Zimbabwe: now bishop’s house is raided

07 September 2011

by Ed Thornton and Ed Beavan

FOUR men forced their way into the home of the Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Chad Gandiya, on Thursday evening, and ransacked it.

The robbery took place hours after the Bishop had campaigned publicly on behalf of the Revd Julius Zimbudzana, Priest-in-Charge of St Mary’s, Highlands, who was arrested on Tuesday morning and held in custody, accused of “taking over” a church property worth more than $US1.5 million. Mr Zimbudzana was released on Thursday.

The information about the raid on the Bishop’s house emerged through the Anglican Church of Canada on Friday. Bishop Gandiya and his family had been forced “to lie on the floor” by the intruders who “then proceeded to ransack the house”.

Bishop Gandiya said that the intruders had threatened to kill them if they did not hand over all the money they had between them, amounting to between $600 and $800. “They searched my son’s bedroom and ours for money and any valuables they could get. They literally trashed our bedroom. They took my laptop and my son’s two laptops and all our cell phones. They shoved us all into the bathroom and tried to lock us in but it did not work. They threatened to load all our property in cars and take it all away.

“We rejoice and thank God that none of us were hurt. We simply did what they told us to do. I am however, very suspicious of this robbery. It seems what they were after were just the laptops and phones.”

Bishop Gandiya had dismissed the accusation against Mr Zimbudzana as “unfounded, baseless, and without foundation”, calling it another example of the persecution of Anglican clerics by the police, who, he says, are acting under the instructions of the deposed former Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga.

He said that the arrest was “very strange indeed, as no parish in our diocese — perhaps with the exception of the cathedral parish — has properties worth that much. He has been refused bail. The police claim they have clear instructions not to release him.”

Police spent the day of the priest’s arrest moving his effects from his house. “It looks like they just want to keep him detained as part of the harassment, showing the clear breakdown of the rule of law,” Bishop Gandiya said.

This latest arrest follows a court ruling last month that gave Kunonga custody of church property (News, 19 and 26 August).

Lawyers for the Church of the Province of Central Africa are now working to try to secure the release of Mr Zimbudzana.

The Revd Jonah Mudowaya, a priest from St Matthew’s, Chinhoyi, who was kicked in the head and ribs by Kunonga’s supporters last month, is now being guarded in his church house by members of his congrega­tion. He has called for the prayers of British Anglicans, and is said to be “very afraid”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is to go to Zimbabwe this autumn, as part of his visit to the Province of Central Africa, and has asked to meet President Robert Mugabe.

Bishop visits Harare. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Lang­staff, has recently returned from a trip to the diocese of Harare, which has a link with Rochester.

Bishop Langstaff attended a dio­cesan conference with clergy, and said that it was a “slightly surreal ex­peri­ence, as off-stage we knew clergy were routinely being persecuted” and churches’ property being disposses­sed. “Gradually, all of the clergy will be ousted from their own property. But, although Kunonga has the buildings, he has no people. He is only interested in making money.

“Congregations are now meeting in borrowed premises and tents, and are growing. I went to one church meeting in a tent. There was a very positive atmosphere, and people feel they are growing spiritually and are more committed — and feel good will come out of it. The congrega­tions are in really good heart, but are concerned for their clergy.”

Bishop Langstaff said that Bishop Gandiya “was feeling the weight” of the situation: it was difficult for him to take any time off. He called for people to pray for Bishop Gandiya and the Church in Zimbabwe.

The Bishop also noted that the economic situation in Harare was more stable now, as the US dollar has been introduced. Life has regained some sort of normality for the middle classes, but in the townships, there is still a great deal of poverty, and a large gap between rich and poor. The agricultural system still has a long way to go in order to recover.

The diocesan standing committee in Harare was “determined to do everything in the law to get their property back”, although this would be a “time-consuming and expen­sive” task, Bishop Langstaff said.

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