The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, gave President Robert Mugabe a dossier alleging a member of the church was murdered in cold blood while priests and parishioners were being terrorised by the police and armed gangs loyal to former Anglican church leader Nolbert Kunonga.
According to the dossier, a copy of which is in NewsDay’s possession, the police are said to be playing a critical role in the violence unleashed against members of the main Anglican Church by Kunonga, who was excommunicated from the church in 2007.
The police have been accused of arresting Anglican priests without cause and driving out worshippers from churches using baton sticks and teargas.
“Priests and deacons are arrested without charge on a weekly basis, often on Friday, allowing the police to hold them over the weekend without charge, so that they cannot minister to their congregations . . . Even when priests are not arrested they are threatened with violence by armed men,” reads the dossier.
“In Harare the police have disrupted church services and have been using teargas and baton sticks to drive people out of church buildings. As a consequence, most churches lie empty each Sunday, except where a handful of Dr Kunonga’s priests and their families are able to occupy them.”
The dossier claimed Jessica Mandeya of Harare Diocese was murdered on February 18, after having earlier received death threats for “consistently” refusing to join Kunonga. Kunonga and the police were also accused of denying Anglicans access to shrines such as Bernard Mizeki and Arthur Shearly Cripps for their annual pilgrimage.
“In 2010, just as people from all over the country and beyond started converging at the Bernard Mizeki Shrine just outside Marondera, police turned up in full force and drove the pilgrims away. The police took this action despite assurances (to) the bishops by government that they would not be disturbed or harassed by anyone.”
But, police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena denied the police were siding with Kunonga and said in the cases they had been involved they would be investigating criminal cases or restoring order.
“Most of the issues are common cause, basically they are turning common criminal issues into politics.
When someone reports that they have been assaulted, we react whether that person is aligned to Kunonga or Chad Gandiya, just like we react to violence whether the perpetrator is MDC or Zanu PF,” Bvudzijena said.
“If it’s public disorder, we react the same whether the disorder has been caused by Christians in a church or drunkards in a bar. In cases where there was disorder in church, the police may have moved in to restore order.”
President Mugabe was also informed that Kunonga had taken over several schools and nurseries in Harare and Manicaland Diocese, driving out priests and school heads resulting in academic standards falling.
Kunonga has also reportedly taken over orphanages, health facilities and training centres and was abusing funds while stripping the institutions of assets.