The Most Rev Dr Thabo Makgoba has just returned to South Africa after visiting the country with the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, who met President Robert Mugabe yesterday to raise his concerns.
The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has encountered intimidation by police and supporters of the excommunicated bishop Dr Nolbert Kunonga, including disruptions to services and the acquisition of church-owned property.
The campaign of harassment started in 2007, when the former bishop was excommunicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury after attempting to establish his own Anglican church in Zimbabwe.
Archbishop Makgoba said the dispossession and persecution of faithful Anglicans in Zimbabwe was the result “not of schism but of thuggery”.
He said that Dr Kunonga and his supporters were being “helped to steal church property without recourse”.
The Archbishop said the mood among Anglicans in Zimbabwe had been a mixture of “deep despair yet strong emergent hope”.
“Though burdened by this thuggery, Zimbabweans should know that they are not forgotten,” he said.
The Archbishop witnessed first hand the reality of Dr Kunonga’s persecution during a visit to Manicaland on Monday.
When his group tried to enter St John’s Cathedral in Mutare, they were blocked by a group of protesters. Demonstrators also turned up when the Archbishops visited the nearby St Augustine’s Mission.
“The majority of Anglicans were worshipping in shabby places while their churches stood locked,” he said.
“We prayed with the sisters and the faithful in all areas we visited. In each place, those who protested against us were in the minority, and the majority received us with great joy.”
Dr Makgoba was with the Archbishop of Canterbury when he met Mr Mugabe. He said the two-hour meeting with the Zimbabwean President had been “fruitful”.
“Although moving on in age and forgetful in certain instances, the President was aware of our pain, frustration and disappointment at the police-aided church conflict and violence by Kunonga," he said.
“I appealed to his heart and his Catholic conscience, and asked him to stop the suffering of his people.”
During their meeting, the Archbishops presented Mr Mugabe with a dossier outlining details of the “systematic” harassment of Anglican churches.
“Every week tens of thousands of Anglicans are denied their basic right to worship because of the lies and falsifications being propagated by Dr Kunonga,” it states.
Today, the Archbishop of Canterbury met the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, to reiterate his concerns.
A spokesperson for the Archbishop said the meeting had been “very constructive” and that Mr Tsvangirai had pledged to do “all that he could” to ensure that the rule of law is enforced and that Anglican shrines and churches remain open to all.