Kunonga loses Harare Supreme Court appeal

Breakaway bishop ordered to repay diocese $428,000

The Zimbabwe Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of the former Bishop of Harare, ordering Dr. Nolbert Kunonga to repay the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) $427,892 as compensation for disposing of diocesan assets to fund his breakaway Anglican Church of Zimbabwe.

On 17 March 2017 Justice Paddington Garwe rejected Dr. Kunonga’s claim that he had the right to sell stocks and shares owned by the Diocese of Harare.

“I am satisfied that no proper basis has been given to impugn the judgment of the court a quo. … The appeal must therefore fail. It is accordingly ordered . . . the appeal be and is hereby dismissed with costs,” Justice Garwe wrote.

The unsuccessful appeal followed a 18 Nov 2015 decision by Harare High Court Judge Nicholas Mathonsi ordering 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 lower court ruling 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.”

In his ruling, Justice Garwe rejected Dr. Kunoga’s argument that the entire judgment should be set aside, noting the four other defendants had not joined the appeal, saying he would review only the portion of the judgment that concerned the former bishop. He further rejected Dr. Kunonga’s contention the money raised by the sale of church property had been used to meet the costs of running the diocese of Harare, but had been used in the furtherance of the new interests of Dr. Kunonga’s new church. Dr. Kunonga did not respond to emails asking for his comment on the decision.

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