare. Kunonga realises his time is finished, and is using the system because he is part of the system. It is lies upon lies — it is amazing how they have spun it out,” he said. “We wait to see what he will dream up next.”
Dr Bakare dismissed the report as a “complete fabrication and blatantly mischievous and misleading”. The Anglican Diocese of Harare (CPCA), as it will in future be known, issued a press statement on the breakaway by Bishop Kunonga and his supporters. “Bishop Bakare, not Dr Kunonga, is now recognised throughout the province and the Anglican Communion worldwide as leader of the diocese. Dr Kunonga and those clergy who support him are responsible for causing a schism in the Church.”
Dr Bakare’s supporters say that the clerics who back Bishop Kunonga are principally unqualified men, whom he pulled off the streets and ordained, to replace the priests in the diocese who opposed him. It was these clerics who prevented Bishop Chama’s proclamation of Dr Bakare’s appointment from being read, as instructed, in all churches on 7 November.
The diocese set the record straight at a meeting of churchwardens and priests presided over by Dr Bakare and at which the Chancellor of the Province, Eric Matinenga, and the Chancellor of the diocese, Bob Stumbles, were present. Mr Stumbles, who has tenaciously pursued the bringing to trial of Bishop Kunonga on 37 serious charges, is also Deputy Chancellor of the province.
A statement from the meeting confirmed: “Dr Kunonga and all the clergy supporting his campaign to destabilise the diocese and the Provincial Church, and bring into disrepute the Church as a whole, are no longer recognised by the province as licensed to exercise any ecclesiastical functions, including officiating at holy communion, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and funerals.”
It instructed all parishioners to assume total control of their funds and property, and instructed existing clergy to declare as soon as possible where their affiliation lay.
Bishop Kunonga travelled last week to Kampala, reportedly in at attempt to ally his breakaway group with the Church of Uganda.