A Zimbabwe High Court has ordered the former Bishop of Harare, Dr. Nolbert Kunoga, to pay back the diocese the value of shares he sold after he led the church into schism in 2007.
A Zimbabwe High Court has ordered the former Bishop of Harare, Dr. Nolbert Kunoga, to pay back the diocese the value of shares he sold after he led the church into schism in 2007. In a ruling handed down on 18 Nov 2015, Harare High Court Judge Nicholas Mathonsi ordered Dr Kunonga and four others to pay the $427,892 plus interest and court costs to the Diocese of Harare.
In 2007 Dr. Kunonga withdrew the diocese from the Church of the Province of Central Africa to form the Anglican Church of Zimbabwe after the province began ecclesiastical proceedings to investigate the controversial bishop on charges of fraud, heresy and attempted murder. Dr. Kunonga, who was an ally of the ruling ZANU-PF Party and President Robert Mugabe — who rewarded him with an estate confiscated from a white farmer — used the power of the state to expel congregations and clergy from churches that did not pledge their loyalty to him.
Dr. Kunonga was joined by the Bishop of Manicaland, the Rt. Rev. Elston Jakazi in the schism, dividing the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe. A series of lower court victories in favor of the the Rt. Rev. Sebastian Bakare — the bishop seated by the province after Dr. Kunonga’s excommunication — were ignored by the security services. But in 2012 the Supreme Court ruled in favor the Province against Dr. Kunonga, and the government removed its protection from the breakaway bishop.
The ruling, portions of which were excerpted in the Harare Herald, stated that when Dr. Kunonga quit the Church of the Province of Central Africa, he lost control over the church’s assets. “From the time the first defendant and his followers resolved on August 4 2007 to secede from the plaintiff church, they ceased to have any right over the property of the plaintiff they previously controlled or held in trust.”
Dr. Kunonga sold the shares at below market prices, and would be liable for their full value, the court held. “When they sold the shares, they were in fact selling property that did not belong to them,” the judge said, adding “I agree that the value purportedly realised by the defendants, namely $270 000, when they decided to give away the shares at a bargain, does not come into it. The plaintiff is entitled to the true value of the shares at the time they were sold.”
“The defendants had no business selling them at a bargain. For doing so, they must carry the cross for their lack of diligence,” Judge Mathonsi ruled.
Dr. Kunonga did not respond to a request for comments sent via email. Even though he has been removed by the state from control of the diocese’s assets, Dr. Kunonga remains a thorn in the church’s side. A posting on the diocese’s Facebook page this week warned of false “Anglican” churches planted in the countryside by Dr. Kunonga’s lieutenants.
“Anglicans you have to remain alive to the fact that the excommunicated Dr Nolbert Kunonga is very busy in the rural areas setting up ‘Anglican’ Church parishes, which continue to use the popular white and blue uniform of the Mother’s Union as well as the Black pin for Vabvuwi and the blue and white belt for the Anglican Wabvuwi Guild. So, as we continue with our work, let us remain vigilant in the defence and protection of the Anglican Church against people who can create more confusion in the rural parishes like Mhondoro and Murehwa.”