Zimbabwe


The utterly corrupt and very ex-Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, has described the Archbishop of Canterbury as “an irrelevance” as Rowan Williams begins his visit to Zimbabwe. Just how deluded do you have to be to come out with something like that in the face of Zimbabwe’s madness?

Having had very close involvement with Zimbabwe over the last decade, it is hard let go. This beautiful country, with it’s wonderful people and its heroic Anglican Church, deserves so much more than the rape and pillage it has suffered during the last twenty years of Mugabe’s tyranny. The Dioceses of Southwark and Rochester continue to work hard to support, sustain and encourage the Anglicans who are now suffering oppression at the hands of a Mugabe-backed renegade bishop in a country devoid of the rule of law.

This morning the Archbishop of Canterbury preached to thousands of people in an outdoor stadium in Harare. The Cathedral has been stolen by Kunonga with the backing of the judiciary and the police.

Is Dr Williams an irrelevance? Or is he a brave man who, trusting in the God who is on the side of the oppressed, is walking into the lion’s den in order to demonstrate that however loud the roar, the lion’s teeth are blunt and will one day soon fall out? His attempt to meet Mugabe might fail; his plea for justice might be to no avail; he might even be humiliated by the despot. But, by being there he will have shown the regime its moral nakedness and challenged its legitimacy. The cry for justice and mercy will not ultimately be silenced.

Because this is part of our problem. It is not only that some refuse the invitation of God to share his abundant love and generosity. It is all too easy for us human beings to try and block that love and prevent it from reaching others. You know very well, dear brothers and sisters, what it means to have doors locked in your faces by those who claim the name of Christians and Anglicans. You know how those who by their greed and violence have refused the grace of God try to silence your worship and frustrate your witness in the churches and schools and hospitals of this country. But you also know what Jesus’ parable teaches us so powerfully – that the will of God to invite people to his feast is so strong that it can triumph even over these mindless and Godless assaults. Just as the Risen Jesus breaks through the locked doors of fear and suspicion, so he continues to call you and empower you in spite of all efforts to defeat you. And in the Revelation to John, the Lord proclaims that he has set before us an open door that no-one can shut. It is the door of his promise, the door of his mercy, the door into the feast of his Kingdom.

In your faith and endurance, you have kept your eyes on that open door when the doors of your own churches have been shut against you. You have discovered that it is not the buildings that make a true church but the spiritual foundations on which your lives are built. And as we together give thanks for the open door that God puts before us, we may even find the strength to say to our enemies and persecutors, ‘The door is open for you! Accept what God offers and turn away from the death-dealing folly of violence.’

While I was the Bishop of Croydon in the Diocese of Southwark I was heavily engaged with the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe, particularly with the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe. I have posted frequently on Zimbabwe and what is happening there. (However, I cannot embed links on this iPad, so type ‘Zimbabwe’ into the search box and you will find them.)


In brief, the former Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, went bad and eventually was ousted as Bishop of Harare seven or eight years ago. He is no longer regarded as an Anglican, let alone a bishop. He was specifically not invited to the Lambeth Conference in 2008.

However, he has continued to use the favour of Robert Mugabe, the courts and the police to pursue ownership and possession of the churches, houses and assets of the Church in Zimbabwe. All this despite the fact that the properties belong in law to the Province of the Church of Central Africa – to which Kunonga does not belong.

The bishops in Zimbabwe have long trusted that their very expensive counter-claims would be upheld by the courts on the obvious grounds that Kunonga has no case in law. However, in the upside-down world of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, the rule of law is now finally and incontrovertibly dead. A few days ago the courts ruled in favour of Kunonga and Kunonga has now started to evict families of non-loyal (to him, that is) priests from their houses and churches. He and his violent henchmen are now moving across Zimbabwe claiming land and property. They are backed by the police who have shown themselves ready to use violence.

This is not a church issue – especially not simply an ‘Anglican’ issue. Nor is it a religious matter. It is a human rights matter and concerns the rule of law. I have observed many times before that until the rule of law is established in Zimbabwe nothing is sacred and nothing is secure.

