Police in Marondera, capital of Zimbabwe's Mashonaland East province, on Tuesday halted a retreat of 80 clerics from the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa on grounds that the prayer gathering had not received police clearance.
Police on Monday initially failed to break up the retreat at the Peterhouse private school in Marondera, but came back armed with court papers declaring the gathering illegal.
They said the meeting contravened a ruling last year by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku saying former Harare Bishop Nolbert Kunonga was the bona fide Anglican bishop for the Diocese of Harare, not Bishop Nicholas Chad Gandiya, who has been recognized by the greater Anglican communion worldwide.
"We deplore this action and call upon higher authorities to intervene. So much for freedom of religion,” Gandiya said in a statement lamenting the police action.
The 80 clerics were from the Harare and Manicaland dioceses led by Gandiya and Bishop Julius Makoni and had gathered for their annual New Year’s retreat.
Among them was Reverend Paul Gwese, who told VOA reporter Sandra Nyaira that the police action marked the beginning of yet another year of persecution of Zimbabwe’s mainstream Anglicans by Kunonga with help from the national police.
Kunonga is a political ally of President Robert Mugabe, whose meeting in November with the Archbishop of Canterbury on the divisions within the Zimbabwe Anglican community does not appear to have had a lasting effect on the long-running tense situation.
Kunonga spokesman Bishop Alfred Munyanyi, said to have led Tuesday’s action against the Anglican clerics gathered in Marondera, said such meetings can only be of use under Kunonga as Harare’s rightful bishop.
Religious studies lecturer Professor Ezra Chitando of the University of Zimbabwe said only dialogue can end the drama and called for a “home-grown” solution.