The running saga in the Anglican Church, Diocese of Harare has drawn international attention as seen in its coverage by such internationally recognized newspapers as the New York Times. I share in the sentiments expressed in a recent post … that the NYT and other media houses tend to emphasize the political ideological leaning of Nolbert Kunonga as well as his hatred of same-sex relationships and practices to the detriment of other fundamental issues such as Kunonga’s beliefs, theological conceptions etc.

Having written previously on the rise of Kunonga and the beginnings of his fall, the problems in the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe have been in the making for a long time. While, Kunonga has been painted as a brute lately, owing to the indiscriminate use of police force for his cause, there were tale-tale signs of this, early on in his reign. I noted in my article (Missionalia 36/2008) that Kunonga engaged in a systematic victimization of Priests in the Diocese, targeting especially those who were holders of degrees. These systematic persecutions saw a number of priests migrate to Manicaland Diocese then under Sebastian Bakare.

These persecutions were hardly reported yet some of them ended up in the law courts in Zimbabwe. This triggered a response by the then Diocesan Chancellor, Bob Stumbles who then filed about 38 charges against Kunonga. This resulted in the convening of an ecclesiastical trial, which was later aborted under unclear circumstances. There is rumour that then Archbishop Malango had protected Kunonga by aborting the trial. The same trial was highly politicized through the state media, especially The Herald, which labelled the trial a racist trial, being held in a racist golf course, just opposite the National Sports Stadium. Stumbles was attacked for being a Rhodesian racist who was persecuting Kunonga, a true son of the soil. That happening at a time when ZANU-PF was short of religious leaders created a highway for Kunonga into the corridors of power in Zimbabwe. To survive there, Kunonga has had to speak the language of ZANU-PF, what he has failed is to bring numbers to ZANU-PF, something that Madzibaba Nzira could do. However, for his lack of numbers, Kunonga has brought verbal tirades as his asset.

Homosexuality has never been the critical subject in the dispute, power has been! Homosexuality did not receive recognition at the Synod of 2007, as Kunonga deliberately misinformed Zimbabweans on the reasons for his “withdrawal from the Province.” Maybe, we need to focus more on the ecclesiastical trial, the retirement of Archbishop Malango, the possibility of the trial being re-opened after the retirement of Malango may have pushed Kunonga to pre-empt the trial by pulling out of the Province. Because, the subject is about power, it is not surprising that there is little theological reflection in the words of Kunonga, if the quote in the NYT, a threat on the life of Gandiya is correct.

Dr. M. R. Gunda is Lecturer of Old Testament Studies and Biblical Hebrew at the University of Zimbabwe. He is also a practising Anglican. He can be contacted on [email protected]