Anglican parishioners in public fight

Cletus Mushanawani and Anesu Kurebwaseka
A FEEDBACK meeting on the resolutions of the Anglican Episcopal Synod held in Harare recently to look at lasting solutions to problems bedevilling the church in Manicaland ended up with some members at each other’s throats last Thursday.

The drama happened at St John’s Cathedral Church along Mutare’s Herbert Chitepo Street.

The matter has since spilled into the courts of law, with a church elder, Charles Sanhanga (50), being accused of assaulting a priest, Reverend Gilbert Sambona, and a church elder, Mr Stephen Samanga.

Mr Samanga of Chikanga Phase Two, who is employed as a driver at Elise Gledhill High School in Mutare was allegedly branded a sellout by Sanhanga. He was allegedly punched on the left eye. He was also allegedly slapped on the face and sustained some injuries in the process.

It is alleged that Rev Sambona was slapped by Sanhanga when he went near a group of church members who were having a misunderstanding.

He allegedly sustained a painful ear and eye. He was referred to Mutare Provincial Hospital.

Sanhanga has since appeared before Mutare provincial magistrate Mrs Sekai Chiwundura facing assault charges as defined in Section 89 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act), Chapter 9:23.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Prosecuting, Mr Fletcher Karombe said: “On September 7, at around 6.15pm at St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Sambona witnessed a misunderstanding between church members and drew closer to the crowd in order to solve the matter.

“Sanhanga walked towards Sambona and assaulted him with open hands. The complainant was rescued by church members. The pastor sustained a painful ear, eye and was attended to at Mutare Provincial Hospital.”

He added: “The same day, Samanga was coming from a church meeting and was approached by Sanhanga. Samanga was labelled a sellout by Sanhanga who then punched him on the left eye. Samanga was saved by other congregants who were present.”

The matter was remanded to September 27 for trial and Sanhanga was ordered to pay $100 bail.

The feedback meeting was meant to appraise the church leadership of the Harare Episcopal resolutions, which among them recommended that Bishops Ishmael Mukuwanda and Cleophas Lunga should be appointed to help in mentoring Manicaland Diocese bishop, Bishop Erick Ruwona, for him to gain confidence and confront issues that were raised by some church members.

In a telephone interview on Wednesday night, Bishop Ruwona confirmed that Bishops Mukuwanda and Lunga were his mentors.

“Everyone has a mentor in life. A leader who is worth his salt should have mentors. These are people one consults before coming up with an important decision. These two have always been my mentors,” said Bishop Ruwona.

Bishop Mukuwanda confirmed their appointments as Bishop Ruwona’s mentors.

“We have been in the ministry for some time and we will be assisting Bishop Ruwona in some areas where the Episcopal felt he needs help. It is not like there is a serious leadership crisis in Manicaland.

“It was realised that there is need for effective communication between the bishop and the congregants. Bishop Ruwona also needs to effectively use all the resources at his disposal for the good of the diocese,” said Bishop Mukuwanda in a telephone interview.

On the topical issue of some ex-communicated St Agnes Church members in Chikanga high-density suburb whose cases were withdrawn from the courts, the synod recommended their reinstatement.

It was also recommended that Bishops Mukuwanda and Lunga should visit St Agnes and engage all the parties.

One of the resolutions reads: “That Bishop Erick (Ruwona) should facilitate and ensures that the handover and takeover ceremony takes place at St Agnes and that the former leaders should let go off the parish’s bank account and allow the new leaders to take over as signatories.

“Further, that a new vestry is put in place in accordance with the Diocesan Acts. Further, that the sale of the parish vehicle and the proceeds thereof should be pursued to its logical conclusion.”

“Yes, I can confirm that the cases where some parishioners were disrupting church services at St Agnes were withdrawn from the courts. It was after these parishioners gave a commitment that they would never disrupt any services. This has since been resolved,” said Bishop Ruwona.

Bishop Mukuwanda also confirmed that the St Agnes issue had been resolved.

“The issue was not properly communicated to the members who wanted their re-admission as church members in writing. The issue is now water under the bridge and it is true that we will be visiting St Agnes to meet all the concerned parties and ensure that normalcy prevails,” said Bishop Mukuwanda.