A large number of Anglican churches which were taken over by Bishop Nolbert Kunonga are doubling up as business centres or learning institutions, infuriating members of the denomination who believe their centres of worship are being soiled.
Kunonga broke away from the Anglican Church Province of Central Africa (CPCA) in 2007 and formed the Anglican Church of the Province of Zimbabwe in January 2008, setting the stage for an ugly and bloody fight for the church’s property.
He has gained control of most of the church’s property in Harare, but is accused of using the temples for “earthly” activities, leaving more than 10 000 people affiliated to the CPCA, led by Bishop Chad Gandiya, without a place of worship. Kunonga broke away from the main Anglican Church in protest against alleged tolerance of homosexuality by Anglicans in the United Kingdom and the United States.
NewsDay visited St Paul’s Church in Highfield this week and found a crèche and a college, Joephy Learning Centre, operating from the premises. The institution is charging pupils $15 per month and is offering classes from Form One to Ordinary Level.
At St Andrew’s Church in Glen View, a private college, Hitmarkc, is operating and is offering lessons up to Advanced Level. Pupils are paying $65 per term or $30 a month while the church building is itself being used as a reception for the college.
In Kambuzuma, a big board carrying the name Anglican Church has been removed and has been replaced by one boldly inscripted “Arch Academy”.
The church office there is now a reception and registration centre while preparations are being made to turn the church itself into a giant classroom which, according to a member of the church whom we found at the premises, is expected to hold classes up to “A” Level.
The college is expected to start operating on January 3, but the principal and a recruiting officer are already operating from the building.
Officials at the college said chalk boards would be put in the church for pupils to learn while desks would also be moved in “to ensure that church property is not destroyed.”
According to a dossier from the main Anglican Church, St Peter’s Church in Bindura has been turned into a phone shop while St Peter’s Church, Dombotombo, in Marondera, has been turned into a sewing shop while several churches in Harare and surrounding areas are reportedly being rented out to tenants.
St James Church in Warren Park and St Columbus Church in Kuwadzana now accommodate pre-schools and colleges. Learning institutions have also been established at St Aidan Church (Seke), All Saints’ Church (Seke), St Andrew’s (Glen View), St Philip’s (Tafara), St James’ (Mabvuku), St Martin’s (Hatfield), St Francis (Glen Norah) and St Monica Church in Seke are also said to have learning institutions.
St Michael’s Church in Mbare is reportedly being hired by other denominations, while at St Joseph’s in Dzivarasekwa, St Peter’s in Mabelreign and St Mary’s in Chitungwiza now run as colleges.
Several churches in Harare, among them St Mary in Highlands, St Christopher in Rugare and St Mary’s Church in Cranborne, are locked.
Two weeks’ efforts to obtain comment from Kunonga were fruitless as he was said to be out of the office.
When NewsDay visited his offices on Tuesday, his secretary said he would phone back as soon as he returned, but he had not done so by Friday.