Kunonga, police in unholy alliance?

HARARE - It was a partnership church leaders say was manufactured right in the devil’s chambers.

For five years, renegade Anglican bishop Nolbert Kunonga and the police formed a powerful force that reduced the Anglicans in Zimbabwe to a desperate lot until the Supreme Court ruling last week.

So vicious were Kunonga and the police that the global head of the Anglican church, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, flew into Harare last year to beg President Robert Mugabe to use his influence on the police.

The Daily News on Sunday relives the unholy alliance which resulted in women and children harassed, churches closed and orphanages, schools and churches run over.

Correspondence shows that Kunonga and police bosses were in constant touch.

He also took advantage of his close links to Mugabe to coerce the police into his corner.

Following the onset of hostilities between Kunonga and the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA), police were roped in to massive effect.

In a letter dated October 30, 2008 to police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri in which Kunonga was giving a brief report on his takeover scheme, the renegade bishop expressed gratitude for the help he was getting from the force and appealed for more support.

“We give you a brief report province by province of what is happening in the Church and appeal for more assistance.

“We applaud the assistance we are getting from the police. We could have been dragged into chaos but the police were available to silence the Gandiya faction movement at stations like Highfield St Paul,” Kunonga wrote to Chihuri.

He provided advice to Chihuri on areas that required police attention and how to deal with some police details reluctant to evict CPCA members without a court order authorising them to do so.

“What we have observed is that the Dispol (district police) Assistant Commissioner sends the directives but the police details under him seem to be undermining the authority. They demand things which are not available at the moment.

“Things like court orders cannot be obtained. The police details should take orders from their seniors, which I believe will help diffuse the Mashonaland West scenario,” wrote Kunonga.

In Harare, police who had embarked on a brutal clampdown that forced CPCA members to abandon churches and worship under trees and in rented school classrooms. Kunonga advised Chihuri to use this as a template.

“What the police are doing in Harare, we appeal that the same position be taken by the Propols (provincial police commanders) in the provinces of Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West.

“It is good that the pattern remains uniform. If we allow these people to keep using our churches, then there is a loophole somewhere,” wrote Kunonga.

In his letter, Kunonga also explicitly revealed his political inclination.

“However, we cannot run away from our stance that we support the ruling party (Zanu PF) and we shall keep praying for peace and sanity under the leadership of (President Robert Mugabe),” he said.

Police spokesperson Andrew Phiri early this year described this communication as part of routine police-public cooperation.

When Williams came to Zimbabwe in October last year, he also exposed how the link between police and Kunonga had turned the dispute into a grave matter.

In the dossier, Williams detailed how Kunonga’s campaign had led to brutal repression, murder and denial of basic freedoms of worship.

“Zimbabwean bishops have received personal death threats by phone, in person and at gun point,” he stated in the dossier.

“On February 18, 2011 Jessica Mandeya of Harare Diocese was murdered.

Her body was not discovered for two days until Sunday morning when friends came to join her to walk to church.

“We have information which very strongly suggests that she was murdered because she belongs to the Diocese of Harare CPCA.

“She had received threats to that effect in preceding weeks and days as she consistently refused to join Kunonga’s church,” Williams told Mugabe.

He also accused the police and an unnamed minister of Home Affairs of failing to take action when Anglican congregants were denied access to pilgrimage cites like Bernard Mizeki (2010) and Arthur Shearly Cripps Shrine (2011) in Marondera and Masvingo respectively.

There were also numerous reported cases of arrests and detentions without charge of priests in Chivhu and other parishes.

Mugabe received reports from Williams of disruption in schools across the country and health institutions coming to virtual standstill.

In one instance, Kunonga’s sidekick Elson Jakazi of Manicaland, forced administrators at St Peter’s Mandeya clinic to deny medicine to malaria prone Honde Valley where women, children and poor villagers were in dire need of help, Williams alleged.

Training of priests and HIV/Aids workshops for caregivers came to a standstill as well as relief services previously provided by the Anglican Church as Kunonga and his rogue vigilante group wreaked havoc. - Staff Writer

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