unholy war in Cathedral

HARARE - Gilbert Mhangwa shakes his head dejectedly as he walks away after turning up for a service at Harare's Anglican Cathedral, only to find the entrance blocked by a gang of youths.

HARARE - Gilbert Mhangwa shakes his head dejectedly as he walks away after turning up for a service at Harare's Anglican Cathedral, only to find the entrance blocked by a gang of youths.

A few metres away, riot police brandishing batons disperse disgruntled parishioners who later stage an impromptu prayer session outside the imposing granite-block building.

"We are not enjoying our full rights as Zimbabweans," complains the Right Reverend Sebastian Bakare, the new bishop of Harare.

The cathedral in downtown Harare is at the centre of a power struggle between a clique led by former bishop Nolbert Kunonga and the rest of the church.

Bakare's investiture in January, which would have normally taken place in the cathedral, was moved to a sports arena on the outskirts of the city after gangs aligned to his predecessor Kunonga barricaded the cathedral entrance.

A close ally of President Robert Mugabe who has often showered praise on Zimbabwe's veteran leader, Kunonga has refused to vacate the church and surrender church property to his successor despite two court orders.

Kunonga, who was once referred to as "my spiritual father" by Mugabe and officiated at the president's swearing-in in 2002, was stripped of his title last after he attempted to pull his Harare diocese out of the Anglican Church's Province of Central Africa over its stance on homosexuality.

He then formed the self-styled Anglican Church of Zimbabwe in January, while insisting he was still the legitimate head of the diocese.

Analysts say Mugabe is protecting Kunonga, one of his few supporters in the church. - Sapa-AFP

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