articles about Nolbert Kunonga

Nolbert Kunonga is the former Anglican bishop and head of the Diocese of Harare of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA).

When Kunonga was elected Bishop of the Diocese of Harare in 1997, he was a strong Zanu-PF supporter, who hero- worshiped President Robert Mugabe. Anglicans saw nothing wrong about this since the church was composed of people supporting different political parties. However, their support for him turned into dismay for he immediately went about “decolonizing” the Church by preaching hatred against whites.

Nolbert Kunonga in his Harare offices (photo by The New York Times)

He has been in and out of ecclesiastical court since 2005.

He was always long-winded and didactic at clergy conferences while in Zimbabwe before he left for his PhD studies in America (he said for sociology). He reportedly once said “I am not a puppet of Zanu-PF and if I am a puppet, then I am a proud and educated puppet.”

Church leaders rebuked Kunonga for preaching partisan politics from the pulpit. They decided that he was not fit to be a bishop of the Anglican Church and dethroned him in January 2008.

Kunonga did not accept his dethronement. Instead, he  left the Church with about 50 followers to form the Anglican Church of the Province of Zimbabwe (CPZ). CPCA excommunicated him and consecrated retired Bishop Sebastian Bakare to replace him.

The CPCA also was in dispute with Bishop Elson Jakazi over custody and control  of the Diocese of Manicaland. Jakazi, reportedly following Kunonga’s example, withdrew himself and the Mutare diocese from the CPCA in 2007.

A judge ordered in January 2008 that the Anglican Church of the Province of Zimbabwe must share the use of church buildings with the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa.

Mr. Kunonga’s aim, he and his adviser Rev. Admire Chisango, said, is for CPZ to control about 3,000 churches, schools, hospitals and other properties in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi.

As of 2008, 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.

In March 2009, a resident of Harare was shot and injured as police fought running battles with parishioners who wanted to worship in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Harare. After a while, Canon Chad Gandiya was ordained Bishop of the Diocese of Harare and Bakare went back into retirement.

In August 2011, the country’s Chief Justice ruled that all Anglican property in the Harare Diocese was under Kunonga’s custody.

Bishop Kunonga has turned some of the churches he has seized into colleges and nursery schools, throwing members of the church aligned to Bishop Gandiya onto the streets, leaving schoolchildren and orphans without teachers or caregivers.

Kunonga defended his move, saying there was nothing wrong with turning churches into schools, saying history was littered with churches that have been turned into colleges and universities.

As of end of September 2011, Kunonga was set to claim the Bernard Mzeki Shrine in Marondera, St Johns Chikwaka Mission and Shearley Cripps Children’s Home in Murehwa using the Supreme Court order.

During the visit of the Archbishop of Caterbury Rowan Williams in October 2011, Nolbert Kunonga presided over a protest at St Mary’s Cathedral in Harare.

Kunonga claimed the demonstrators were drawn from all worship centres in Harare and had come voluntarily to demonstrate against Williams’ visit. He told reporters some of them had even left the Gandiya-led faction over Williams’ visit. 

He was quoted as saying that the Anglican Church was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church 600 years ago and that deemed anyone in the Anglican Church, including Archbishop Williams and himself, criminal.

Standing in front of 1,000 supporters, he said Williams’s visit was a ‘crusade for gays’. ‘This is a demonstration against homosexuality. I told people to come and demonstrate if they wanted,’ he said. ‘Rowan Williams erred by accepting homosexuality and that has broken up the church all over.’ Kunonga even accused the Archbishop of being gay.
Whereas according to Dr. Masiiwa R. Gunda, homosexuality has never been the critical subject in the dispute, but rather power. Homosexuality did not receive recognition at the Synod of 2007 as Kunonga deliberately misinformed Zimbabweans on the reasons for his “withdrawal from the Province.”

Although he had no clear leaders for Masvingo Diocese and the Central Zimbabwean Diocese and Matebeleland, Kunonga had a clear partner in Manicaland and took over the Daramonde Mission in Masvingo Diocese.

In November 2012, a Supreme Court decision ended the six-year dispute between the Anglicans led by Bishop Chad Gandiya and Nolbert Kunonga’s Church of the Province of Zimbabwe. Gandiya invited Kunonga and his camp to join back the Anglican church. “But obviously we will follow church rules,” added Gandiya. Kunonga turned down the invitation.

As of end 2012, the Church of the Province of Central Africa Anglicans were figuring out ways to get back their Harare property that had been rented out by Kunonga before the Supreme Court decision in November.