From the archive: Dr Williams meets Mr Mugabe and beards Kunonga

06 September 2019

To mark the death of Robert Mugabe, we recall an encounter with the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, reported in the Church Times of 14 October 2011

THE Archbishop of Canterbury’s two-day visit to Zimbabwe this week is being seen as one of his most successful ventures. He said at the end of it that he was “deeply glad” that he had made the trip. He preached to more than 10,000 Anglicans unmolested, and had a 90-minute meeting with President Robert Mugabe, at which he presented a dossier of the attacks made on the Anglican Church there.

Zimbabwe was the toughest stage of Dr Williams’s week-long visit to the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA), which started in Malawi on Thursday of last week. There he met the President of Malawi, and joined celebrations of the Church’s 150th anniversary.

Dr Williams’s party then drove over the border into Zimbabwe at 6 a.m. on Sunday, enabling him to worship with the displaced cathedral congregation in Harare mid-morning, before presiding at a eucharist for the much larger gathering in the National Sports Centre.

A local news report suggested that the renegade former Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, had expected Dr Williams to arrive by air, and thus was unable to orchestrate an effective protest. In the end, Kunonga was reduced to gathering a few hundred supporters in St John’s Cathedral, which he has appropriated, and parading in front of news cameras.

At the eucharist, Dr Williams spoke of the corruption that had robbed the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe of many of its churches, and the violence with which congregations had been threatened.

“You know how those who, by their greed and violence, have refused the grace of God try to silence your worship and frustrate your witness in the churches and schools and hospitals of this country.

“But you also know what Jesus’s parable teaches us so powerfully — that the will of God to invite people to his feast is so strong that it can triumph even over these mindless and Godless assaults.”

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Dr Williams praised the expelled worshippers for their persistence. “In your faith and endurance, you have kept your eyes on that open door when the doors of your own churches have been shut against you. . . . And, as we together give thanks for the open door that God puts before us, we may even find the strength to say to our enemies and persecutors: ‘The door is open for you! Accept what God offers and turn away from the death-dealing folly of violence.’”

He extended his message beyond the immediate concerns of the Church, criticising the stewardship of the country under President Mugabe, without naming him directly. “God has given so many gifts to this land. It has the capacity to feed all its people and more. Its mineral wealth is great.

“But we have seen years in which the land has not been used to feed people and lies idle; and we have begun to see how this mineral wealth can become a curse — as it so often has been in Africa.” He acknowledged the part played in the past by Western colonialists in this exploitation.

The congregation greeted the Archbishop’s words with loud cheers.

The meeting with President Mugabe was one of the most uncertain parts of the trip. Dr Williams’s schedule for Monday contained four optional timetables, three arranged around different meeting times at the President’s residence, the fourth in case a meeting was refused at the last minute.

In the event, Dr Williams and the Zimbabwean bishops were invited to a 90-minute meeting with President Mugabe, making Dr Williams the highest-ranking British official received by Mr Mugabe in a decade. Over tea, scones, and jam, Dr Williams presented a dossier detailing the attacks on the Church by Kunonga, often with the backing of the police. Homosexuality was mentioned, but only briefly.

Afterwards, Dr Williams said that it was a “very candid meeting. Disagreement was expressed clearly but, I think, in a peaceable manner.”

Later on Monday, Dr Williams accompanied the Bishop of Manicaland the Rt Revd Julius Makoni, to the Cathedral Church of St John the Baptist, Mutare, another of the buildings taken over by Kunonga. The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, was among the party. He reported afterwards: “At Bishop Julius’s consecration two years ago, I said that I looked forward to the day when [he] would knock on the door of his cathedral with his crozier.

“In the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Bishops from across the Anglican Communion he has just done this, and, though still denied access, a symbolic statement has been made.” Dr Williams also visited the Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai.

On Tuesday morning, Dr Williams flew to Zambia. He was due to return to the UK yesterday.

 

Dossier of persecution presented to Mugabe

For the attention of H. E. President R. G. Mugabe

Your Excellency,

We, the Archbishop and Bishops of the Anglican Province of Central Africa (CPCA), hereby sub­mit a dossier of abuses com­mitted against our Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe over the last four years.

Since 2007 Anglican congrega­tions have suffered systematic harassment and persecution at the hands of the police, often in direct contravention of court rulings. In the dioceses of Harare and Man­icaland properties belonging to the Province have been misap­propriated.

It is a matter of the greatest sadness that we are being prevented from continuing our work to sup­port local and often very needy com­munities with healthcare and edu­cation. Our priests and people are being denied access to our own clinics and schools. Many of these institutions have been taken from us and under current poor or corrupt management are being rapidly run in to the ground and stripped of their assets.

