Tuesday, May 31, 2011

ZIMBABWE: Churches targeted for political violence

-- Churches targeted for political violence.
-- The scandal of Nolbert Kunonga.
-- Bringing an end to power-sharing.

Churches targeted for political violence.

On Saturday 9 April, some 500 Christians -- including 4 bishops and 46 pastors from Harare, Mutare, Bulawayo and Gweru -- gathered in the Church of Nazarene in Glen Norah, a densely populated suburb of Harare, for a special 'Praying for Peace to Save Zimbabwe' church Service.

Their prayer for peace was shattered however, when a truckload of some 20 armed rioted police descended on the gathering. After firing tear gas into the church, the riot police stormed the sanctuary wielding batons and brandishing AK 47 rifles. Ironically, the organisers of the prayer service had also planned to commemorate the 11 March 2007 'Save Zimbabwe Prayer Rally' in which police shot one participant dead and arrested over 100. As with the March 2007 prayer rally, the April 2011 prayer service had been organised in response to a sharp escalation in political violence ahead of elections.

See: Police brutally disrupt prayer for peace
By Esther Gomo, Nehanda Radio, 11 April 2011.

According to Gomo, after the riot squad had emptied the church, they "went on to fire the tear gas canisters indiscriminately at several churches in the vicinity, as well as the general residential area around the church and Chitubu Shops.

"At the time of writing [11 April], 4 clergymen, including 2 Bishops (Bishop Paul Isaya and Bishop Paul Mukome – who heads the Church of Nazarene, Pastor Nemukuyu and Pastor Caroline Sanyanga) had been arrested. In addition 5 other congregates, including Shakespeare Mukoyi, who is also the Deputy Chairperson for Harare Youth Assembly in the Movement for Democratic Change Led by Morgan Tsvangirai, were also arrested.

"Several injuries were noted from the worshipers, and are being attended to at a local clinic."

Gomo also notes: "The church service was initially scheduled to be held at St Peters Kubatana Centre but congregates had to relocate after the Riot Squad barricaded the main entrance and refused access to worshipers. [. . .]

"The heavy-handed disruption of the church services is a shameful violation of the constitution of Zimbabwe, which allows for freedoms of religion and worship."

See also: Police violently suppress prayer for peace

According to Sokwanele's Zimbabwe Inclusive Government Watch: Issue 27 (25 May 2011), the "Zanu-PF has instructed the police to target church services and the clergy for their implicit opposition of President Mugabe’s violent, authoritarian rule".

Sokwanele reports that, only about a week after the attack on the "Praying for Peace" service, Father Mark Mkandla, a Catholic priest in Lupane, was arrested after a special church service organised to pray for national healing and reconciliation. Ft Mkandla delivered a powerful sermon against violence only to be subsequently arrested.

Insidiously, not only are church leaders are being offered land in exchange for loyalty, but officials from President Mugabe's Zanu (PF) have been using an anti-sanctions petition to split churches. Regime officials visit churches with the aim of forcing members of to sign the petition. Pastors who resist find their congregations split, with pro-Mugabe members being offered Zanu (PF) support to start new churches where Zanu (PF) slogans are chanted.

See: Party abuses churches --- Bishop
By Zwanai Sithole, The Zimbabwean, 17 May 2011

Yet as the Zimbabwean notes: "In reality there are no sanctions on Zimbabwe but restrictive measures on Mugabe and his cronies. Mugabe and his comrades are restricted from making shopping trips to London on the grounds of gross human rights violations."

Further to this, Zimbabwe's Deputy Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Lazarus Dokora, has condemned unregistered schools and called on the police (a pro-Mugabe force) to investigate them.

Unregistered schools mushroomed in Zimbabwe during the economic meltdown, as striking, underpaid government teachers earned income by giving private classes. But what began as private classes, gradually developed into a network of unregistered independent schools and colleges, many of which are housed in churches.

Peter Chinyadza runs a school of some 50 students in Chitungwiza, some 30km south of Harare. While he is in the process of seeking registration, the school -- which operates out of All Saints Anglican Church -- is as yet unregistered and under investigation.

See: Govt descends on unregistered schools
By Pride Gonde, Newsday correspondent, Harare. 24 May 2011

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean Catholic bishops feel they have been undermined and the faithful have been scandalized by the Vatican's warm and friendly embrace of Mugabe at the 1 May beatification service of the late Pope John Paul II.

Gunther Simmermacher, editor of an independent South African Catholic journal, noted that no formal invitations were issued to heads of state, and "international diplomacy sometimes requires unpalatable things of its practitioners."

