Zimbabwe: Police Summon, Warn Anglican Faction Leaders

Harare, Zimbabwe - POLICE have summoned Anglican Harare Diocese faction leaders and warned that the law will take its full course should the violence that has rocked the diocese since late last year persist.

The warning follows repeated clashes involving parishioners aligned to Bishop Nolbert Kunonga and Bishop Sebastian Bakare respectively.

The skirmishes have left church property damaged and worshippers injured, culminating in the two rival camps holding separate church services at the Cathedral of St Mary and All Saints simultaneously under heavy police guard.

This prompted police to summon the feuding clergymen to Harare Central police station for a post-mortem of the disturbances.

Diocese information officer Reverend Morris Brown Gwedegwe and diocese secretary Reverend Barnabas Machingauta attended the meeting on behalf of the Kunonga faction while warden Mrs Christabel Maziriri and Mrs Sekai Chibaya represented the Bakare camp.

Harare province police spokesman Inspector James Sabau confirmed the meeting, held on Tuesday.

"As police we were concerned about the use of violence in the resolution of their dispute. We told them to resolve their dispute peacefully," said Insp Sabau.

"We told them in no uncertain terms that we do not support any faction. What we were against is the use of violence, otherwise we will be forced to invoke the relevant statutes to address the situation."

No one was available for comment from the Bishop Bakare faction. Bishop Bakare has in the past refused to speak to The Herald, accusing the newspaper of being biased towards the Kunonga camp.

He said he could not understand why it had not reported acts of violence against his supporters at the cathedral, which is just a stone's throw away from Herald House.

Rev Gwedegwe said the meeting was intended to review the skirmishes within the diocese.

"The police wanted to know whether we were heading towards the right direction or disaster. As police they said they had no solution to the church problems as that lay with the people in the church. They told us to agree to disagree in a manner that promotes peace," said Rev Gwedegwe.

Rev Gwedegwe said while the Bakare faction seemed happy with the police's suggestion to share the church assets that did not go down well with his faction.

He said the continued holding of church services under police guard, in their view, was not conducive as that had an intimidating effect on their parishioners.

He said the Bakare faction had no right to use the church premises and they should apply to them, should they need to use it.

"We from the Dr Kunonga side feel that those who want to use ourchurch should do so through an application to the bishop and the property committee which considers such applications."

Another pastor, Archdeacon Rev Alfred Munyanyi from the Kunonga side, said the decision by the diocese to pull out from Province of Central Africa still stood.

"The diocese's synod cannot be overturned by parishioners' councils because parishioners discuss issues pertaining to their parishes and not diocesan issues," said Rev Munyanyi.