LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH
August 25, 2005
(The Washington Times, August 25, 2005; p.A1).
HARARE, Zimbabwe -- An Anglican bishop who is a vocal supporter of President Robert Mugabe is being tried by an ecclesiastical court in Harare after an investigation into a range of charges, including incitement to murder.
The Anglican Church of Central Africa took the unprecedented step of convening a trial under canon law, at which Bishop Nolbert Kunonga became the first Anglican priest on the continent in more than 100 years to face prosecution by his peers.
As well as the most serious charge of incitement to murder, he is accused of sinning against the church, its officials and its flock. He rejects the charges.
If found guilty, the priest could be expelled from the church, and may even face civil charges if reports of missing church funds are proved.
The 55-year-old clergyman arrived for the beginning of his trial on Tuesday wearing a jeweled cross over his dark suit and crimson shirt at the Royal Harare Golf Club, in the shadow of Mr. Mugabe's official residence.
The first of 11 charges against Bishop Kunonga is that he sought the assistance of Zimbabwe's Central Intelligence Organization and information from militant "war veterans" to "incite or seek to incite" the murder of 10 prominent Anglicans, including priests and church wardens.
But that charge was temporarily withdrawn after Bishop Kunonga said he would not accept evidence by telephone from London where an Anglican priest, the Rev. James Mukonga, who fled Zimbabwe last year, was waiting to give evidence by video link to support his affidavit.
Jeremy Lewis, for the prosecution, told the court: "We withdraw without prejudice, but are free to lay a future complaint in another jurisdiction."
The proceedings were adjourned until today. Mr. Lewis said that Mr. Mukonga could give evidence in person in Malawi.
Other charges faced by Bishop Kunonga are that he tore up the infrastructure of the Harare Diocese by sacking 19 priests or church officials, dismissed heads of most of the church's institutions and banned the choir from singing in Harare's Anglican cathedral.
He is also accused of banning a predecessor, Bishop Peter Hatendi, from participating in church services; of abusing the use of church property, including vehicles and funds; falsifying minutes of church meetings; and of having removed and "disposed of memorabilia, plaques, tablets from the cathedral," some of historical interest.
Bishop Kunonga's appointment five years ago was accompanied by accusations that he bent canon law to become Zimbabwe's senior Anglican.
He went on to enrage his flock by preaching support for the Mugabe regime, and he endorsed the seizure of white-owned farms.
He also preached "racial hatred," according to a group of parishioners, mostly black, who have gathered in Harare to give evidence against him.
Bishop Kunonga, unlike most senior Zimbabwean churchmen, has refused to criticize Mr Mugabe's human rights abuses. He also received from Mr. Mugabe's government two of Zimbabwe's seized white-owned farms.
The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe, now desperately short of funds, sought donations from around the world to pay for the landmark trial, which is being heard by Judge James Kalaile, a leading Anglican and
justice of Malawi's Supreme Court, and two Zambian bishops.
Bishop Kunonga has always maintained that his detractors are racists. If convicted, he can appeal within the church.