But as he notes: the "televised sight of the tyrant being warmly embraced by a broadly smiling prelate" was "embarrassing for the courageous bishops of Zimbabwe, and to the clergy, religious and laity who strive for a peaceful transition to an equitable and accountable democracy.

"Shortly before departing on his 'absolutely heavenly' Vatican sojourn, Mr. Mugabe described the Zimbabwean bishops as 'so-called men of God who lie' and 'mere puppets of Western countries. In that light particularly, Mr. Mugabe's reception in the Vatican has created an impression, surely inaccurate, that the Vatican sides with him against the bishops of Zimbabwe."

See: Catholic paper: Dictator's Vatican welcome undermined Zimbabwe bishops
Catholic News Service, 19 May 2011

The Scandal of Nolbert Kunonga

Just as Mugabe is violently confiscating white-owned farms in the name of 'indigenisation' and 'anti-colonialism', his thug-stooge bishop, Nolbert Kunonga is violently confiscating Anglican properties under the same pretence. Kunonga was defrocked by the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa in Nov 07 on the grounds of heresy, schism, and suspicion that he was complicit in the murders of ten Anglican clergy.

(For background see: 'We are being persecuted'. By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 27 June 08)

Kunonga now controls 40 percent of all Zimbabwe's Anglican churches -- including 30 churches in Harare alone. The doors are unlocked on Sundays, but only to pro-Mugabe supporters who have torn down the colonial artefacts and broken up pews bearing memorial plaques. The overwhelming majority of Zimbabwe's Anglicans now worship in any facility that will open its doors to them.

Further to this, Kunonga's wife Agatha controls the Anglican Church of Zimbabwe Mother's Union (ACZMU) and she is forcing its members to sign the so-called anti-sanctions petition.

Anglicans suspect Nolbert Kunonga of complicity in the Feb 2011 murder of Jessica Mandeya (89), a lay leader in the rural parish of Mashonaland East who was raped, mutilated and strangled after she refused to join Kunonga's faction. Kunonga denies he had anything to do with the murder, retorting that if he was going to kill anyone, it would be his nemesis, Bishop Chad Gandiya, who was elected by the Anglican Church to replace Kunonga as Bishop of Harare.

According to Bishop Gandiya, five bishops are on Kunonga's hit list for "elimination".

"We're all being followed", said Julius Makono, the bishop of Manicaland, one of the five.

Godfrey Tawonezvi, bishop of Masvingo, another of the five, was recently visited by two of Kunonga's men. "They had all our phone numbers, our home addresses", he said.

See: Mugabe Ally Escalates Push to Control Anglican Church
By Celia W. Dugger, New York Times. 29 May 2011

ALSO: Zimbabwe's Anglicans forced to worship in pubs
By Peta Thornycroft, Harare and Aislinn Laing in Johannesburg.
The Telegraph, 25 Mar 2011

Bringing an end to power-sharing

Mugabe has recently called for early elections in order to end the power-sharing government, in spite of the fact that the "Global Political Agreement" (the power-sharing agreement stitched together by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) after the 2008 elections) mandates that before the next elections can be held, a new constitution must be approved by referendum, and a new voter registry must be drawn up. It is unlikely these conditions will be met because the police, the judiciary and the Zimbabwe Election Commission are all partisan and rule of law has collapsed.

See: How Zanu-PF plans to steal the Zimbabwe elections
British-South African journalist and historian RW Johnson discusses Zimbabwe's grossly rigged electoral register. 29 May 2011

RW Johnson writes: "Despite clear and binding international agreements to the contrary, evidence now available shows that President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF is again planning to steal the next elections with the help of a grossly rigged electoral register."

According to Johnson, Zimbabwe's electoral register, drawn up by outspoken Zanu-PF supporter Tobaiwa Mudede, "was notoriously full of dead and fictional voters - who always voted Zanu-PF." Johnson writes that Mugabe has always maintained the register is a 'state secret'. When an NGO did manage to secure a copy, it was found to contain at least twice as many voters as was plausible. Despite this, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has never upheld any complaint against the register.

See also: S. African Institute Calls for a New Zimbabwe Voters Roll Before Elections
Voice of America, 30 May 2011.

As far as Brigadier General Douglas Nyikayaramba is concerned, the Zanu (PF) will win the next elections and "ensure stability".

VOA reports: "Prime Minister Tsvangirai immediately condemned Nyikayaramba’s remarks, saying such utterances put the country in an 'unnecessary war mode' and clearly show that elements in the military want to usurp civilian authority.

"Retired Zimbabwe National Army officer Martin Rupiya, director of the African Public Policy and Research Institute, told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that Nyikayaramba’s remarks show that the service chiefs remain intransigently partisan.

"Political commentator Bhekilizwe Ndlovu called Nyikayaramba’s statements reckless."