Pro-Mugabe bishop locks out faithful

Anglicans forced to pray in the street as Zimbabwe cleric refuses to accept sacking

Thousands of Zimbabwean Anglicans are being locked out of churches and cathedrals, and forced to hold services in the street, amid a worsening row between two Church factions that mirrors the country's political crisis.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have condemned Zimbabwean authorities for siding with Nolbert Kunonga, the dismissed former bishop of Harare. Archbishops Rowan Williams and John Sentamu said the "unprovoked intimidation of worshippers" reflected the ongoing oppression of those perceived to be sympathetic to the opposition.

Mr Kunonga, who claims to be a fervent supporter of President Robert Mugabe, was sacked in February 2008 by his superiors in the Church of the Province of Central Africa. He claimed to be unconvinced by the province's stand against Anglican moves to ordain homosexuals.

But critics of Mr Kunonga say he is simply power-hungry and is using the homosexuality issue as an excuse to ingratiate himself with President Mugabe, even though Mr Mugabe is a Catholic. Mr Kunonga has claimed his opponents are supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change, which they deny.

The scene on a recent Sunday on the corner of Baker Avenue and Second Street, where the stone cathedral of St Mary's and All Saints has stolidly stood since 1934, is being replicated at churches all over the country. Congregants, two drummers and members of the choir arrived in dribs and drabs and gathered around the heavy oak doors, waiting for someone to turn up with the key.

"We never know, from one Sunday to the next, whether we are going to gain access,'' said Father Farai Mutamiri. Members of the congregation recalled being tear-gassed last March by riot police loyal to Mr Kunonga who burst into the cathedral during the service. "That is when we took the issue to court,'' said the Rev Phineas Fundira. Mr Kunonga's appointed replacement as head of the diocese of Harare, Bishop Chad Gandiya, has been fighting court battles ever since. "We increasingly don't know what to do. We have some Anglicans in the Zanu-PF politburo so we are going to turn to them for support."

The locked-out Anglicans believe Mr Kunonga's position is hardening and see no let-up in the support he is receiving from elements of the police.

At St Mary's the congregation finally decided to hold their service on a lawn next to the cathedral car park. Fr Mutamiri and the Rev Fundira changed into their vestments, set an altar on a small table and produced wafers from a picnic basket. Fr Mutamiri said the congregation had remained united and that most regulars supported Bishop Gandiya. "We are holding house services, and sticking together."

But he did not call for further intervention from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. "We are accused of being pro-homosexual and pro-MDC, which we are not. We are just a peace-loving congregation who wish to be able to carry on worshipping together.

"We would like the Church of the Province of Central Africa to solve this issue, which is centred on their former employee. But if the Archbishop of Canterbury gets involved that could strengthen the perception that our agenda is for regime-change, which it is not," said Fr Mutamiri.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence