Kunonga lost control of the church in 2007 after he withdrew his diocese from the Anglican Church Province of Central Africa (CPCA), ostensibly in protest against the tolerance of homosexuality by Anglicans in the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Upon establishing his anti-gay independent Anglican church, he was replaced by the CPCA, who last July appointed a Bishop Chad Gandiya, sparking a bloody battle for the control of the church, which has sucked in Zanu (PF) and the main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The state owned Herald reported last week that Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba had ruled that Kunonga should have control of the Anglican church assets.
The CPCA said the Supreme Court granted a chamber application brought by Kunonga to dismiss the appeal noted by the CPCA on a procedural technicality.
“The appeal brought by the Province related to the High Court Order that was granted by the Honourable Justice Hlatshwayo declaring Dr Kunonga and six others trustees of the Diocese of Harare,” it said in a statement on Monday.
“That order vested the custody and control of diocesan property to Kunonga and his six ‘trustees’ who have since left the CPCA and formed their own organisation known as the Church of the Province of Zimbabwe and made Kunonga archbishop of that church.”
“Since Dr Kunonga and his six ‘trustees’ are no longer part of the CPCA, they cannot, and are not part of the church that owns the property to which they are ‘trustees’. It is for this reason that the CPCA appealed against the order of the Honourable Justice Hlatshwayo.
“The main matter pertaining to the ownership of diocesan property is still pending in the High Court and has not been disposed of. Since that matter is still pending in another court, the Supreme Court did not make any finding on it. It is therefore a misnomer to report that diocesan assets now belong to Dr Kunonga as the ownership of assets was never an issue in this appeal,” noted the statement. “The High Court in the not too distant future, will determine the main property issue.”
The CPCA also noted in the statement that Kunonga was alleged to have stated that all churches in the diocese were now accessible to all Anglicans on times “to be arranged with clergy from different persuasions of the Church”.
“This is indeed the way it ought to have been as set out in the ruling of the Honourable Justice Makarau were it not for the illegal use of the police to bar CPCA parishioners from accessing church premises in clear contempt of the ruling.
The Gandiya faction has in the past expressed concern at the partisanship and bias of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. The police has ordered that only the Kunonga faction should worship in the Anglican premises.
An order from the police reads: “Officer-in-charge stations to engage dialogue with their local church leaders from both factions to ensure that one church service is done under KUNONGA.”
The Gandiya faction wants police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri, charged with contempt of court, for ignoring a court order which ruled that both factions share the premises for worship every Sunday.
“The CPCA has always complied, and will continue to comply, with court orders issued by the courts of Zimbabwe,” read the statement.
The CPCA said it wanted to encourage its members to stand firm in their faith and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and his church.
“First we would like you all to remember that the church is people. You are the church and not buildings even though they are important.
“We should guard against discussing church business including matters that are before the courts in the papers. I understand the need both to disseminate correct information to a wider audience and to counteract propaganda and lies that are at times peddled through the papers as “gospel truth” about our situation. This has to be balanced with other prudent considerations such as the wisdom of refusing to play according to someone’s tune no matter how great the temptation may be.”
It also warned against its members not to act on the basis of what they read in the newspapers without checking with the authorities first.
“Again, we do not conduct our business through the papers. We will inform you officially about any changes to the status quo. For instance, Dr. Kunonga has not contacted the province or us as he indicated in the Herald. If and when he does and the province or diocese has anything to share with you, we will do so without delay. In the meantime if you are able to use your churches please go ahead and do as it is in accordance with Makarawu judgment.”
“If the police prohibit you, please do not resist because it could then end up in violence.”
Scores of people have been injured in the skirmishes which have seen several parishioners in different Anglican parishes in and around Zimbabwe hospitalised.
Kunonga is a self confessed Zanu (PF) supporter, who is close to President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe is a well known anti-gay basher. At one-time he referred to homosexuals as “worse than pigs.”
Sources say Kunonga has ably exploited the issue in order to ingratiate himself with President Mugabe so as to gain full control of the Anglican diocese in Harare, which has extensive assets, including farms.