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Cablegate: Former Zimbabwe Anglican Bishop Disrupts Church

VZCZCXRO7211
OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0970/01 3491325
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 151325Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5220
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 3211
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 3322
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1746
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2580
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2949
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 0010
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0012
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2489
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000970

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

AF/S FOR B. WALCH
DRL FOR N. WILETT
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J. HARMON AND L. DOBBINS
STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR MICHELLE GAVIN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI ASEC ZI
SUBJECT: FORMER ZIMBABWE ANGLICAN BISHOP DISRUPTS CHURCH
ACTIVITIES AGAIN

HARARE 00000970 001.2 OF 003


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) A recent series of church disruptions mark a
resurgence of the heated dispute between the Anglican Church
in the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) and a breakaway
faction led by former CPCA Bishop Nolbert Kunonga. The
latest actions by Kunonga and his followers further undermine
the tenuous agreement brokered by the High Court of Zimbabwe
in January 2008, allowing the two parties to share church
premises pending a final court determination. The dispute
has assumed political significance as Kunonga has leveraged
his ZANU-PF ties to gain the support of the police. END
SUMMARY.

--------------------------------
Background: Kunonga vs. the CPCA
--------------------------------

2. (SBU) Dr. Nolbert Kunonga was the bishop for the Harare
Diocese of the Anglican Church in the Province of Central
Africa (CPCA). In 2007, he broke from the CPCA citing the
CPCA's approach to homosexuality, which he felt was too
liberal. He then formed a rival church and appointed himself
its archbishop. However, Kunonga refused to surrender the
assets of the CPCA and continued to access the church's
financial resources. He then embarked on a campaign to
prevent the CPCA from worshipping in church buildings and --
using his political connections to ZANU-PF -- enlisted police
support. Several priests were arrested and prosecuted during
2008 and 2009 for holding CPCA church services in contested
properties.

3. (SBU) In 2007, the CPCA filed suit in the High Court
seeking to bar Kunonga from utilizing its facilities and
other assets. This was followed by a January 2008 High Court
ruling that stated that the Kunonga faction and the CPCA must
share church premises by scheduling church services at
different times. Despite the court order, Kunonga's faction
has periodically denied the CPCA use of church premises. As
the conflict intensified, the co-ministers of Home Affairs,
Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa, intervened to rein in
Kunonga, his followers, and heavy-handed police.

4. (SBU) In July 2009, Judge Hlatshwayo, at the request of
Kunonga, issued an order that the CPCA had not properly
excommunicated Kunonga and that he retained his position as
bishop. Kunonga hoped to use the order to prevent the
coronation of the new bishop for the CPCA in Harare.
However, the CPCA appealed and the ruling was suspended,
clearing the way for the coronation of the new bishop, Chad
Gandiya.

---------------------------------------
Kunonga Claims He's Still the Bishop...
---------------------------------------

5. (SBU) CPCA Registrar Mike Chingore told Political
Specialist that Kunonga was buoyed by the Hlatshwayo judgment
and claimed never to have left the church. He said that
Kunonga maintains he is the only lawful head of the church
and is attempting to regain his position.

--------------------------------
...and is Back to his Old Tricks
Q...and is Back to his Old Tricks
--------------------------------

6. (SBU) The CPCA reported that in the past two weeks
Kunonga followers prevented CPCA members from attending mass,

HARARE 00000970 002.2 OF 003


disrupted services, and forced the cancellation of three
weddings. On December 6, Kunonga supporters -- with the
support of police officers -- locked the gates to the
Highfield church, preventing about 1,000 parishioners from
worshipping. When the local priest, Reverend Selemani,
demanded to know on whose authority the police were acting,
he was told they were acting "on higher orders." A member of
the Highfield church reported that the police accused the
church of supporting the MDC-T. On December 5, police
disrupted three weddings at the Budiriro church, resulting in
their cancellation. On November 28, police drove away
parishioners from a Murehwa church -- about 100 km from
Harare -- as they prepared to take communion. At the
Kuwadzana church, police padlocked the doors before mass.
Similar situations unfolded in Glen Norah, Glen View,
Hatfield, Marlborough, and Tafara.

-------------------
Police Back Kunonga
-------------------

7. (SBU) Chingore told us that Kunonga and his followers had
disrupted church activities with the assistance of some
sections of the police. He said the police had consistently
refused to arrest Kunonga followers breaking the law. Police
defended their actions by stating that they were merely
following orders from unnamed superiors. Chingore said that
they were deterred from filing criminal reports because of
the biased police position. He went on to state that CPCA
members were becoming impatient with the impunity with which
the police and Kunonga supporters had acted.

------------------------
CPCA Goes To Court Again
------------------------

8. (SBU) CPCA lawyer Mordecai Mahlangu told us he filed an
urgent application in the High Court on December 11 for
contempt of court against the Commissioner General of Police,
Augustine Chihuri, and Co-Ministers of Home Affairs, Giles
Mutsekwa (MDC-T) and Kembo Mohadi (ZANU-PF). He wants the
court to force Chihuri and the two ministers to direct the
police to stop interfering with the activities of the church
and to observe the 2008 High Court judgment. He said he did
not expect the court to hear the case soon because of the
likelihood of political sensitivity.

------------------------------
Alternative: Peaceful Protest?
------------------------------

9. (SBU) The new Bishop of the Harare Diocese, Chad Gandiya,
met with priests and wardens on December 11 to try to develop
a strategic response to Kunonga,s conduct. The church
registrar told us that a lot of members were increasingly
voicing a need for robust and effective responses to the
disruptions. Some were in favor of peaceful protests against
police actions.

-------
COMMENT
-------

10. (SBU) We have long witnessed police reticence to
maintain the rule of law in rural areas, most commonly on
contested farms. However, police tolerance for illegal
actions by Kunonga supporters in Harare indicates that there
Qactions by Kunonga supporters in Harare indicates that there
are no limits to the extent shrewd operators like Kunonga can
politicize a dispute. Growing impatience within CPCA ranks
could lead to more violent confrontations if the issue

HARARE 00000970 003.2 OF 003


remains unaddressed. END COMMENT.

RAY

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