‘No urgency’ to oust Zimbabwe bishop

Published December 1, 2007

Zimbabwe’s High Court has ruled that there is no urgency in hearing a case in which the Anglican Province of Central Africa is seeking the expulsion of Bishop Nolbert Kunonga of the Harare diocese, after he sought to withdraw his diocese from the province.

On Sept. 21, Bishop Kunonga wrote a letter to Archbishop Bernard Malango, who has since retired, withdrawing the diocese of Harare from the regional church province. This followed Bishop Kunonga’s opposition to the granting of what he described as “Christian rights” to homosexual Christians by some bishops at a provincial synod held in Malawi in September.

(The bishop of Botswana, Musonda Trevor Selwyn Mwamba, said recently that Bishop Kunonga opposed the province’s commitment “that all the bishops, clergy and laity in the province were of one mind on the issue of homosexuality, namely, that the province holds to the Lambeth Conference resolution … which calls for a listening process, dialogue and reconciliation.”)

The Anglican Province of Central Africa, which includes Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, then lodged a court application in Harare on Oct. 12, seeking Bishop Kunonga’s expulsion from the church. The province sought a court order to compel the bishop to return all church property that he has been using, and for him to be barred from operating church bank accounts or investments.

Judge Alfas Chitakunye on Oct. 21 ruled that the application, which had sought an urgent hearing, lacked merit and should be brought as an ordinary court application. Bishop Kunonga is seeking to have his diocese join the Anglican Province of Kenya.

The controversial bishop is a staunch supporter of President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF government, which allocated him a farm that, under a land reform program, was seized from its former white owner a few years ago.

“The [church] province instituted legal proceedings against Dr. Kunonga accusing him of creating a new ministry of his own, a move seen by many as a ploy to punish the bishop for his stance on the government’s land policy,” said an Oct. 18 report in Zimbabwe’s state-owned Herald newspaper.

Since 2000, the Zimbabwe government has seized land from virtually all of the country’s 4,500 white commercial farmers – in some cases allocating it to landless blacks – under a program often characterized by violence. Many of the beneficiaries lack agricultural skills, and the opposition says some farms have been given to senior ruling party officials. Privately owned newspapers in Zimbabwe have reported that the farm allocated to Bishop Kunonga now lies derelict, as do thousands of others.


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