Former lawyer of Zimbabwean Anglican Bishop accuses religious leader of abusing power

A letter circulated to Harare churches by a former Anglican church lawyer has accused a staunchly pro-government Anglican bishop of trying to use government influence to squash his opponents.

In the letter, distributed to churches Sunday, Bob Stumbles, a former lawyer for the Anglican church here, suggested that Nolbert Kunonga, head of the Anglican church in Harare, had fabricated an assassination plot against him in a bid to discredit parishioners who did not agree with his politics.

According to Stumbles, Kunonga went to the police last year and accused members of his church of trying to kill him. He said an internal church inquiry was also launched into the matter with no results.

No comment were immediately available from the church.

Kunonga has divided Christians for his outspoken support of President Robert Mugabe's push to seize white-owned farmland and distribute it to landless blacks.

He has faced opposition from some of his parishioners who have said they want politics kept out of the church.

In October a court approved a petition by Kunonga to ban a group of Christians from church after they protested his outspoken support of Mugabe in his sermons.

Kunonga was elected bishop in 2001, amid accusations he used his influence with the ruling party to secure the post. He was also accused of firing priests who opposed his nomination.

Zimbabwe has been gripped by more than two years of economic turmoil and political violence, widely blamed on the increasingly authoritarian ruling party.