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Victory for religious freedom

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After the protracted tussle for control of the Anglican Church, justice seems to have prevailed after the Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favour of Bishop Chad Gandiya and the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

Newsday comment

The five-year fight for the control of church properties was never short of drama, blood and tears while in some instances it turned political since Nolbert Kunonga was excommunicated in 2008. The group that came to be known as the Gandiya faction was barred from using church property and on numerous occasions, fights erupted at the churches.

Kunonga even had the audacity to brandish the Zanu PF card, probably to gain political sympathy from the former ruling party.

Police appeared to be siding with him whenever they barred Gandiya’s group from using the church’s property and the Bernard Mizeki shrine. In his judgment Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba said Kunonga and his followers had no say in the ownership of the Anglican property as they were no longer part of the church.

“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.” The court also ordered Kunonga to return all the church properties he had seized from the Gandiya faction including the Cathedral next to Parliament, Pax House and multiple properties dotted around the country.

Given that the church is supposed to be an evident opposite of the usually bloody and violent game of politics, what the country learnt from the man of cloth left a lot to be desired.

Men of cloth traded their Bibles for insults and it had to take the courts, and not the Bible, to give them direction.

We least expect that from bishops. The church’s mandate is to preach the gospel, take care of the poor and ensure moral upbringing in society.

Now that the matter has been brought to its logical conclusion, it’s time the two leaders got back to their mandate and move on.

It is common knowledge that the church has a bigger role to play in the social, political and economic dynamics of any nation.

Now that sanity has prevailed, we only hope that the Anglican Church leaders bury their differences and pray for a prosperous Zimbabwe we all thrive for.

There is much work out there for the church.

The judgment is also a serious indictment on our police who at times appeared to support the serious assault on religious freedoms. Zanu PF and President Robert Mugabe allowed their names to be used in this shameful persecution of ordinary Anglicans.

The treatment of Anglicans by the police and Kunonga’s henchmen bears parallels to the ill-treatment of the political opposition by Zanu PF and Mugabe and it is our hope that the ruling by the Supreme Court will serve as a reminder that it is immoral and downright wicked to deny fellow Zimbabweans their freedoms.

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