Harare, Zimbabwe

Our Diocesan partnership with Zimbabwe began through a friendship –and friendship is the basis of all our links with our companion Dioceses.

Two students became friends at theological college.  They kept in touch and when Peter Hatende became the first black Bishop of Harare, his friend – Philip Goodrich – was Bishop of Tonbridge 1974-82.  Their friendship became one between Dioceses – Rochester’s first companion link.  For twenty years before 1997, numerous exchange visits took place between their respective members.

When Bishop Peter retired, Nolbert Kunonga took his place and a very ‘different wind’ began to blow.  Kunonga was a friend of Mugabe and wanted nothing to do with Rochester.  His passions were political rather than spiritual, and he set about building a power base.  Visitors were unwelcome, and the Diocesan partnership foundered.

When Kunonga tried to take the Diocese out of the Anglican Communion, he was excommunicated in 2008, and a ‘replacement’ Bishop appointed in 2009 – the Rt Revd Chad Gandiya.  The congregations of the Diocese transferred their allegiance en masse to Bishop Chad, as did most of the clergy.  Kunonga refused to move.  He insisted that he ‘owned’ the cathedral and church buildings, and that anyone who was not loyal to him would not be allowed inside them.  Those who entered these buildings were thrown out by police with tear gas and batons, resulting in many injuries, even some deaths.

Church members continued to worship together in rented buildings, in marquees erected each weekend, and under trees.  Bishop Chad tried to gain justice through the High Court.  In 2011 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, paid an official visit to Harare, and was welcomed by President Mugabe.  Kunonga was falling out of favour.  In October 2012 the High Court ruled in favour of Bishop Chad.  The cathedral and churches were opened with great rejoicing!  During the ‘exile’ their numbers had increased, such that some found their buildings were no longer large enough!

Under Bishop Chad our Diocesan partnership was renewed.  He retired in December 2018.  On January 6 2019, Dr Farai Mutamiri was consecrated the next Bishop of Harare.  The Bishop of Tonbridge, the Rt Revd Simon Burton-Jones, took part in the ceremony.  Canon David Kitley and Dom de Mattos were also present. 

Our prayers are invited for Bishop Farai and his people, in face of continuing difficult circumstances in the nation.  Their watchword is:

Mukristu Usanete: Namata Urinde! Christian seek not yet repose: Watch and Pray!

For further information  and details of how you may be involved in this partnership, please contact Dom De Mattos on harare.cdsg@gmail.com



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