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Zimbabwe's Anglican church divided over politics

Mugabe's bishop is sacked but refuses to vacate Harare cathedral, polarizing congregation.

Kunonga's critics say he is simply power-hungry and is using the homosexuality issue as an excuse to ingratiate himself with Mugabe. The Zimbabwean president, who is a Roman Catholic, is known for his virulent anti-homosexual views.

Car-park attendant Shadreck Nyatsuro attends Kunongo’s services. "He has always been good to me. I have to stay neutral. I went to Bishop Kunonga’s service at 7.30 a.m. this morning so I don’t need to attend this one, too,’’ said Nyatsuro, 72, as he maintained a studied distance from those taking Bishop Gandiya's communion by the car park.

"We never know, from one Sunday to the next, whether we are going to gain access,’’ said Father Farai Mutamiri, officiating at Bishop Gandiya’s service. Members of his congregation were tear-gassed last year by riot police loyal to Kunonga who burst into the cathedral during the service. "That is when we took the issue to court,’’ said Reverend Phineas Fundira.

The most recent court hearing, which ran into the evening of Saturday, Dec. 19, ruled that services led by Bishop Gandiya’s clergy should not be disrupted. But a few hours later police arrested church wardens and officials at several churches around Harare.

"The police are constantly in contempt of court,’’ said Fundira. "We increasingly do not know what to do. We have some Anglicans in the Zanu-PF Politburo so we are now going to turn to them for support.’’

The locked-out Anglicans believe Kunonga’s position is hardening and see no let-up in the support he is receiving from elements of the police. Father Mutamiri said the congregation had remained united and that most regulars supported Bishop Gandiya. "We are holding house services, and sticking together. Our biggest problem is the cost of going to court, and we could do with support from other Anglicans.’’

But he did not call for further intervention from the archbishops of Canterbury and York.

"We are accused of being pro-homosexual and pro-MDC, which we are not. We are just a peace-loving congregation who wish to be able to carry on worshipping together.

"We would like the Church of the Province of Central Africa to solve this issue which is, after all, centered on their former employee, Kunonga," said Mutamiri. "But if the archbishop of Canterbury gets involved that could strengthen the perception that our agenda is for regime-change in Zimbabwe, which it is not.’’