Posted by: Titus Presler | December 15, 2009

Harare police disruptions “painful, cruel and pathetic,” but court rules in CPCA diocese’s favor

In a report received today, Bp. Chad Gandiya of the Anglican Diocese of Harare, CPCA – Church of the Province of Central Africa, the Anglican entity that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Primates recognize as part of the worldwide Anglican Communion – communicated details about the disruptions of church life that continued last weekend at the instigation of breakaway Bp. Nolbert Kunonga, with the apparent collusion of governmental authorities.

The disruptions were widespread and apparently targeted the larger urban congregations, including the Cathedral of St. Mary and All Saints next door to the Parliament building on the central square of downtown Harare.  With the exception of the congregation in Chinhoyi, all the congregations named in the report are in the greater Harare metropolitan area, so the current campaign does not appear to include rural congregations, such as Daramombe, or congregations in smaller cities of the diocese such as Kadoma.  Especially alarming is the use of riot police at St. Michael’s, Mbare, to shut down an all-night vigil, or pungwe, which a blog posting here yesterday noted is a particularly important and powerful expression of Shona spirituality.

Encouraging is the fact that yesterday’s court session ruled in favor of the CPCA Harare Diocese and ordered the police to cease interference.  However, only time will tell the significance of the ruling, since an already existing ruling – the Makawaru judgment – should have been enough to ensure that CPCA congregations could continue in peace, pending the High Court’s final resolution of the long-running conflict.

Bp. Gandiya’s report follows:

Strong police contingents bar Diocese of Harare CPCA members from worshiping in their church buildings, 12-13/12/09

1. Saturday 12/12/09

Parish activities were disrupted again in several parishes in Harare. Weddings were stopped (Marlborough Parish), and fundraising activities in Belvedere Parish were also disrupted and stopped. The Kunonga priests wanted their own to officiate at the weddings that priests belonging to the Church of the Province of Central Africa were conducting. When my priests refused, the weddings were stopped, with the Zimbabwe Republic Police giving the Kunonga priests assistance.

The Wabvuwi (Fishers of Men Guild) had a weekend conference at St. Michael’s Church, Mbare. The chairman of the guild called me after 17.00 hours saying the police had come and were telling them to leave. I asked to speak to the officer, who obliged and confirmed what they had come to do. After a brief conversation I asked him to wait for my arrival. I also told him that he would have to arrest me because I was coming to my church and I was not going to leave. When I got there the police officer was nowhere to be found. I went in and greeted the more than 400 hundred people who were gathered in the church. I also offered them some encouragement in our tribulations. The rector, Fr. Mahwindow, admitted 12 new members into the Wabvuwi guild and about 8 into the St. Peter’s Guild (a young men’s guild). Since the police did not show up I decided to leave and go home to get some rest because I had had a very long day.

But before I got home I received a call from the chairman again saying the police had come, this time with riot police support. I asked to speak to the officer, who told me that this time people had to leave. I tried to argue, but to no avail. I made a U-turn and went back. On arrival I met with the officer, who was determined to get our people out of the building. I did not want any of our people to be beaten by the riot police, and so I asked everybody to leave the church building. They were prepared to meet outside of the church but on the church premises, but the police ordered them to leave the premises. We negotiated for police protection since they were now going to meet at an unprotected place. The police obliged after much negotiations. They left eight policemen to protect them.

2. Sunday 13.12.09 [Third Sunday of Advent]

About eight parishes in Harare were prevented from holding services in their own buildings by the police. These were: Highfield [St. Paul’s], Kambuzuma [Transfiguration], Chitungwiza [St. Mary’s], Cathedral [St. Mary & All Saints], Mbare [St. Michael’s], Marlborough, and services were disrupted at Chinhoyi  [about 125 kms. northwest of Harare] and Hatfield.

The police had no court orders to prevent people from using their buildings. All they could tell us, when we asked them, was that they were following orders from above. We tried to reason with them and even produced our own court papers we had with us, but they would not have any of it. Eventually one of the officers said, “Bishop, we don’t think or reason, we just obey orders without asking questions”.  What was painful, cruel and pathetic was that in some places policemen who are Anglicans were used to prevent us from entering our buildings. Our people were very understanding and caring for the policemen who were being used in this manner.

The Cathedral was literally invaded by the riot police. One of Kunonga’s priests threw a table at the congregation and injured one of our congregants in full view of the police. We wait to see what is going to be done to him, if anything.

I conducted a confirmation service outside the church premises. We confirmed 140 candidates. When it started raining before we had finished our Eucharist service, the neighbouring Assemblies of God pastor offered us use of their building. We squeezed in between 300 and 400 people into this rather small building. The local MP attended our service and promised to follow-up the matter. Before we could even start our service outside in the open air the police officer stopped us because he needed clearance for us to hold our service in the open air. This is how ridiculous the situation has become. We pointed out to him that African-Initiated Churches were meeting everywhere in the open without permission from anyone, [so] why were we the exception – after all, there is freedom of religion in Zimbabwe! We started our service only when he got clearance for us to hold our service outside.

The emergency court that sat yesterday gave ruling in our favour again. It ordered the police to stop interfering in our services and that all parties to the dispute should observe the Makarawu judgment – which states that we should share buildings until the High Court of Zimbabwe has made a ruling on the matter. We patiently wait!!

Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for us.

+Chad Harare.

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Responses

  1. It is time people realised that Kunonga is mad and needs medical attention.


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