Zimbabwe: Anglican Bishops Fearful After Brutal Murder And Death Threats

Harare, Zimbabwe - Anglican bishops in Zimbabwe are appealing for protection, after being warned of plans to kill them as a power struggle with a rival pro-ZANU PF bishop deepens. Their plea for help comes after one of their church members was brutally murdered last week.

It is believed the violence against the clergymen is being orchestrated by the controversial faction of the Anglican Church led by Dr. Nolbert Kunonga, an ardent ZANU PF supporter.

On Monday, the Right Reverend Chad Gandiya, who is the current Bishop of Harare, told SW Radio Africa: "One of my fellow bishops was approached by two people who told him that they had come to kill him and that the mission is to kill all the Anglican bishops; and that is why I said we are an endangered species because from that conversation with my colleagues we are all to be killed."

"All he was told was this had something to do with the church and that we were stumbling blocks to Dr. Kunonga's ambition of running the whole Anglican church in Zimbabwe," Gandiya said.

Just days after the threats a member of the mainstream church headed by Gandiya was brutally murdered last week.

"People came at night on a Friday. They raped her, they cut her mouth and genitals, and pierced various parts of her body," Gandiya explained, "we were told it is something to do with the fact she belonged to our church, and so that leaves us to speculate."

Gandiya emphasised it was not linked to the ongoing political violence, saying instead that he believed it was linked to the dispute between Kunonga and the mainstream church.

Following the killing and death threats, Gandiya said that he hoped the police would step in this time to offer them help. On previous occasions, the police have protected Kunonga, going to the extent of following his instructions to turn people away from church, who don't support him.

"My hope is that they will do their work in terms of protecting all the citizens of Zimbabwe without singling us out as people who are not to be protected," he said, "our experience has been that we have not enjoyed the protection of the police. Rather the very opposite, they stop us from going into our churches," he said.

In 2007 Kunonga lost a bid for re-election as Bishop of Harare. Instead of stepping down, he went on to form a rival Anglican faction and has been using violent tactics to remain in power ever since.