Every week tens of thousands of Anglicans are denied their basic right to worship because of the lies and falsifications being propagated by the now excommunicated former bishop, Dr Kunonga, and his asso­ciates.

Nolbert Kunonga and Elson Jakazi chose of their own volition to leave the CPCA in 2007. They are no longer recognised as bishops or leaders by their former flocks, by the CPCA, by the Anglican Com­munion worldwide or by national and international ecumenical bodies. We express our thanks to our brothers and sisters from other churches that have supported us as we seek to communicate these facts.

Despite all of the abuses and intimidation we continue to humbly serve our communities in every way we can. We seek peace and recon­ciliation for all in our country and desire to play a role in promoting healing and prosperity for this great nation Zimbabwe.

Furthermore, let us state for the record that the Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe have never aligned themselves with any political party. There is no evidence to suggest we are anything other than loyal citizens of Zimbabwe. We also totally reject the misrepresentation of our Church as not holding to the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage. This is wholly untrue.

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We are dismayed that our con­tinued calls for justice go unheard. Meanwhile, threats made to our personal freedoms and security have continued to multiply over the last few months.

We respectfully ask that you, as Head of State and of the Executive in Zimbabwe, put an end to this illegal harassment by some members of the police, whose mandate is to protect civilians, and allow us once again to use the properties which are rightfully ours so that we may worship God in peace and serve our communities and our country.

 

Yours sincerely

Archbishop Albert Chama (Primate of the Province of Central Africa), Bishop Chad Gandiya (Harare), Bishop Godfrey Tawonezvi (Mas­vingo), Bishop Julius Makoni (Manicaland), Bishop Cleophas Lunga (Matabeleland), Bishop Ishmael Mukuwanda (Central Zim­babwe), Bishop Trevor Mwamba (Botswana)

 

Dossier of abuses committed against the Anglican dioceses of Zimbabwe, CPCA

 

The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has been under attack from the excommunicated bishop, Dr Nolbert Kunonga, since 2007. Dr Kunonga and Elson Jakazi, with the support of some police, have seized property belonging to the Church of the Province of Central Africa, to which the Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe belong.

 

• In addition, the dioceses have lost huge sums of money through legal bills, rentals for offices and other diocesan activities as well as for church services. The quality of service delivery by diocesan institutions like schools and hospitals has been seriously affected through illegal seizure of assets.

• Violence and intimidation has been a hallmark of this struggle. Intimidation is a daily occurrence. Parishioners are not only denied access to their churches, but increasingly are threatened with punishment if they worship at all or attempt to carry out their ministry to the community.

 

• Priests and deacons are arrested without charge on a weekly basis, often on a Friday, allowing the police to hold them over the weekend without charge, so that they cannot minister to their congregations. Many of these are elderly priests. Even when priests are not arrested they are threatened with violence by armed men.

• Many members of our congrega­tions have been assaulted and have needed hospital treatment. There are numerous incidents of whole congregations being tear-gassed and beaten. The Zimbabwean bishops have received personal death threats by phone, in person and at gunpoint.

• On 18 February 2011 Mrs Jessica Mandeya of Harare diocese was murdered. We have information which very strongly suggests that she was murdered because she belongs to the diocese of Harare CPCA. She had re­ceived threats to that effect in preced­ing weeks and days as she consistently refused to join Dr Kunonga’s Church.

• In Harare the police have disrupted church services and have been using tear gas and baton sticks to drive people out of church buildings..

• For two years now people have been denied access to the Bernard Mizeki Shrine for their annual pilgrimage. Police turned up in full force and drove the pilgrims away.

• The diocese of Masvingo was denied its annual pilgrimage to the Arthur Shearly Cripps Shrine in August 2011. The District Police Officer commanding also wrote to the diocese asserting they had no right to go to the shrine and the police forcibly took church properties in Chivhu. The Priest-in-Charge for Chivhu was also detained without charge.

• On 12 August 2011, Dr Kunonga’s priest Mr T. Mugomo went to Chivhu District Police Office where he submitted false claims of ownership of Daramombe Mission. Dr Kunonga has never been able to produce any supporting papers to substantiate the claims. Mr T. Mugomo also claimed the youth had attacked him. On Sunday 31 July 2011, Dr Kunonga, in the company of two of his bishops Harry Mambo Rinashe and Elijah Masuku (and other individuals they came with from Harare) and seven police officers from Chivhu, arrived at Daramombe Mission before 6 a.m. Dr Kunonga and his company forced their way into the Daramombe church via a window, [and] conducted a service. After this they demanded the keys for the church and rectory from the Priest-in-Charge (Ven. Murombedzi), who refused to surrender the keys.

