Zanzibar shake up


A shake up is underway in Zanzibar and Christ Church Cathedral in Stone Town, as the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Tanzania seeks to resolve the long-standing dispute between the bishop and the cathedral chapter.

The Tanzanian bishops have directed the Rt. Rev. Michael Hafid to take a leave of absence, and dissolved the cathedral chapter, placing the management of the popular tourist attraction under temporary provincial control.

In a letter published on 19 September 2022, the provincial general secretary, the Rev. Canon Bethuel Mlula stated the House of Bishops met on 29 January 2022 in Kasulu Kigoma to discuss the complaints of misconduct, theft and moral turpitude lodged against Bishop Hafid.  The bishop and the cathedral have long been at odds, with the cathedral barring the bishop from entering the church. The funeral last month of Archbishop John Ramadhani witnessed the cathedral banning the bishop from the grounds.

A colorful figure, Bishop Hafidh has been accused of pocketing cathedral funds, placing relatives on the church payroll, and has successfully defended himself in civil lawsuits charging him with fathering a child out of wedlock, and for damages as the alleged correspondent in a divorce suit. The ongoing dispute has led to riots and physical clashes that even led to the bishop losing his mitre in a tussle at the cathedral as he sought to enter the church.

Canon Mlula said the January 29 meeting formed an “Archbishop’s Commission” to investigate the allegations and to “advise the House of BIshops on how to best end the crisis for the health of the Church of God,”

He reported the commission travelled to Zanzibar in April and met with the bishop, members of the cathedral, and local political and civic leaders to determine the facts. Their report was presented to the House of Bishops’ August 26-27 meeting in Mpwapwa.

The House of Bishops resolved:

a. Bishop Michael Hafidh Zanzibar should go on vacation with the aim of healing him personally, his family and the Church in general due to what is going on;

b. While Bishop Michael Zanzibar is on vacation, the Diocese will be looked after by the supervising Bishop who will be responsible for managing the Diocese with the intention of bringing harmony, love and solidarity among leaders and Christians;

c. According to the Constitutions of the Anglican Church in Tanzania in 1970, Ministers and Lay people are obliged to obey their Bishop in all matters of justice. The acts of the Chapter of the Cathedral of Christ that prevented the Bishop of the Diocese from entering the Cathedral to provide services were contrary to the constitution, morals and faith of Christ’s church and therefore the Council has been given a strong warning and the House has directed that all those involved in such actions that humiliated the leaders and the Church of God in general, do not continue with such inglorious actions;

d. All believers who were involved in chaos of any kind should be given penance so that they can return to the safety of Spiritual life and serve God in spirit and truth;

e. The House of Bishops has ordered the immediate dissolution of the Cathedral Chapter in order to establish a good system of constitutional leadership that will be responsible to the Constitution of the Anglican Church ofTanzania, the Constitution of the Diocese of Zanzibar, and

State Laws;

f.  From now on, there should not be any believer who will make any such disturbances and if there are any complaints or suggestions, the Constitutional procedure should be followed. 

Negotiations are underway between the parties to put in place the House of Bishops’ recommendations. Bishop Hafidh is understood to be balking at turning over control of the diocese to a provincially appointed interim bishop, while some members of the chapter are waiting for Bishop Hafidh to act before they relinquish their positions.

The Tanzanian House of Bishops also asked Chrisitans to stop “defaming Church leaders on social networks,” and stated “all issues” relating to the management of diocesan properties should be directed by those “who are in power legally. It is an offense for any body or person who does not have the permission of the Trustees of the Anglican Church to get involved in the management of the Church’s assets, including money, as doing so is a criminal offence.”

The case continues.