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Life for Zimbabwe Anglicans worsens with properties commandeered, priests arrested

Posted on: August 2, 2011 12:32 PM
Related Categories: Central Africa, Masvingo, persecution, Zimbabwe

By ACNS staff

Clergy and pilgrims hoping to visit the Arthur Shearly Cripps Shrine last week were once again frustrated by excommunicated bishop Dr Norbert Kunonga who now claims to be in charge of the shrine and 78 Anglican churches in Masvingo Diocese.

The Anglican Diocese of Masvingo said its leaders advised Anglican worshippers against taking part in this year’s Shearly Cripps celebrations, scheduled for 29 to 31 July, after a court ruled that Dr Kunonga could not be prevented from attending the shrine.

A diocesan spokesperson told ACNS, “Kunonga got wind of the Diocesan preparations for commemoration of Arthur Shearly Cripps by pilgrims at the Arthur Shearly Cripps Shrine this month end, and he began to counter these efforts.

“He had been distributing flyers, pamphlets and sticking posters in our Churches in and around Chivhu town and Daramombe Mission. The same group which was moving around Chivhu went to Daramombe Mission on Saturday 23 July and put more posters at the Mission and then made a fire next to the entrance of the church and started roasting meat. Thereafter they took one of the Priest-in-Charge’s chickens and disappeared from the Mission.”

Kunonga claims he has taken over the Shrine and not only informed the District Police Officer of this, but also appeared on national television station ZBC TV on Sunday 31 June announcing he had taken over the Shrine plus all church properties: 45 in the Chikomba District and 33 in the Buhera District.

“The District Police’s Officer Commanding then wrote to us indicating that we have no right to go to the Shrine,” said the spokesperson. “Kunonga didn’t stop his disturbances by simply writing to the Officer Commanding Chikomba District to bar us from having the Shearly Cripps commemoration done at the Shrine, but he also used the police to forcibly take church properties in Chivhu.”

Church of the Province of Central Africa [CPCA] Bishops had an emergency meeting in Harare over what was developing in Masvingo,” the spokesperson explained. “The Bishop the Rt. Revd.G. Tawonezvi went to Chivhu on Tuesday to have a meeting with the District Police Officer/Officer Commanding for Chikomba, in order to map a way forward and seek peace over what is occurring, but the Officer Commanding refused to recant his position concerning Kunonga’s claim for ownership of our properties including the shrine, despite the pure facts which were presented to him.”

This is the latest in a series of attempts by the excommunicated bishop Kunonga to take over properties owned by the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe. On Monday 25 July the police, allegedly following a directive from Dr Kunonga, detained the Priest-in-Charge for Chivhu Church District the Ven. Shamuyarira at Chivhu Central Police Station for almost three hours, in an attempt to forcibly make him surrender keys for CPCA Church properties in Chivhu, but he refused.

On Sunday 31, Dr Kunonga with a group of supporters and seven police officers from Chivhu arrived at Daramombe Mission before 6am. They forced their way into the Daramobe Church via a window, held a service and then held a meeting there until 1pm. This meant that regular Anglican church services for students at the High School and for parishioners had to be cancelled. It was reported that during their meeting Dr Kunonga and his supporters discussed changing departmental leadership by bringing in their own people to head the respective departments of the Mission.

Afterwards they demanded the keys for the church and rectory from the Priest-in-Charge, Ven. Murombedzi who refused to surrender the keys.

ENDS

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Notes to Editors

  • Arthur Shearly Cripps (10 June 1869 - 1 August 1952) was an English Anglican priest, short story writer, and poet who spent most of his life in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He became a missionary for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, who was in conflict with the British South Africa Company over land distribution, taking the side of the African population. He was given the Shona name Mpandi, or 'the man who walks like thunder'. After more than 20 years he returned to England for a time after a quarrel with the British administration; but went back shortly for the rest of his life, having in 1927 published Africa for Africans, on the land issue.