Anyone who wishes to might email their MP or the Foreign Secretary to ask what the British Government is doing to object to the Zimbabwean Government or to consult other governments or bodies such as SADC as to a response.

Here follows the text of a communique issued last week by the Anglican Communion Office:

Posted On : August 16, 2011 9:30 AM | Posted By : Admin ACO
ACNS: http://www.aco.org/acns/news.cfm/2011/8/16/ACNS4925
Related Categories: Zimbabwe

An Anglican priest in Zimbabwe and his family have been evicted from their home by priests loyal to excommunicated bishop Dr Nolbert Kunonga. Others across the diocese have also been ordered to leave.

The Revd Dzikamai Mudenda at Mabvuku, his wife and their extended family, were forced to leave St James Mabvuku in Harare in the wake of a High Court judgement that Dr Kunonga had interim custody of church properties.

Other priests living in parish rectories have received stamped copies of the High Court judgment from supporters of Dr Kunonga who, in one case, were accompanied by the police. The priests, including Friar Joshua from Bishop Gaul College, have all been told to move out.

The Rt Revd Chad Gandiya, Bishop of Harare, said yesterday that alternative accommodation has been found for Revd Mudenda and are preparing for the eviction of their other priests.

“Our parishes are busy finding alternative accommodation for them,” he said. “We don’t know who he is going to put in these houses. This is not going to be easy at all. It will disrupt their family life and ministry. I have been busy this evening getting in touch with my priests and encouraging them.”

A recent judgment in Zimbabwe’s High Court that upheld Bishop Chad appointment as Harare’s bishop also gave Dr Kunonga custodianship of all church properties—ones that actually belong to the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

“Kunonga was given custodianship of CPCA properties when he no longer a member of our church and province and he is now evicting CPCA priests and we don’t know who he is going to put in these houses. God help us.”

The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has been under attack from the excommunicated bishop, Dr Nolbert Kunonga, since 2007. Kunonga, with the support of police and henchmen, has seized CPCA church property and used violence and to break up church services. In a recent media interview Dr Kunonga was quoted as saying he aimed to control the 3,000 Anglican churches, schools, hospitals and other properties in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi.

ENDS

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Philadelphia, USA

While we are waiting to see what the reality of the ‘Big Society’ might look like here in the UK – and while we are absorbing the implications of the Wikileaks deluge of Iraq documentation (as well as wondering if Liverpool will be bottom of the Premier League by the end of this afternoon), it is good to hear that all is going well again in Zimbabwe.

Last week (14 October, to be precise) Immigration Minister Damian Green made a written statement in Parliament. He made the case that the time is now right to send asylum seekers back because conditions in Zimbabwe have improved so much since the formation of a Government of National Unity in 2009 between President Robert Mugabe (Zanu-PF) and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (Movement for Democratic Change). This is what Green said:

I am announcing today our intention to end the current suspension of enforced returns of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe. There are some Zimbabweans who continue to have a well-founded fear of persecution; we continue to grant protection to those people. As with any other nationality, every case is considered on its individual merits and against the background of the latest available country information from a wide range of reliable sources including international organisations, non-governmental organisations and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.The courts have found that not all Zimbabweans are in need of international protection and given the improved situation on the ground in Zimbabwe since the formation of the inclusive Government in 2009, the time is now right to bring our policy on returns of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers into line with that on every other country. This will mean that failed asylum seekers from Zimbabwe will from now on be treated in exactly the same way as failed asylum seekers of all other countries when it comes to enforcing returns.

Those found not to be in need of protection have always been expected to return home. We prefer these individuals to return voluntarily and many hundreds have done so. It is in everyone’s interest for people to return to Zimbabwe and use their skills to support themselves and help rebuild the country. The Government support this process and are in active dialogue with Zimbabweans to explore how this process can be further assisted.

It remains open to Zimbabweans to return home voluntarily under one of the assisted voluntary return (AVR) programmes which are available for individuals of all nationalities. There are three programmes available under which all returnees receive support in acquiring travel documentation, flight costs to their country of origin and onward domestic transport, airport assistance at departure and arrival airports and, for those eligible, up to £1,500 worth of reintegration assistance per person including a £500 relocation grant on departure for immediate resettlement needs and, once home, a range of reintegration options which are delivered “in kind”.

The Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the Unified Tribunal Service (IAC) will be hearing in the near future a further country guidance case on general safety of return to Zimbabwe which we expect to reflect the improvements in Zimbabwe since the previous country guidance case was decided in 2008. Therefore, although there is no reason why Zimbabweans who both we, and the courts, have found not to be in need of protection should not now be removed, we will not enforce the first returns until the IAC has delivered its determination. Those who have no right to remain in the UK, and who chose not to return voluntarily, will then face enforced return, in exactly the same way as failed asylum seekers of all other countries.

This change in asylum policy which I have announced today does not reflect any change in our categorical opposition to human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. We will continue to call, both bilaterally and with our international partners, for an end to all such abuses and the restoration of internationally accepted human rights standards in Zimbabwe.

So, there is still no rule of law. Violence is still being used against ordinary people. The forthcoming referendum on the new Constitution looks likely to be followed by a new election. And reports we get every day from contacts on the ground in Zimbabwe tell of fear, threat and intimidation. Just because the US Dollar has allowed a degree of economic stability should not be interpreted as an ‘improvement’ in the overall situation in the country.

Consider the following few facts and be grateful for the ‘improvements’:

  • The Bishops of Manicaland and Harare have been out of Zimbabwe for a couple of weeks because they were threatened with assassination. One has returned – against advice from within Zimbabwe – but has been given emergency contacts with diplomats in case of trouble. (If someone turns up to shoot you, do you ask him to wait while you phone an embassy?)
  • Court rulings in favour of the Province of Central Africa in respect of legal status, appropriation of assets and use of buildings belonging to the Province are ignored by the Police who claim to have orders ‘from above’ which overrule the court rulings.
  • Police intimidation and violence against ordinary people who choose not to leave the legitimate Anglican Church in favour of the utterly corrupt (and ‘excommunicated’) Nolbert Kunonga – now self-appointed ‘Archbishop of Zimbabwe’ and unrecognised by any other Anglican anywhere!
  • Incursions into other dioceses by the deposed bishops, Kunonga and Jakazi, backed by police and intimidatory in the extreme.
  • Harrassment and abuse of returned (failed) asylum seekers from the UK.

Well, all of that is clearly of little relevance to the ideological needs of the coalition government in the UK to get shot of as many asylum seekers as possible in as short a time as possible.

OK, sarcasm aside, at least let’s be honest about what is going on and why. If it is for economic, political or ideological reasons, let’s admit it. But, don’t let’s pretend that Zimbabwe is a safe place to be returned to – especially from the old colonialist enemy and fount of all evil, the UK.

Given that I am one of those who fundamentally agreed with Morgan Tsvangarai that Zimbabwean expats in the UK need to go back as soon as possible in order to help re-build their country and take responsibility for establishing their democracy, I don’t write this lightly. We shall await the ruling of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the Unified Tribunal Service with both interest and concern – especially as the Minister seemed to know the likely outcome four days before the court even met.

On a day dominated by the depressing aftermath of the Israeli-Gaza flotilla outrage and the appalling mass shootings in Cumbria, I received a copy of the Communique issued by the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches  in consultation with key civic society organisations (including the Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe,  National Association of Non Governmental Organisations, Zimbabwe  Election Support  Network  and the Zimbabwe  Peace  Project) and aimed at encouraging the prophetic witness of the Christian churches and challenging those in power in Zimbabwe to address the country’s real needs.

These bodies met in  Harare on May 17 2010 to deliberate on key issues and a possible strategic engagement agenda with SADC.  Namibia is about to take over the chairmanship of SADC  and consultations have been held with the  Namibian Council of  Churches. The communique has been jointly released by the Zimbabwe  Council of Churches and the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance for attention by SADC, the Africa Union, the media and other strategic partners.

