THERE was drama at the Supreme Court in Harare yesterday as supporters of Anglican Church Bishop Chad Gandiya burst into song, dance and ululation after the court ruled against excommunicated Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, bringing to an end a five-year leadership and property wrangle which had rocked the church.
REPORT BY CHARLES LAITON SENIOR COURT REPORTER
Supreme Court judge Justice Yunus Omerjee delivered the judgment on behalf of Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba, upholding Gandiya’s appeal in a fully-packed courtroom in the morning. The Supreme Court said High Court judge Justice Ben Hlatshwayo was wrong in giving Kunonga and his followers the right to possess and control Anglican Church property without its consent.
“It is common cause that the property belongs to the church. It has the right to an order for vindication of its property from possessors who have no right to have it . . . they had no right to continue in possession of the congregational buildings when they had departed from the fundamental principles and standards on which the church is founded. They left it, putting themselves beyond its ecclesiastical jurisdiction,” Justice Malaba said.
The court also ordered Kunonga to return all the church properties he had seized from the Gandiya faction.
Part of the order reads: “The appeal in the case of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) versus Diocesan Trustees for the Diocese of Harare SC180/09 succeeds with costs. The judgment of the court a quo (from which an appeal has been taken) in case number HC4327/08 is set aside and substituted with the following: ‘The application is dismissed with costs’.
“The appeal in the case of the Church of the Province of Central Africa versus Kunonga and others SC130/10 be and is hereby allowed with costs. The judgment of the court a quo in case number HC6544/07 is set aside and substituted with the following order: ‘The claim is granted with costs’.”
Flanked by his wife Faith and over 50 church members and other bishops, an ecstatic Gandiya hailed the court’s ruling, adding his members would move back into the properties soon.
“We have waited in exile for five years. We prayed all this time and God has answered our prayers. I cannot wait going back to my office,” Gandiya told supporters outside the court building.
Asked when he expected Kunonga to move out, Gandiya replied: “As soon as possible.”
Kunonga led a breakaway faction from the CPCA and formed the Anglican Province of Zimbabwe on the basis that the former condoned homosexuality.
Yesterday, Kunonga’s aide David Kunyongana referred all questions to the Harare Diocese, whose telephone number remained engaged until the time of going to print.
The judgment was handed down by Justice Malaba and concurred to by Justices Vernanda Ziyambi and Omerjee.