Zanu PF sowing seeds of a breakaway Anglican church

Harare, Zimbabwe - There are allegations that Zimbabwe’s ruling party is sponsoring moves for a breakaway Anglican church that will have no links to the Church of England. A senior priest within the church, who refused to be named, says Harare Bishop Nolbert Kunonga is the key to driving this breakaway agenda. Statements by the Archbishop of Central Africa Bernard Malango, accusing the Archbishop of Canterbury (the head of the church) of interference, have also added to the speculation. The church has already seen the gradual infiltration of partisan bishops and priests into its structures and talk is rife that they are considering a complete break from the mother church.

Bishop Kunonga courted controversy by openly declaring his support for the violent land grabs by Mugabe’s regime and has faced a church trial for threatening his opponents with death, amongst other charges. He has received a farm in return for his support while several priests he has threatened have fled the country. Lionel Saungweme reports from Bulawayo that the church has already modified its prayer book and form of worship but it remains unclear if this is part of the breakaway moves. The Church of England is known to support traditional forms of worship whereas the church in Zimbabwe is taking on a more Pentecostal approach.

Saungweme, who also interviewed a bishop in Bulawayo over these allegations, has been told the state wants to use the Anglican church as part of its, ‘command and control influence.’ He was told that lessons from colonialism had shown the church as a key asset in influencing community opinions and Zanu PF was now trying to do the same. Another ominous sign was when Bishop Kunonga ordered the closure of all churches and the cathedral in Harare so that parishioners could attend his 33rd wedding anniversary. The decision increased the split within the church and has given rise to talk about the lack of unity being another reason for a possible breakaway.