« catch the new Episcopal Church TV ad! | Main | The Plight of African Christians »

Trial of Harare bishop collapses in farce

By Peta Thornycroft in Harare
(Filed: 26/08/2005)

The ecclesiastical trial of an Anglican bishop who is an ardent supporter of President Robert Mugabe ended in farce yesterday when the presiding judge withdrew from the case before a plea had been heard.

Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, 55, the head of the Diocese of Harare, had been accused by priests and parishioners of 11 charges ranging from incitement to commit murder to bringing the Anglican church into disrepute. He rejects the charges .

But the trial, ordered by Archbishop Bernard Malanga, the head of the Church of the Province of Central Africa in Malawi which has authority over Zimbabwe, was quickly bogged down in technicalities and adjournments raised by the defence.

Judge James Kalaile, from the Malawian Supreme Court, told the court, mostly filled with black Anglicans gathered to give evidence against their bishop: "I have not in my years as a judge in Malawi or elsewhere heard anything like this dispute. I will contact the archbishop and ask him to appoint another judge."

Minutes after proceedings began, the defence attorney James Matizha demanded 17 pages of "further particulars" of the Church's case against his client.

Jeremy Lewis, the prosecuting barrister who is a prominent Anglican, said the objections were "vexatious" and out of step with ecclesiastical justice and intent. "The bishop has not even been asked to plead. Let him admit or deny the charges, that is why we are all here," he said.

Pauline Makoni, another leading Zimbabwean Anglican who travelled from London to give evidence against the bishop, said: "Our canons remain broken, our case against the bishop will not go away, we will continue." Wearing a cerise cassock and surrounded by family members, Bishop Kunonga emerged from the courtroom, convened at Harare Royal Golf Club, smiling broadly and claiming victory.

Bishop Kunonga would only speak to Zimbabwe's state media after the hearing. He is an open supporter of Mr Mugabe, who has given him at least two farms seized from their white owners.

An Anglican priest, Rev James Mukunga, who fled Zimbabwe last year, claimed in an affidavit signed in London last week that Bishop Kunonga had solicited assistance from state security agents and militant war veterans loyal to Mr Mugabe to have 10 "unruly" parishioners and priests killed because they opposed his tenure at Harare cathedral.

The chancellor of the Harare diocese, Bob Stumbles, who Bishop Kunonga has tried to sack, said: "I understand this case may now be investigated to see if charges can be brought against the bishop in the civil court."

The allegations against the bishop, had they culminated in a full trial, would have been the first time charges of such a serious nature would have been decided by the Anglican Church in Africa.

24 August 2005: Church court puts Mugabe bishop on trial
18 February 2003: Harare judge who cleared opposition mayor is held
12 January 2002: Prelate attacks Zimbabwe Anglicans

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.
Link to original article

August 26, 2005 in Church of Zimbabwe | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Trial of Harare bishop collapses in farce:


The comments to this entry are closed.