President Robert Mugabe will next week travel to the South American country of Ecuador to receive an honorary degree conferred on him by a church whose credentials are reportedly dubious.
The Anglican Diocese of Harare said information it has gathered from South American church leaders indicated Dr Walter Roberto Crespo was heading an illegitimate church, the Anglican Church of the Province of Ecuador.
The Anglican Church of the Province of Ecuador last month said it had conferred President Mugabe with an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.
President Mugabe accepted the honorary degree and will travel to Quito, Ecuador’s capital when the United Nations General Assembly ends in New York next week.
Bishop of the province, Dr Crespo, announced the conferment of the degree when he met President Mugabe at State House during his visit to Zimbabwe last month.
President Mugabe expressed gratitude to the “Ecuadorians” saying: “We are very grateful and appreciative of the generosity that has come from Ecuador to us. We shall receive the conferment of the honorary degree on our way from the United Nations (UN) Summit in the United States next month.”
Dr Crespo was accompanied by Bishop Nolbert Kunonga and the Bishop of Manicaland Elson Jakazi.
Dr Crespo’s church has close ties with Bishop Kunonga’s breakaway Anglican Church.
Dr Crespo said the degree was in honour of President Mugabe’s “outstanding leadership”.
“The conferment of the honorary doctorate on the head of state is in honour and in recognition of Comrade Mugabe’s outstanding leadership of not only Zimbabwe but of the rest of the world, including Latin America,” he said.
But it emerged yesterday Dr Crespo was a controversial character whose church’s credentials were reportedly dubious.
It is not only the Anglican Diocese of Harare which does not recognise Dr Crespo’s church, but reports say church leaders in Ecuador have also distanced themselves from the controversial bishop and his church.
They said Dr Crespo was not affiliated to the Episcopal Church’s Dioceses of Litoral and Central Ecuador.
They accused Dr Crespo of being head of his own self-styled Anglican Province of Ecuador just as Kunonga is accused of leading an unrecognised congregation in Zimbabwe.
Dr Crespo himself is not free from controversy.
Reports say he was involved in the supplying of arms of war to a guerilla movement in Colombia, the Revolutionary Forces of Columbia (FARC) in 2000.
He was accused of negotiating the sale of hundreds of anti-tank missiles and cluster bombs by the FARC guerrillas, as well as funnelling $240 000 for M-72-A2 missiles, which were intended to be used in an attack on Columbian President, Alvaro Uribe.
Reports say Dr Crespo was arrested in 2000 in connection with his role in supplying the guerilla movement with arms of war.
He spent three years in prison and was released due to lack of sufficient evidence.
Reports say he spoke to the media from a prison cell in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, and acknowledged he had contracts with the FARC.
Zimbabwe’s name was also implicated in the sale of the cluster bombs.
Friday, the Anglican Diocese in Harare distanced itself from Dr Crespo and his church saying: “The Anglican Diocese of Harare and the Church of the Province of Central Africa, which are part of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, dissociate themselves from any activities associated with Dr Crespo and the ‘Anglican’ Province of Ecuador.”
“The Diocese of Harare (CPCA) led by Bishop Chad Gandiya, is not at all surprised by this apparent solidarity between Dr Kunonga and Dr Crespo, they are both rebels fighting for a nonexistent cause,” the Diocese of Harare said in a statement. During his visit to Zimbabwe Dr Crespo supported President Mugabe’s land reform programme and said the country should exploit its diamonds without any external interferences.
He also attacked the Kimberley Process for dragging its feet in certifying diamonds from the controversial Chiadzwa diamonds fields.