By ACNS staff
Anglicans in Zimbabwe's Diocese of Masvingo may once again face arrest for trying to commemorate the life and ministry of Arthur Shearly Cripps1 and for carrying out their ministry.
As ACNS reported last year, clergy and pilgrims were prevented from holding their celebrations at the Shearly Cripps Shrine by excommunicated bishop Dr Nolbert Kunonga supported by police. Dr Kunonga claimed to be in charge of the shrine and 78 Anglican churches in Masvingo Diocese.
The Bishop of Masvingo, the Rt Revd Godfrey Tawonezwi has revealed that this year they have had to move the event to the beginning of August for the same reasons, but that the police have labelled the planned gathering "illegal". No-one knows whether meeting at the shrine will end in arrests.
"This year we had arranged to hold the celebrations from 27 to 29 July," the bishop wrote to supporters, "but Kunonga and the police have once again stopped us from doing so. Last week Kunonga put up posters in Chivhu Town advertising that he (as the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe2) will be going to Shearly Cripps Shrine the same weekend we had planned to be at the shrine. The police wrote us a letter saying that all Anglican Church property is under the custodianship of Kunonga.
"In our response to this correspondence from the police, we informed them that the court cases they cited have a direct reference to the property wrangle in the Diocese of Harare and not Masvingo. We also pointed out to them that the order by the Supreme Court in case number SC 180/08 as read with High Court case number 4327/08 does not cover property in the Diocese of Masvingo because rightly so such property falls under the Diocese of Masvingo.
"We have since changed our dates for Shearly Cripps celebrations to August 3 to 5. We do not know what will happen because the Police are insisting that our gathering to celebrate Shearly Cripps day is illegal. We will wait and see what will take place this coming week-end."
The bishop went on to explain that earlier this year Dr Kunonga, with the support of the police, had forcibly taken over Darambombe Mission with the police threatening to arrest anyone from the diocese who enters the property.
On Saturday 21 January, Dr Kunonga and his supporters went to Daramombe Mission and addressed High School pupils there. In his address he claimed that he had taken over Daramombe Mission comprising the High School, the Primary School, the Clinic, the Church and the Mission farm.
"We, in the Diocese of Masvingo, are Zimbabweans but we are being harassed by our own police," said Bp Godfrey. "It is very clear that the police in Chivhu where the shrine is situated have taken sides in this matter. It is most unfortunate."
The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has been under attack from the excommunicated bishop, Dr Nolbert Kunonga, since 2007. Kunonga, with the support of police and henchmen, has seized CPCA church property and used violence and intimidation to break up church services. In a 2011 media interview, Dr Kunonga was quoted as saying he aimed to control the 3,000 Anglican churches, schools, hospitals and other properties in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi. At the end of 2011, the Archbishops of Canterbury, Central Africa, Southern Africa and Tanzania met with President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe and presented him with a dossier that outlined how Anglicans have been persecuted over the years.
For anyone wanting to show their support for persecuted Anglicans in Zimbabwe, please visit the I'm Standing With Zimbabwe Anglicans Facebook page here http://on.fb.me/jaMC5W
Notes to Editors
1 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.
2 Dr Kunonga was excommunicated from the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA), the official Member Church of the Anglican Communion, and has since seized properties owned by CPCA churches in Zimbabwe. He claims to be the leader of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe