AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- Zimbabwe's Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has released an interim order -- valid until the matter is finalised in the Supreme Court -- confirming Bishop Chad Gandiya as the Bishop of Harare, but upholding the 24 July 2009 High Court ruling granting renegade Anglican bishop Nolbert Kunonga control over all Anglican Church assets in Harare.
As these properties belong to the Church of the Province of Central Africa, from which Kunonga was excommunicated in 2007 on the grounds of schism, Bishop Gandiya is right to ask, "How can he [Kunonga] be given custodianship of properties of an organisation of which he is not a member?"
Bishop Gandiya has told the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) that the diocese and the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) are waiting to see what will happen next. While the ruling means that Kunonga's legal challenge to Gandiya's installation as Bishop of Harare is finally over, the ownership of Anglican properties remains in the hands of the Supreme Court. "If the Supreme Court does not return the properties to our church then we will have no way of appealing the decision," Gandiya said.
In a letter to his supporters, Bishop Gandiya writes: "All along he [Kunonga] has been abusing church members and misusing church properties with the support of some in the Zimbabwe Republic Police and nobody stopped him. [Background] We thought that the laws of the land would stop him but now we see the law legitimising his impunity. We have tried to engage various responsible authorities but to no avail.
"We believe that this is setting a very dangerous precedent in the country. Dr Kunonga is claiming ownership of properties that do not belong to him. This is daylight robbery now with the support of the law. We continue to hope for the time when reason will prevail to the glory of God."
Bishop Gandiya expressed c oncern over what the ruling might mean for Anglican clergy. "You can well imagine the distress and chaos this is likely to result, especially for our priests who are living in rectories. I am very concerned about the likely disturbances to my priests and their families."
On 16 August the Anglican Communion News Service reported the first eviction. According to Michael Chingore, registrar for the Anglican Diocese of Harare, the Rev. Dzikamai Mudenda and his family were driven from their home at St. James Anglican Church in Mabvuku, Diocese of Harare, by people from the Kunonga group who came with copies of the court judgment.
Bishop Chad Gandiya reports that other priests living in parish rectories also have received stamped copies of the High Court judgment from supporters of Kunonga. The priests, including Friar Joshua from Bishop Gaul College, have all been told to move out.
"Our parishes are busy finding alternative accommodation for them," he said. "We don't know who he [Kunonga] is going to put in these houses. This is not going to be easy at all. It will disrupt their family life and ministry. I have been busy this evening getting in touch with my priests and encouraging them."
(For full report see Religious Liberty Monitoring)
|Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. This article is an edited version of a posting written for her blog: Religious Liberty Monitoring .|