Mugabe appears shocked at Kunonga's actions

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President Robert Mugabe yesterday came face to face with the visiting Anglican Church head, Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and “appeared shocked” at the level of persecution local Anglicans were enduring at the hands of excommunicated Bishop Nolbert Kunonga.

Archbishop Williams said he had presented the Head of State with a dossier on the violence targeting Anglicans in Zimbabwe and President Mugabe “appeared shocked”.

Following the meeting which lasted close to two hours, Dr Williams said a surprised President Mugabe pledged to engage Bishop Kunonga over the issue.

“I think that the scale of intimidation was something he was not familiar with . . . He expressed his willingness to talk to Kunonga,” said Dr Williams.

The delegation of bishops issued a statement last night saying: “Today we were able to present President Mugabe with a dossier compiled by the bishops in Zimbabwe which gives a full account of the abuses to which our people and our church has been subject.

“We have asked, in the clearest possible terms, that the President use his powers as Head of State to put an end to all unacceptable and illegal behaviour.”

NewsDay, however, got it from sources close to yesterday’s meeting that although the President was not aware of and might have been shocked by the scale of violence rocking the Anglican Church, he told the delegation of bishops he could not do much, given that the row between Kunonga and the main Anglican Church was before the courts and therefore sub judice.

Dr Williams, Bishop Valentino Mukiwa from Tanzania, Thabo Makgoba (South Africa), Trevor Muramba (Botswana), Albert Chama, the head of the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa, Bishop Chad Gandiya of the Harare Diocese and other local bishops made up the delegation that met the President at State House.

The bishops told the President about the seizure of church property, among them seminaries, schools, nurseries and orphanages, by Kunonga, who was excommunicated from the main Anglican Church in 2007.

The President is said to have raised the issue of homosexuality with the Archbishop, telling him that the practice was not welcome in Zimbabwe. He also talked about the sanctions and how they had affected economic development and impacted on the lifestyles of ordinary people.

Dr Williams, however, told reporters the allegation his church supported homosexuality was “a distraction tactic meant to take people’s attention from the real issues”.

He said the Anglican Church worldwide was against the practice of homosexuality although the church respected the rights of individuals who are homosexuals.

Dr Williams said he came to Zimbabwe to show solidarity with the local church and was proud of the resilience they had shown.