Daily Israel Report

Rowan Williams Challenges Robert Mugabe on Mugabe's Home Turf

The battle over control of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe reached a new level when the Archbishop of Canterbury arrived in Zimbabwe.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 10/11/2011, 8:47 AM

King Henry VIII would have understood the situation perfectly.

When Henry could not get his way with the Pope over a divorce, he founded the Anglican Church with himself as boss, seized the lands of the Catholic church and doled them out to his supporters.

The Anglican church, at best stagnant in Britain, is quite vibrant in Africa, including Zimbabwe.

It has been critical of the tyrannical rule of the 87 year old Robert Mugabe who has ruled the country since 1980 and shows no sign of stepping down despite international sanctions.

The church was a thorn in his side and therefore he used the controversy over the ordination of homosexuals in the Anglican church to back Nolbert Kunonga, the former Bishop of Harare and thus split the church.

As Mugabe controls the courts - while if they don't comply with his wishes there are the security forces available - Kunonga, although excommunicated by the Anglican church, was declared the lawful owner of church property.

This meant that in addition to churches, the mission schools, clinics and orphanages were fair game.

Loyalist parishioners found themselves terrorized and tear gassed.

The plight of the Anglicans in Zimbabwe finally impelled Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to visit Zimbabwe and hold talks with Mugabe in his own den.

The Mugabe regime was not perturbed by the visit. George Charamba, a spokesperson for Mugabe, said that Mugabe would also voice his complaints against Anglican policy and particularly the support for sanctions and the controversial policy on homosexuality.

"He [Mugabe] thinks the archbishop will be polite enough to point [out] to him that portion of the Great Book [that] sanctions homosexuality and sanctions."

Before meeting with Mugabe on Sunday Williams on Saturday addressed 15,000 loyalist Anglicans in a decrepit Harare sports stadium and praised them for their endurance and resistance to bullying.

He then made a veiled assault on the regime.

After denouncing colonialism and its rapaciousness, Williams said that in some places it had been succeeded by something just as evil. “How tragic that this should be replaced by another kind of lawlessness where so many live in daily fear of attack if they fail to comply with what the powerful require of them."

Mugabe has built his entire reputation on leading the fight for independence from colonial rule.

Kunonda fired back, calling Williams a British government appointee and hence a neocolonialist stooge. "I do not need any favors from anyone. I am fighting for this land, mines, natural resources of this land and economic power, which is in the hands of the whites. That’s my fight with the British."

“I am not a puppet of Zanu-PF [Mugabe's party] and if I am a puppet, then I am a proud and educated puppet,” he declared.