Communiqué from Zimbabwe Church Leaders

We, the members of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Zimbabwe Christian Alliance and Christian Agencies in consultation with our Civic Society partners namely Ecumenical  Support  Services, Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference, Zimbabwe Peace Project(ZPP), Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network, Crisis Coalition, NANGO, Zimbabwe Peace Project, A.E.A  and the Lutheran Development Services met in Harare on the 17th of May, 2010 to deliberate on  the progress made by the Inclusive Government.

Consistent with the prophetic and pastoral mandate of the Church, we echo the words of Christ in John 10 v 10 which say “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly”. It is therefore our prayer and demand that the Inclusive government must create a conducive environment to ensure that all citizens of Zimbabwe enjoy life in its abundance and fullness.

We acknowledge the progress made so far to implement parts of the Global Political Agreement that has led to partial stabilisation of the economy. We also acknowledge the attempts made by the SADC mediation teams to ensure that there is full implementation of the GPA.

However, we note with concern, that the GPA has not been fully implemented.  We draw the immediate attention of the three principals to the following urgent concerns of the people of Zimbabwe:

  • Deepening  and widening  poverty
  • Food is not accessible to the majority of Zimbabweans due to lack of income. 
  • High unemployment rate of over 90% and failure to create new jobs
  • The discouragement of investment
  • The discouragement of humanitarian assistance by some political authorities
  • Continued problems within the education sector, increasing illiteracy with over 60% drop out rate due to high costs
  • Slow recovery within the health sector
  • Poor service delivery eroding the people’s confidence in public institutions
  • The political violence and intimidation which had been contained, to a certain extent, by the coming in of the Inclusive Government now resurfacing especially in Mashonaland Central, Masvingo and Manicaland through structures created in the run up to the 2008 Presidential elections
  • Curtailment of freedom of worship e.g. the burning down of churches (Masvingo, Macheke and Muzarabani) and disruption of services
  • The 7 months delay in the constitution making process and apparent lack of commitment and transparency in the selection of the outreach teams, the rapporteurs and the development of the talking points
  • Failure of the Organ for National Healing and Integration to function effectively in a tension ridden country
  • Violence against human rights defenders
  • The marginalisation of Zimbabwean citizens and the monopolisation of the processes by the three political parties e.g. participation in the constitution and national healing processes.

Noting that all human beings are created equal before God, we therefore call upon the three principals

  • to apply political will to ensure the full implementation of the GPA
  • to respect the God given rights, security and dignity of persons.
  • to dismantle all structures that perpetuate political violence
  • to reform the security sector as a critical component of creating a peaceful transition
  • to create the relevant mechanisms to enable the independent commissions to function effectively
  • to ensure that the current Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is Zimbabwe based and readily available.
  • We demand free and fair elections by end of 2011 under the following minimum conditions:

(i)                             church and civic society monitoring

(ii)                           International and regional supervision

(iii)                         A new and clean voter’s roll

(iv)                          A new ZEC Secretariat with an adequate budget allocation

(v)                            A conducive environment for a free media, voter education and transparency

(vi)                          The creation of a Constitutional and Electoral court

We also call upon SADC to

  • critically review the causes of the lack of progress and take decisive action on the deficits of the GPA
  •  immediately deploy church, regional and international election observers.

Taking note of the lack of progress to the GPA, we reiterate our call for elections by end of 2011. The GPA is a transitional mechanism for the democratisation of Zimbabwe, which we will not allow to be permanent. We therefore demand that the SADC Summit in August 2010 ensure that the elections are conducted in 2011.

We therefore call upon the SADC Heads of State Summit in Windhoek Namibia in August 2010 to prioritise addressing these concerns from the people of Zimbabwe.

We continue to pray to the Almighty God and encourage the Christian community and the people of Zimbabwe to actively participate in bringing about good governance, healing, reconciliation, peace and prosperity to our country.

This is precisely the sort of courageous leadership the country needs from its Christian leaders.

Congratulations to Zimbabwe on thirty years of independence from colonialist Britain. I remember the birth of the new country and was moved by the lowering of the Union Flag followed by the raising of the new insignia of Africa’s newly independent country.

Such promise. Such hope. Such disappointment. Such tragedy.

