A long-running dispute in the Anglican Church Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe, hit a new low on Sunday when supporters of former bishop Nolbert Kunonga prevented the burial of a long-time Anglican parishioner because he belonged to a rival faction.
The Kunonga loyalists blocked the burial of lifelong church worker Edward Rinashe, 70, in St. Mary's Cemetery in the Harare satellite town of Chitungwiza, sources said.
Rinashe refused to recognize Kunonga’s authority and attended services led by Bishop Chad Gandiya, designated head of the diocese by the Province of Central Africa.
The Kunonga faction, which has been supported by the police over the years in gaining and maintaining control over disputed church property after Kunonga initially resigned and left the church, claims ownership of all Anglican Church properties.
Witnesses said that after skirmishes at St. Mary’s Cemetery Rinashe’s coffin was taken back to the funeral home which had prepared him for interment.
Relatives said they were making new burial arrangements. Mourners and church members expressed anger at the interference by the Kunonga faction.
Registrar Mike Chingori of the Gandiya-led Anglican Church told reporter Sandra Nyaira that the episode was just the latest case of persecution of Kunonga opponents.
Kunonga spokesman Bishop Alfred Munyanyi said his faction will continue to block that of Gandiya, which he said has promoted a Western agenda of regime change.
Kunonga has been a staunch political ally of President Robert Mugabe.