The Anglican bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, is now on a list of Zimbabweans banned from the United States.
Bishop Kunonga joins more than two dozen of the president’s influential associates and supporters of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF political party in being prohibited from visiting the United States because of their support for the president.
President Mugabe has also been banned.
The list, which includes high-level military and government officials, was leaked to the news media earlier this week. In addition to the entry prohibition, those listed will find their assets in the United States frozen. Immediate family members are also affected by the ban.
The United States was working in consultation with the European Union, which was expected to name its own list of banned individuals, the British Guardian newspaper reported.
Bishop Kunonga’s pronouncements from the pulpit and elsewhere have divided Anglicans, many of whom see him as condoning violence committed by Zanu-PF supporters.
In January, the bishop took over an inter-denominational prayer meeting and gospel concert in Harare and turned it into a forum for promoting the government’s controversial land reform programme.
Bishop Kunonga also endorsed President Mugabe in last month’s presidential election and told guests at the president’s inauguration in March that the 78-year-old ruler was ordained by God to lead this southern African nation. He said the president’s critics were “little voices shouting at a passing elephant.”
International and local observers called the Zimbabwe’s presidential elections violent and fundamentally”flawed.” Following the elections, Zimbabwe was suspended for a year from the 54-member Commonwealth.
Zimbabwe’s minister for information and publicity, Jonathan Moyo, dismissed the travel ban, saying it had “no substantive policy content beyond the racist hatred of Africans who are proud of their history, dignity, sovereignty and independence.”
But Pius Ncube, the outspoken Roman Catholic archbishop of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city, said the banning of Bishop Kunonga is a warning to other church leaders.