THE former Dean of St Mary and All Saints’ Cathedral, Harare, in Zimbabwe, the Very Revd Dr Farai Mutamiri, has been named as the next Bishop of Harare, to succeed the Rt Revd Chad Gandiya.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Anglican diocese of Harare, in the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA), announced in a post on Twitter: “It is Dr Farai Mutamiri, Bishop-Elect for Anglican Diocese of Harare! Congratulations!”
Bishop Gandiya has been in office since 2009. Now aged 65, he is due to retire, although his tenure could have been extended by the Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama, for another three years.
Dr Mutamiri was one of two candidates put forward for election by the electoral college, which was facilitated by the Vicar General, Fr Wilfred Kanyemba. He received 16 of the 22 votes. Second was Zimbabwe-born Canon Lameck Mutete, who is Rector of Tattenhall with Burwardsley and Handley, in Chester diocese.
The announcement ends months of speculation about a successor to Bishop Gandiya. Precious Shumba, a journalist who runs the Harare CPCA Facebook and Twitter accounts, said: “A lot of clergymen have been attempting to marginalise and exclude Mutamiri from major activities. They fought him as a dean of the cathedral, and they came up with an age restriction of a minimum 55 years for bishops.”
Mr Shumba said that the canons specify only that a candidate should be at least 30 years old. “The idea was to exclude and disqualify Mutamiri from being considered for the position of bishop,” he said.
Two weeks ago, when meeting members of the Zimbabwean Council of Churches (ZCC), including Bishop Gandiya, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, referred to the Harare Anglican succession process.
“I am aware that when a bishop is about to retire, there is some jostling of succession. In some instances, in a church which I shall not mention, they even forget the Bible and go to n’angas [traditional healers] in order to get that position.
“Leadership wrangle does not give a cohesive stature of the Church; and yet we, the commoners, would look to the Church as the social conscience of good leadership, good service to the people, servant leadership, humility where we do not fight for positions, but walk the path of servant leadership.”
The Harare diocese was a victim of the divisive narrative followed by President Mugabe and his supporters in the later years of his rule. It split the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe between the internationally recognised CPCA, led by Bishop Gandiya, and a breakaway organisation led by the pro-ZANU PF Nolbert Kunonga, then Bishop of Harare, who was elected in 2003 over Bishop Gandiya.
Kunonga seized church property and threatened violence against clergy belonging to the CPCA. He was stripped of his holy orders in 2008, and, in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that his group must surrender all the property it had acquired (News, 30 November 2012).
Another official post on Twitter this week was: “Dr Mutamiri was with us when the rebel Dr Nolbert Kunonga tormented the Anglican Church.”
On Wednesday morning, Mr Shumba said: “The laity is largely satisfied that the will of God prevailed against the will of conniving men hiding behind human qualifications. The bishop belongs to all, and Anglicans have to rally and pray for the success of his ministry.”
Neither Dr Mutamiri nor Canon Mutete was available for comment.