Christian Aid has put up (with an expanded version here) the following voices of brave Zimbabweans who still long for freedom and dignity and a life without oppression:

The General Election is now well under way in the UK. The three major parties (and some of the others) have launched their manifestos and the media are churning out words and graphics like there is no tomorrow… which there won’t be if some parties get their way. The people I have spoken with in the last couple of days are smitten with a bewildered apathy that is sceptical about the content within the rhetoric of the party leaders and spokespeople.

I was particularly intrigued by the Tories’ push to get people out volunteering in their communities. Er… haven’t they noticed the huge amount of volunteers already active in their communities through churches and other organisations that gain no benefit other than to serve their communities? Maybe they have. But, what I will be looking for is a government that will stop inundating schools with initiatives, recognise the problems of getting governors able to handle the task demanded of them, and stop trying to get good governance on the cheap. (Oh, and get rid of the soul-destroying box-ticking culture that the Tories brought in under Thatcher and New Labour made even worse.)

However, whoever wins the election, there won’t be any vast ideological change in the life of the country. Contrast our apathy and cynicism with that of another country with which I am familiar and have close links: Zimbabwe.

The rule of law is simply disregarded under Robert Mugabe. He may be recognised as ‘the Liberator’ by some Africans, but he has gone on to preside over the ruin of his country and the oppression of his people. The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has borne the brunt of targeted violence and persecution for many years. The corrupt ex-Bishop of Harare, Dr Nolbert Kunonga, has been excommunicated by the Anglican Communion and is not recognised as an Anglican Bishop. The same goes for Elson Jakazi in Manicaland. Yet, despite court rulings in favour of the Anglican Province and dioceses (in relation to property and freedom to worship), Kunonga intimidates faithful Anglicans and gets backing from the police. So much for the rule of law.

This is the latest from Harare, where other denominations are now beginning to recognise that this is not an intra-Anglican (or ‘just a church’) problem, but a human rights problem that goes to the heart of the country’s culture:

Our experience over the last two weeks is that the persecution seems to have intensified. Police are openly telling our people to attend Dr. Kunonga’s services only and continue to prohibit them from worshipping in their churches as per Judge President Makarawu’s judgment and Justice Bhunu’s judgment of the 3rd March 2010. The former allowed for sharing of church buildings for worship until the courts give their final judgment on the matter and the latter endorsed that judgment. Whereas in the past some of our congregations used to hold their services outside of their church buildings, the police are driving them away telling them that they cannot meet outside anywhere near the church buildings. We are completely baffled by the behavior of the Zimbabwe Republic Police in this matter. We have persistently asked why they are being used to prop up Dr. Kunonga by actively telling people that our church properties belong to him and therefore our members should attend his Church services only. Nobody has given us any answers. We continue to raise our grave concern over the police partisan involvement in the affairs of our church, abuse of our rights and disregard of Court Orders and Rulings. We also continue to ask; Who will police the police? Have they officially become a law unto themselves? To whom can we turn for help? Who will listen to our plight?

Last Sunday 11/04/2010

  1. Police went to St. Mark’s Church, Ruwa and drove our members away from both the church and church premises. When the congregation decided to meet at the priest’s house the police prohibited them from doing so. What right do they have to stop even this? The priest of this church received a text message from Kunonga’s priest telling him not to use the church or else “what they did at St. Faith’s Church, Budiriro will happen to them”. St. Faith’s Church, Budiriro is where riot police tear-gassed our people on a Sunday morning and then followed it up on a Thursday afternoon with tear-gassing Mother’s Union members who were worshipping away from the church in the open air. This is further proof of that Dr. Kunonga’s priests are working in cahoots with the police.
  2. Our Cathedral congregation was told by the police not to meet anywhere near the Cathedral next week or else they will face the wrath of the police.
  3. At Holy Trinity Church, Ruwa acting Officer-in-Charge assistant Inspector Ngoshi and Sergeant Major Chibaya force number 044621A drove our congregation out telling them that they had orders to stop their service because they were to leave the Church to Kunonga’s group even though he hasn’t got a single member in that area.
  4. At St. Alban’s Church, Chiweshe where I had gone for a Confirmation Service- the church doors were welded from inside and so we could not go in as we had intended. We only managed to remove a pin on one of the hinges but could not go in. As a result we had our service in the open air. Rev’d. Mangava, Kunonga’s resident priest/untrained teacher called the police telling them that we had broken into the church. Police arrived just before the end of our service only to find a pin that had been removed and nothing broken. For that, about six people including the two priests who were with me had to go to Glendale police station to give evidence – a process that took forever. I followed them. No charges were brought against them but we reported the damage that was caused to our church building by the welding of doors and other devices used to prevent us from going in. We await a court hearing. What’s amazing is the ease with which even Dr. Kunonga’s priests call the police, tell them what to do and how they in turn easily comply.
  5. A number of our congregations are using other denominations church buildings (we are very grateful for their generosity) while some use school buildings and others continue to meet in the open air.

