Annual celebrations of the life of an Anglican missionary revered by Zimbabweans have this year been declared “illegal” by the police in Masvingo province. The venue for the event is reported to have been seized by the ex-communicated Bishop Nolbert Kunonga.

Anglican parishioners in Masvingo diocese gather every year to commemorate the
life of missionary Arthur Shearly Cripps, who served the church in Zimbabwe with the Society for the Propogation of the Gospel for 20 years, until his death in 1951. 

The struggle over control of church properties between the main church and a breakaway faction led by Kunonga threatens the event not for the first time. Known as Mugabe’s Bishop due to his proclaimed loyalty to the Zanu-PF leader, Kunonga seized the Cripps shrine last year and has taken over 78 Anglican churches in Masvingo.

The commemorations are scheduled from August 3rd to August 5th in Chivhu (located 146 km south of Harare on the main road south to Masvingo and South Africa). But Masvingo Bishop Reverend Godfrey Tawonezwi reportedly wrote to parishioners saying Kunonga had put up posters informing them he would be at the shrine on the scheduled dates.

Reverend Tawonezwi also said the police have labelled the gathering “illegal” and it is feared participants may be arrested if they attend. “It is very clear that the police in Chivhu have taken sides in this matter. It is most unfortunate,” Bishop Tawonezwi is quoted as saying.

The main Anglican church officially appointed Bishop Chad Gandiya to head the Harare Diocese. But Kunonga was granted custodianship of Harare Diocese properties by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku last year. He has since used that ruling to illegally seize properties in other provinces.

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