• The diocese of Harare has ten primary and ten secondary schools and one nursery school. These have all been taken over by Dr Kunonga, who has removed suitably qualified headmasters and replaced them with those he has handpicked without any reference to the Ministry of Education, Sport, Art & Culture. The result of these actions is that academic standards have fallen to pitiful levels.

• The diocese of Manicaland has 24 primary schools and 12 secondary schools, six of which are boarding secondary schools. Of these primary and secondary schools, only five secondary and 16 primary schools are currently still operating under the CPCA. Mr Jakazi . . . has mainly targeted the boarding schools, which have a great deal of infrastructure and where he can also demand large sums of levies to help finance his activities.

For example: At St Anne’s Goto High School Dr Kunonga and Mr Jakazi went and caused havoc at this Mission on 11 May 2010 claiming to have control over the school. Dr Kunonga threatened to close the school if people were not loyal to Rev. Mudhumo.

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On the following Sunday (16 May 2010) Hwedza police came to St Anne’s Goto and disrupted a church service being led by Rev. Mavhezha who has always held services there. Eight elderly ladies were beaten up.

• Teachers and students at the High School at Daramombe Mission have also been intimidated and told not to associate with their legitimate priests who serve them.

• Dr Kunonga has a history of de­stroy­­ing each school he seizes. Clear ex­­amples (although there are many more) include: St John’s High School (Chik­waka) in Goromonzi District; Langham Girls High School in Centenary; St Mark’s Chirundazi High School (in Mhondoro); St Oswald’s Zimhindo.

• Manicaland diocese has been denied access to its numerous health facilities, which have faithfully served their local communities for generations. Donations of much needed drugs and equipment are now prohibited by Mr Jakazi. [In] St Peter’s Mandeya Clinic in the Honde Valley area, Mr Jakazi’s priest instructed the clinic staff to refuse to accept the donated drugs. Tragically two people died needlessly that same day, when the drugs were rejected.

• The Daramombe Clinic has been reduced to being run by a single nurse who is loyal to Dr Kunonga. She came as a relief nurse — but relieving no one, as our staff complement was normal without her.

• Currently the Anglican Relief and Development in Zimbabwe (ARDeZ) is running the Umoja HIV and AIDS programmes, using rented accom­modation. Were St Augustine’s facilities being used, costs would be reduced by around fifty per cent, and the number of beneficiaries would be doubled.

• The diocese of Harare has been prevented from carrying out many relief programmes by being denied access to its schools. In 2008 it re­ceived funds to purchase water purification tablets during the cholera epidemic, and basic medicines, but was prevented by Mr Kunonga from distrib­uting these through clinics and schools.

• The diocese of Harare is currently renting offices at a cost of some US$1600 per month. The diocese has been denied access to its own offices at Pax House.

• The diocese of Manicaland is currently renting offices that cost about US$2000 per month. Similarly to the diocese of Harare, were the diocese of Manicaland using its own office complex, it would generate a further US$2000 or more per month in rental income from two floors within the complex which Mr Jakazi now occupies and has refused to vacate.

• Sixty-five priests have been evicted from their rectories in Harare diocese and forced to stay in rented accom­modation, paying rent on average of US$450 each per month. An equal number of churches have been taken over, resulting in the majority of the parishes paying rent of approximately US$200 per month for the varied places where they now worship.

• In August 2011, police attended Bishop Gaul College, Harare, and served eviction papers to our principal, Friar Joshua. They padlocked the library before they left. The college is not a diocese of Harare institution but belongs to all five dioceses and indeed to the Province (CPCA).

• We would like sincerely to thank various denominations including the Roman Catholic Church, Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, United Meth­-odist Church, Lutheran Church, Re­formed Church, Presbyterian Church, United Church of Christ and Mugodhi Church and others, who have gener­ous­ly allowed some of our con­gre­ga­tions to use their church buildings. Others have painfully told us to stop using their buildings after being threat­ened. We do not hold it against them.

• Our appeal to the Christian com­mun­ity in Zimbabwe is that all should stand up for justice, that all should speak out against the unlawful arrests of our people, the beatings and tear-gassing of our congregations, the dis­rup­tions of church services, the flouting of court orders, and partisan behaviour of the police, and now the disturbing developments beginning to unfold. An end to this persecution would enable our Church to fully resume its role in serving all of God’s people in our great country of Zimbabwe.

 

In October 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that Kunonga must hand over all church property. In 2013, he was excommunicated from the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe.

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