Thank you for your messages of solidarity and assurances of your prayer support. We don’t lose heart in spite of all the challenges we are facing.

This is the tip of an oppressive iceberg. It puts the niceties of our UK election in perspective, but also compels us to recognise the importance of valuing democracy, not taking for granted the rule of law, and taking responsibility for shaping our own country’s future.

Nkosi sikelel iAfrica.

I’ve always thought that if there is nothing to say, then there is no point trying to say it. So, I won’t go looking for things to blog about just for the sake of blogging something or anything.

Even watching the wonderful Kop singing again as Liverpool beat Lille at Anfield doesn’t merit too many words – just relieved admiration.

I can’t even be bothered to write about any of the things that are filling my days – from visiting great clergy to creative meetings and lots of speaking engagements via writing commitments. Boredom is not something with which I am threatened.

But I will write about Bob Stumbles. I have never met him, but I have read him and followed him for the last seven years since I came to Croydon and joined the link with the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe. Everything in Zimbabwe was coloured by the shameful betrayal of the Anglican Church by the appalling Nolbert Kunonga, the now-ousted Bishop of Harare.

Kunonga, supported by Robert Mugabe and his self-preserving henchmen, expropriated white farms, supported violence against opponents of Mugabe, saw his diocese as his personal possession, attempted to grab the Province of Central Africa for himself and has spent the last few years intimidating those who no longer recognise him as a bishop.

Kunonga (now followed by the ousted bishop of Manicaland, Elson Jakazi), illegally protected and defended by a craven police force, continues to defy the courts - claiming churches and church property for himself. His supporters intimidate and beat those faithful Anglicans who try to worship in their own churches or communities.

There is currently a case going through the courts in Harare to secure a final judgement in favour of the Province and against the corrupt Kunonga. The recent and current Bishops of Harare (Sebastian Bakare and Chad Gandiya) have shown enormous courage in challenging Kunonga and offering strong leadership to their people in the face of overwhelming odds. The saga continues, as do the relationships with the Dioceses of Southwark and Rochester, with a strong sense of God’s justice and the guts to pray and work for it.

This is not about the church as institution. It is about an abused country, an abused people and a church that gives its own blood to serve the people who suffer under the jackboot of Mugabe’s megalomania.

But the largely unknown hero of this struggle has been a lawyer called Bob Stumbles. As Chancellor of the Diocese of Harare he has challenged Kunonga and Mugabe every step of the way – and at considerable personal cost. Fired by faith in the God of justice and inspired by love for the Anglican Church and its vocation, he has attended to the legal detail of the struggle and remained diligent in the face of all intimidation.

I heard today that Bob Stumbles died of a heart attack yesterday. This is bad news for the church’s struggle – especially while the court case proceeds. But this faithful man deserves honour, respect and love for all he has done. His work is over, but it is essential his legacy does not die with him.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory. And may he never be forgotten when the history books get written.

When I was back in Zimbabwe in August 2009 things were looking up. The shops were full, life and commerce were picking up and the police seemed to be encouraging a return to the rule of law. That seems to be in doubt now.

Last week the new Bishop of Manicaland, Julius Makoni, was stopped from attending an episcopal meeting abroad by detention and harrassment at Harare Airport. This was at the behest of the ousted ex-Anglican Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga.

