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Murder of 89-year-old in Zimbabwe stokes church fears

24 February 2011

by Pat Ashworth

New Primate: the Rt Revd Albert Chama, Archbishop-elect of Central Africa DIOCESE OF SINGAPORE

New Primate: the Rt Revd Albert Chama, Archbishop-elect of Central Africa ...

CHURCHGOERS in Zimbabwe should know that they were now an endangered species, the Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Chad Gandiya, says.

He was speaking at a press conference after the murder last Friday of Jessica Mandeya, an 89-year-old lay leader at St Lambert’s, in Mrewa.

The Bishop suggests that her murder is part of what he has de-scribed as “disturbing new develop­ments” in the continuing struggle of the Anglican Church in Harare against the excommunicated former bishop, Nolbert Kunonga.

Mrs Mandeya is alleged to have received death threats for her con­tinued loyalty to the diocese of Harare, which is part of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA). “We are all very shocked by this turn of events,” Bishop Gandiya said in a pastoral letter.

“The faithful in Mrewa are equally shocked by both her un­timely death and comments/threats that they will face the same fate if they continue to belong to the Diocese of Harare CPCA. Police are investigating the murder and we hope that the culprit(s) will be ap­prehended and that justice will prevail.”

Congregations continue to be attacked and barred from their churches, despite two interim court judgments ordering buildings to be shared until the case is heard in the High Court. A retired cleric at St John’s, Chikwaka, was arrested and detained last week for defying the lockout there, and the Priest-in-Charge was harassed by armed police.

“Workers in some of our parishes have been threatened with eviction without court orders. The con­gre-gation at St James’s, in Mabvuku, had to change the venue of their worship-place because I was due to do a confirmation there,” Bishop Gandiya said.

“While it is our prayer that the court determination regarding the issue of our church properties and implementation of court orders is done expeditiously, we believe that delays are tantamount to condoning injustice and the unwarranted suf­fer­ing of our people.”

The Primates’ Meeting in Dublin last month (News, 4 February) sent an open letter to President Mugabe expressing its distress at the “con­tinuing bullying, harassment, and persecution” being suffered by clerics and congregations.

“We believe that the appalling situation experienced by the An­glican Church in Zimbabwe seriously infringes their right to justice, free­dom of assembly, freedom of reli­gion, and personal security under the law guaranteed by the con­stitu­tion of Zimbabwe and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights.”

The Province of Central Africa has been without an Archbishop since the resignation, four years ago, of the Most Revd Bernard Malango. News came on Tuesday that the Bishop of Northern Zambia, the Rt Revd Albert Chama, had been elected. He is the Dean of the province, in which capacity he at­tended the Primates’ Meeting in Dublin.

Bishop Chama was an assessor at the aborted trial of Kunonga on 38 serious charges, including incite­ment to murder, in 2005. Archbishop Malango refused to reconvene the trial, declaring the matter closed. He warned “all persons interested in bringing charges of this nature against any bishop of this province to ensure that they do not raise purely administrative issues masked as canonical offences”.

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