Harare,- Anglican church members are likely to have a not so religious Christmas as parishioners from Bishop’s Nolbert Kunonga and Sebastian Bakare who have been fighting for the control of the church brace for a tussle for the right to conduct church services on Friday.
The parishioners started the fight on Wednesday evening when a group of parishioners from Bakare’s side stormed the Anglican Central Cathedral Church and started singing and dancing playing church hymns loudly in the car park.
The parishioners were clad in black. Those from Bishop Bakare’s side have not been able to use the church located just next to parliament building despite the existence of a High Court order declaring the church premises open to both sides and different intervals.
“We are not going to fear anyone except God, this is the house of God and we have a right to be here,” said of the parishioners as they walked to the cathedral. We shall be here tomorrow and worship and praise the lord into Christmas day.”
But Kunonga’s faction is unlikely to sit back and watch. Kunonga is usually seen these days holding meeting in the car park facing Ambassador Hotel with other church members. It is the same car park that the defiant Bakare faction members took their song and dance.
The police has been harassing members of the Anglican Church belonging to Bakare barring them from using church premises around Harare.
Over the past two weeks members of Harare’s Anglican community have been subjected to harassment by riot police officers who came in to disrupt services.
The police recently disrupted Anglican Church services and assaulted worshippers.
In Mbare, Kuwadzana, Tafara, Warren Park, Budiriro, Glen View, Belvedere, Hatfield and Marlborough, riot police locked the doors of churches to keep worshippers out.
The disruptions, engineered by ousted Zanu-PF-affiliated Anglican bishop Nolbert Kunonga, is in contemptuous breach of a High Court judgement by Justice Rita Makarau, who ruled that the churches were to be shared between the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) and the breakaway Anglican province set up by Kunonga, the former Bishop of Harare.
Kunonga was excommunicated and estranged from the Anglican Church worldwide after he broke all ties with the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA). He claimed to have withdrawn the Anglican Diocese of Harare from the CPCA, a move which experts say is legally impossible.
Kunonga had fierce run-ins with an interim administration led by Bakare, which was set up to replace him.
The interruptions had stopped momentarily after the diocese of Harare elected Dr Chad Gandiya as the new bishop of the diocese, even though Kunonga had attempted to scuttle the consecration and enthronement of the new bishop in the courts.
After Gandiya was installed, Kunonga disengaged from the tussle with the CPCA, but resumed the disruptions two weeks ago.
As a result of these disturbances in the church, many concerned members of the church particularly those from Bakare’s side have rented alternative spaces to use as places of worships. Several weddings have been disrupted by the Kunonga faction members.
They have also gone on to lock churches when ever they are due for use by the Bakare sect. One classical example is the Greendale Anglican Church located at the corner of Samora Machel and Rhodesville Avenue which has been locked for services for 5 weeks after Kunonga’s sect failed to raise enough numbers to congregate a church service.
Freedom of worship is enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Kunonga is a known Zanu-PF supporter and is the only clergyman in Zimbabwe to be slapped with a travel ban by the United States of America, joining President Mugabe and other government and party officials, on allegations of human rights abuses and the break down of law and order.
He is a beneficiary of government’s land redistribution programme.