Anglicans in Zimbabwe’s Diocese of Masvingo are again facing arrest for trying to commemorate the life and ministry of missionary Arthur Shearly Cripps and for carrying out their ministry, reports the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS).
Last year, clergy and pilgrims were prevented from holding their celebrations at the Shearly Cripps Shrine in Maronda Mashanu by excommunicated bishop Nolbert Kunonga, supported by police. Kunonga claimed to be in charge of the shrine and 78 Anglican churches in Masvingo Diocese.
“This year we had arranged to hold the celebrations from 27 to 29 July,” the bishop of Masvingo, Godfrey Tawonezwi, wrote to supporters, “but Kunonga and the police have once again stopped us from doing so. Last week Kunonga put up posters … advertising that he … will be going to Shearly Cripps Shrine the same weekend we had planned to be at the shrine. The police wrote us a letter saying that all Anglican Church property is under the custodianship of Kunonga.”
The group has moved the event to the beginning of August, but police have labelled the planned gathering “illegal” and participants could face arrest, ACNS reports. Kunonga is a well-known ally of Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe and has often had police backing for his actions.
Tawonezwi said he has informed police that court cases they are citing refer to a property dispute in the Diocese of Harare, not Masvingo.
The bishop also noted that earlier this year Kunonga, with the support of police, had forcibly taken over Darambombe Mission and its schools and clinic with the police threatening to arrest anyone from the diocese who enters the property.
The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has been under attack from Kunonga, who was excommunicated as bishop, since 2007. Kunonga and his supporters have seized church property and used violence and intimidation to break up church services.
In a 2011 media interview, Kunonga was quoted as saying he aims to control the 3,000 Anglican churches, schools, hospitals and other properties in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi. At the end of 2011, the Archbishops of Canterbury, Central Africa, Southern Africa and Tanzania met with Mugabe and presented him with a dossier that outlined how Anglicans have been persecuted over the years.
Arthur Shearly Cripps was an English Anglican priest, short story writer and poet who spent most of his life in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He became a missionary for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and was in conflict with the British South Africa Company over land distribution, taking the side of the African population. He was given the Shona name Mpandi, or “the man who walks like thunder.” After more than 20 years he returned to England for a time after a quarrel with the British administration; but went back shortly for the rest of his life, having in 1927 published “Africa for Africans,” on land issues.