The Supreme Court has dealt a blow to the Bishop Chad Gandiya faction of the Anglican Church in Harare, ruling that excommunicated bishop Nolbert Kunonga remains the custodian of all the Church’s assets for the interim period until the matter is finalized in the courts.

In a ruling done in Chambers, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, however, confirmed the consecration of Bishop Gandiya as the Bishop of Harare after dismissing an application by Kunonga to have the installation of his rival null and void.

Chief Justice Chidyausiku upheld a ruling by High Court Judge Ben Hlatshwayo declaring that the Diocesan Trustees led by Bishop Kunonga and six others, namely, Mr. Beaven Michael Gundu, Mr. Justin Nyazika, Mr. P Majokwere, Mr. Onias Gatawa, Mr. Alfred Tome and Mr. Winter Reggie Shamuyarira were the owners of the properties of Harare Diocese.

“The property of the Diocese of Harare whether movable or immovable owned by the Church within the Diocese vests in the Diocesan Trustees mentioned above,” reads the judgment.

Justice Chidyausiku said the Anglican Province of Central Africa’s failure to provide security for costs as ordered by the High court earlier, was more to do with incompetence or lack of appreciation of the Supreme Court rules of procedure by the Church’s legal practitioners as opposed to a conscious decision to flout the rules of the court.

“The problem here is ineptitude as opposed to a deliberate and conscious decision to defy the rules of this court,” ruled the Chief Justice.

“Secondly, and by far the most important consideration that influenced me, is the need to bring finality to the litigation between these parties. Numerous judgments, some of which are inconsistent with each have been delivered by the High court.”

He said, having considered that there has been numerous applications and counter-applications between these parties, there is need to curtail these applications.

“The multiplicity of these applications is simply adding to the confusion and hampering expeditious finalization of the dispute between the parties. Taking these factors into account, it is desirable that the judgment (NoHH111/09), in respect of which I have reinstated the Notice of Appeal, remain extant until set aside by this Court on appeal,” reads the judgment.

Meanwhile, following the judgment, Bishop Gandiya has written a letter to the Anglican communion expressing fear at the well being of priests living in Church properties.

“The Chief Justice has at long last given a judgment on an appeal we had made against Justice Hlatshwayo’s judgment of 24th July 2009 in which he intended to stop my consecration and also gave the custodianship of the diocesan properties to Dr. Kunonga,” wrote Gandiya

“The Chief Justice should have given his judgment over a year ago. To our surprise and that of everyone else, thirteen months after his promise to give judgment, the Chief Justice has now reinstated our appeal but upheld Hlatshwayo judgment on the custodianship of the properties.”

Bishop Gandiya said the ruling is likely to cause “distress and chaos” for priests and families living in rectories.

“I am hopeful that common sense will prevail. How can Dr. Kunonga be given custodianship of properties of an organisation or which he is not a member?” The excommunicated bishop left the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) in 2007 to set up a rival church. “If the Supreme Court do not return the properties to our church then we will have no other recourse,” said Bishop Gandiya. He said to date CPCA has spend over US$100,000 in legal charges.

Bishop Kunonga was excommunicated by the Anglican Church after trying to unilaterally withdraw the Harare Diocese from the Central African Province on the flimsy excuse that the province supported homosexuality.

However, the cleric who is a strong supporter of President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF is still holding on to the church assets. Recently he threatened to take over all Anglican Church properties in Zimbabwe in the name of indigenisation.