A Zimbabwean court on Monday ordered an axed Anglican bishop to surrender church property he grabbed when he formed a splinter church after his ouster in a dispute over homosexuality, an Anglican spokesman said.
"The Supreme Court has ordered (Nolbert) Kunonga to return all church property and vacate the church premises," Precious Shumba, diocesan spokesman for the Anglican Church's Province of Central Africa, told AFP.
The renegade Kunonga was bishop of the Harare diocese until he decided to break away with a small clique of followers to form his own self-styled diocese of Zimbabwe, claiming the right over all Anglican Church buildings, institutions and movable assets.
"The court ruled that Kunonga has no claim to any of the property," said Shumba.
A rival faction had appealed an earlier decision by one Supreme Court judge to grant Kunonga the right to the property.
"Today we saw the hand of God. Justice has prevailed at last. This is a long-overdue victory," added Shumba.
Kunonga, a vocal backer of President Robert Mugabe's controversial land reforms and who also endorsed the longtime leader's condemnation of homosexuality, pulled out of the Anglican Church's province of Central Africa in 2007.
He fell out with the province -- which includes Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe -- for failing to condemn the ordination of gay bishops.
He was excommunicated and the Church appointed a new bishop.
But Kunonga insisted he was the legitimate head of the diocese, splitting it into two factions that have in recent years engaged in a protracted legal battle over church property.
At times the feud degenerated into fisticuffs and police were called in to oversee the two factions worship in different rooms of the main Harare cathedral.
In October last year the ex-archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams visited followers locked out of their cathedral by Kunonga's followers and complained to Mugabe over what he called a "godless" assault on his followers.
Kunonga, who has officiated at various state functions and at Mugabe's swearing-in in 2002, has praised the much-maligned Zimbabwean leader as "a true son of God".
He is the only religious figure included under US sanctions on the president's inner circle, including an asset freeze and travel embargo.© ANP/AFP