Reverend Murombedzi Muyengwa gazed into space for a moment, reflecting. When he resumed speaking, it appeared as if his words came from a place deep and profound within him.
“I came here to shepherd this flock,” he said of his congregation. “We have a big flock here and I can’t abandon them.”
Murombedzi was the Anglican Church’s overseer at Daramombe Mission before he was chased away like a criminal from the mission as ex-communicated cleric Nolbert Kunonga continues to take over the church’s properties on the strength of a 2009 Supreme Court judgment to that effect.
Murombedzi, together with his family and those at the mission who have chosen to throw in their lot with Bishop Chad Gandiya, are paying the price for refusing to embrace Kunonga.
On September 20, Murombedzi and five other people who were accused of defying Kunonga, were thrown out of their houses. That night, they kept vigil with the owls, standing guard over their property in the open.
Murombedzi’s wife, Veronica, is clearly disturbed by the nightmare that they have had to endure. She recalls the events of that horror night: “We were dumped with our four children and we slept in the open that night before the headman later gave us a place to stay.”
On September 31, they were booted out of the Mutasa homestead where they had been living in Chigwende village after their eviction from the mission. A Good Shepherd had offered them accommodation.
Their host, headman Mudavanhu (Razaro Gombiro), latter received a letter from Chief Chivese, who has jurisdiction over the area, ordering them to stop conducting church services and leave the area.
“The letter directed the headman to tell all the families that came from Daramombe Mission that they cannot continue to stay in the village or conduct church services because it is illegal. We were told to leave by September 31 on Chief Chivese’s instructions after he had received a court order which said it was illegal to keep the families that came from Daramombe, so they must leave,” he said.
Headmasters, teachers, nursing staff and priests were evicted from Daramombe Mission near Chivhu, as the breakaway Kunonga continued to seize properties belonging to the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa.
A villager who witnessed the events unfold, Samson Chifashu, recalls: “It was very painful to witness the eviction. They had been given seven days’ notice, but no one would have thought it would actually happen. It was unbelievable.”
The congregation is now holding their services on an open space in the forest where Reverend Murombedzi’s household goods were initially dumped after they were barred from using the church building at the mission.
One of the affected women, who refused to give her name for fear of victimisation, said there would not depend on the courts, but were looking up to God to hear their cry.
“We are not depending on the courts,” she said. “We are relying on God because we can’t fight in the flesh. We don’t fear men, but God.”
She said as women, they were the greatest casualties of the on-going battle in the Anglican Church as normally, they were not free to speak out their mind. “As women, sometimes we are afraid to speak. We are not free,” she said.
Susan Mafemere, the wife to the former nurse-in-charge at the hospital, said after her husband was ordered to leave, he was asked to take her along.
“They said if I remained at the mission, then he would come back to the mission to see me. So we were ordered to leave together,” Mafemere recalls.
Her husband was one of the five key figures chased away from the mission as they were believed to be likely to influence others against Kunonga.
Talking to the affected women who are part of the church’s Mothers’ Union, it is clear they do not know exactly what is happening in the church’s corridors of power, save that the in-fighting has turned enemies out of friends and neighbours.
They said all they knew was that for over 10 years, they had been part of the Masvingo Diocese of the Anglican Church, only to be later told that they now fell under the Diocese of Harare. Ironically, they were not even introduced to the new Church leadership.
“When the new overseer (identified only Reverend Mugomo) came, he did not even have the courtesy to come and ask for the keys to the church from me. Someone actually got into the church building through an open window so that they could open the doors from inside,” Murombedzi said.
He said many people at the mission had been promised jobs and promotions at the mission hospital as well as the primary and secondary schools so that they could shift their allegiance to the new leadership.
Kunonga, according to Murombedzi, has misled the world into believing that he is fighting the acceptance of homosexuality in the Anglican Church. The church, in Europe, has given the nod to same-sex marriages, condemned in the Bible as “vile affections” and “unseemly”.
The real story, Murombedzi said, was that under the correct Anglican Church procedures, Kunonga would never have qualified to be a bishop, so he used the ruse of homosexuality to forcefully take over the Church in Zimbabwe.
Kunonga, an ally of President Robert Mugabe, split from the Anglican Church in 2007 and has been using a recent court judgment that gave custody of Anglican properties to the board of trustees that he leads.
Kunonga formed his own Anglican Church Province of Zimbabwe (ACPZ), after he was excommunicated in 2007, when serious differences emerged over the issue of homosexual clergy.
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku recently dismissed an appeal in which the CPCA Harare Diocese was challenging the High Court judgment on whose strength Kunonga has been taking over the church properties.