This follows repeated episodes of harrassment of churches in the Dioceses of Harare and Manicaland – again at the behest of the ousted ex-bishop. Congregations are being prevented from using their church buildings and violence is being used by the police to intimidate the Anglicans for whom Kunonga is no longer their bishop.

Kunonga is not recognised as a bishop in the Anglican Communion. Yet, he continues to be supported by Mugabe who also seems to be keen (once again) to support his indefensible ecclesiastical supporter.

It is important that people know what is happening there. What happens to Anglican opponents of a deposed and discredited bishop is a good guide to whether the rule of law (essential to the future recovery of Zimbabwe at lots of levels) is being restored or ignored.

Saturday 8 & Sunday 9 August 2009

We got back from a long day in Gokwe to find the power was off. So was my laptop battery, so I couldn’t write anything last night. Now, having just got back from KweKwe, the power is on and my battery can re-charge. This is also the reason for a long delay in approving comments on other posts – and for my inability to respond to them – I won’t be able to publish these posts until I return. Which, of course, means that by the time you read this I will either be at Johannesburg Airport or already back in Blighty.

Gokwe is over 200km from Gweru and we left yesterday morning without anything to eat or drink at 6.15am. Never trust a Zimbabwean youth conference programme when it comes to meal times! Over 450 young people had come from all over Central Zimbabwe for a conference lasting from Friday night through to Tuesday afternoon. Ishmael and I got there and led the Eucharist at which I was preaching. The service was scheduled to start at 8am and finish at 10am in time for breakfast. We finished at 10.05am, but went back in for speeches and more singing and dancing. Breakfast happened after 11.30am. Then everyone was called back together for my speech (!). We finished at 2pm when lunch was supposed to have ended and the sports competition begun. So, they decided to go straight to sports and come back to lunch when it was ready later.

Gokwe & Kwekwe 010Ishmael and I went to visit some people at St Agnes (where there is a church, a healing centre, an orphanage, a clinic and various other church-run facilities. We eventually got back to the school where the conference is taking place at 4pm only to find that the sports were coming to an end and lunch was ‘nearly ready’. We decided to hit the road and get back to Gweru not long after dark – a journey of between 2-3 hours of fast driving on a near-empty road. By the time we got to eat in the evening (wonderful!), I had a slamming headache and was dead tired.

In Ishmael’s speech to the young people he addressed head-on the problems of Zimbabwe, pointing out that Zimbabwe cannot blame anyone else for the violence that was inflicted by Zimbabweans on Zimbabweans. He called the young people to take responsibility for their future, to eschew violence and hatred and to put their Christian faith/identity ahead of their tribal or other affiliations. Christians have to take seriously their ministry of reconciliation – at every level – and must re-shape their country and regain the image the country once had. He addressed this at a political, economic and ecclesial level. It was direct, brave and unequivocal.

When I was asked to speak, I decided simply to reinforce Ishmael’s thrust. Blaming Britain for Zimbabwe’s current plight is not good enough. Sure, we have made big mistakes in the past, but we cannot now re-write the history; we have to take responsibility for shaping the future and not simply use the past to justify today’s failure or tomorrow’s inadequacies. I invited the young people – as the parents of tomorrow, the teachers of tomorrow, the leaders of tomorrow, the politicians of tomorrow – to be like the prophets of the Old Testament, holding out a vision of hope for a better future, even while the evidence of their eyes today might not promise it. I went on to commend our diocesan link as one of partnership based on our unity in Jesus Christ – a relationship of love and mutual concern.

These messages were repeated this morning at KweKwe where I was asked to preach (on Ephesians 5:1), preside and confirm 27 candidates. The service began at 8.30am and finished at 11.35am. Then we went back in for speeches (!) and finally finished at 12.40pm. Lunch was welcome and plentiful.

The import of this visit has been to see again what is going on, to get an update on projects we support, to encourage and support the church here and to do some business on the future of the link between the Croydon Episcopal Area and the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe. It has inevitably touched on politics, economics, social issues (HIV-Aids, orphans, water/power generation, education, etc.): the church does not operate in splendid spiritual isolation, but is strongly connected in the wider communities, some of whom would have nothing if the church did not provide it.

