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Churches handed back in Harare

07 December 2012

by Pat Ashworth


Appellant: Nolbert Kunonga (left) leaves the Cathedral of St Mary and All Saints, in central Harare, on Wednesday of last week

Appellant: Nolbert Kunonga (left) leaves the Cathedral of St Mary and All Saints, in central Harare, on Wednesday of last week

ALL the churches in Harare are now back in the hands of the Anglican Church, after the Supreme Court judgment two weeks ago which ruled against the excommunicated bishop, Nolbert Kunonga, in favour of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) ( News, 30 November, 23 November). Some outlying churches and other properties are still to be retrieved.

Violence and police reluctance still persists, however, and the Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Chad Gandiya, reported on Wednesday that the High Court had still not ruled on the appeal made by Kunonga after eviction orders were served at his insistence. Kunonga is citing the indigenisation programme in Zimbabwe, under which foreign companies must transfer control of at least 51 per cent of their operations to locals.

The case, which opened on Tuesday of last week, went on all day, and was resumed the next day. "We cannot believe the judge is entertaining this nonsense," Bishop Gandiya said. He described spirits in the diocese as "dampened, but not crushed".

A CPCA priest, the Revd Naboth Manzonga, was attacked on Saturday night at his church in the Tafara district, by the rogue priest who had been occupying his house. "It just shows we have to be vigilant all the time," Bishop Gandiya said.

Elsewhere, thugs with chains have attacked priests and parishioners who are involved in reclaiming the buildings. An eyewitness report on Nehanda Radio described Kunonga wielding a gun and threatening journalists outside the cathedral.

Incidents of resistance and violence are being monitored by parishioners on the diocese of Harare's Facebook page. Positive signs, Bishop Gandiya said, were that the state media no longer supported Kunonga. There is also joy at the retrieval of St Mary's Cathedral, where the Sunday service this week was packed to overflowing with worshippers.

Plans are well advanced for the mass celebration in Africa Unity Square, on 16 December, which will precede the cleansing and re- dedication of the building. The main worshipping space was found to be in fair condition when access was finally gained, but the offices had been turned into business premises where Kunonga's daughter had been running a crèche.

"People have been living in the vestries, even in the sanctuary," Bishop Gandiya said. "That's such a violation of sacred space."

There are indications that people from all over the world will be at the celebrations on 16 December. "We never take anything for granted, though. It's not over till it's over," Bishop Gandiya said. He has received permission from the city authorities for the event, but not yet from the police.

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