Church defends ownership of Harare parish farm

The land grab by members of the youth wing of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party of a farm belonging to St Mary’s Anglican Church in Chitungwiza has evolved into a political fight between the ruling government party and the opposition MDC-T party.

 

The land grab by members of the youth wing of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party of a farm belonging to St Mary’s Anglican Church in Chitungwiza has evolved into a political fight between the ruling government party and the opposition MDC-T party.

 

On 26 April 2015 a mob of over 1000 ZANU-PF members blocked the church during Sunday worship and demanded the vicar turn over to them a nearby plot of church land. The Diocese of Harare responded by filing a pleading with the High Court asking it to evict the squatters. The court granted the request, but the police have so far declined to honor the court’s order.

 

Last week the opposition MDC-T said it would lend it aid in driving the squatters from the land. The MDC-T’s Chitungwiza provincial secretary Lloyd Damba told the Zimbabwe Express that the party believed the land grab by ZANU-PF was to “try and dilute MDC-T support in these areas.” He added: “We know they may have blessings from the highest offices on the land because to Zanu PF it is not a matter of service delivery but it is about retention of power.”

 

Zanu-PF central committee member Innocent Hamandishe said the issue was not church ownershiop of the land, but how it had been acquired. “The title deeds are dated 1904 under the colonial regime. That is the issue with the youths and the Anglican Church had agreed to cede some of the land but now it is backtracking.”

 

However, the former Bishop of Harare Peter Hatendi said the land was donated to the Anglican Church by traditional chiefs, and was not given to the Church by the white minority regime in the then Rhodesia. “I am sorry,” he explained, but the “youths are misinformed.”  Bishop Knight Bruce “humbly applied for gifts of land from local Chiefs of the day between 1891 and 1892, for the purpose of carrying out missionary activities for the benefit of the Chief’s subjects. The mission farms were registered with the white settlers as required by the law,” he said, adding that “missions were situated in native reserves for the provision of education to the black natives. Bantu education was not a priority of Rhodesian settlers.”

 

He added: “Lest Zanu PF youths forget that some of the senior members of the nationalist movement of the liberation of Zimbabwe received their early education from some mission or rural schools that were built and supervised by Anglican Mission priests.”

 
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