Clearly, with an improving economic and political situation (but recognising the continuing problems and the fragility of the current situation), the future for us will involve a concentration on building capacity and expertise, investing in the people/leaders who can build that capacity locally in the future.

Yes, it could all collapse. Even the end of Zanu PF might (given some of what I heard) bring an opportunity for revenge against those who created the tension and violence of the last couple of years. But, for the moment, the optimism cannot be gainsaid and the future is looking better than it has at any time in the last decade. For years decline looked to be inevitable; now the dynamic appears to be upward again.

Friday 7 August 2009

Hilary Clinton announced in Pretoria today that the US will not be ending their sanctions against the leaders of Zimbabwe. I should hope not, too. Britain and the European Union maintain the same stance and it is to be hoped that this will continue until the rule of law is properly and fully re-established, elections are free and fair, there is an end to intimidation and violence and the political institutions have regained their integrity. Contrary to Zimbabwean propaganda, the sanctions do not inflict suffering on ordinary Zimbabweans or their economy; they stop Zanu PF leaders from travelling abroad, freeze their foreign-held assets and boycott arms sales. Imagine what could be done if the foreign assets (including Mugabe’s stashed millions) could be appropriated and spent on rebuilding the schools in Zimbabwe?

Well, having read in previous posts about renewed optimism in Zimbabwe, you might well wonder how this sits with the paragraph above. It is quite simple. Mugabe has been brought to the point where he could not govern and could not save the economy – hence, he had no option but to accept a Unity Government and the compromises that would come with it. The country is not out of the woods, but that does not and should not stop us from recognising the good that is now coming. The optimism is real, despite the realism about the long way still to go.

St Patrick's 001St Patrick's 006Today I saw real signs of progress and hope. Two years ago we stayed at St Patrick’s Mission, just outside Gweru, and asked questions about how little progress had been made on just about every project there: school, church, pigs, agriculture, clinic/hospital, water, etc. Nothing seemed to be happening. Yet, as I have been constantly told this week, 2007 and 2008 were lost years. The situation was so bad that almost nothing could be done anywhere about anything.

But, today I visited St Patrick’s again and found:

  • St Patrick's 011The new hospital walls are up to roof level and should be there by the end of August. Door and window frames are gradually going in.
  • The mortuary was being roofed while I watched. The fridges have already been ordered.
  • The clinic has just received a large order of equipment (syringes, gloves, sterile packs, sharps boxes, etc).
  • There are now 13 pigs and plans to get another ten sows for breeding (which, apparently, could give up to 70 piglets each year).
  • Chickens are being reared and I saw the runs being built above ground to protect them from snakes.
  • Plans are being made to site and install generators to allow electricity in different sectors of the site by order of priority.
  • St Patrick's 012Plans are now in hand to establish a new water tank to supply the lower part of this huge site: nurses houses, school dormitories and the hospital.
  • The agricultural gardens that were derelict are now fully planted and being carefully cultivated for sale and feeding the 700+ children at the school.
  • The grinding mill bought by the Croydon Episcopal Area is working and the ground maize is being sold locally at profit for the school and clinic.

St Patrick's 019The ambulance and the lorry are both now in full working order.

This is remarkable. Add to this the fact that this school stayed open when most other schools were shut for months on end and you see the achievement. The key to this has been leadership from the bishop (both visionary and practical – he used to be a mining engineer), the appointment of a very good young priest to oversee all the projects run by the diocese and a renewed sense of possibility now that money means something again and thought can be given to feeding animals and not just people.

This turn-around is very impressive. There is a huge amount to do and a long way to go. But it all now looks possible and achievable again. Today saw the first power cut in a week – which might sound rubbish to the rest of us, but is a cause of both surprise and celebration here in Gweru.

Tomorrow we leave at 6am to drive to Gokwe for the first day of a diocesan youth conference – with nearly 500 young people. I can’t wait for the singing and dancing. Given that a West Indian mate of mine says that if he wants a laugh, he watches a white man ‘dance’, I’ll just watch and take the pictures…

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