Over 200 faithful of the Anglican Church of Upper Shire yesterday sealed offices of their Bishop Brighton Malasa in Zomba, demanding his immediate resignation.
The disgruntled Christians, who also included senior members of the clergy in the diocese, presented a petition to their bishop before sealing the offices.
Malasa personally received the petition from the church members who represented over 35 parishes.
The petitioners drove in over eight cars from St. George’s Parish in Zomba where they had gathered to the diocese’s headquarters at Chilema in Malosa.
They wore red and black T/shirts, some of which were written ‘Malasa Must Go’ and ‘We Don’t Want a Corrupt Bishop’ and chanted songs against his leadership.
The petitioners alighted the motor vehicles that included a lorry and two coasters at St Luke’s Hospital, which is also under the diocese, before marching to lock the bishop’s office and that of Diocesan Secretary whom they accuse of being close to the bishop and therefore, complicit in the bishop’s alleged shady dealings.
Initially, the bishop delegated his representative to receive the petition on his behalf but the angry faithful insisted that he receive it personally.
He later obliged but stood just outside his official residence, which is also close to his office, where he received it in the presence of heavily armed police officers.
The diocese’s headquarters was heavily guarded by over 30 civilian and armed police officers who came on four police vehicles.
A representative of the protestors read the petition before handing it over to Liz Chikoti, warden of St George’s Parish to present it to Malasa, who did not say a word after receiving it.
When contacted after receiving the petition, Malasa declined to comment, saying: “I have no comment, thank you.”
But in a telephone interview later, Chikoti said they were happy because their mission had been accomplished.
“We have presented our petition and we want him to resign with immediate effect. The petition was signed by representatives from all the parishes in the diocese,” she said.
Chikoti said the angry parish owners and priests had resolved to force their bishop to abdicate following unsuccessful attempts to resolve the matters through contact and dialogue.
The protest came after Anglican Archbishop for Central Africa Albert Chama had intervened in the long-standing matter by appointing Bishop William Mchombo to meet Malasa and all representatives of parishes in the diocese.
The meeting was scheduled for yesterday at St George’s Parish but failed to take place and was rescheduled to February 6 2019.
In an earlier interview, the Anglican Council in Malawi chairperson Bishop Fanuel Magangani confirmed that the matter was being handled by the Zambian bishop.
“Of course, I am aware but the order is coming from the Archbishop’s office as such it is not proper and wise for me to start commenting on something that is not from my office,” he said.
According to leaked communication, on December 15 last year, representatives of 35 out of 41 parishes in the diocese met at St George’s Parish where they agreed to remove Malasa from office, accusing him of funds abuse, greed and being power hungry.
Parishes, according to the communication, also accuse the bishop of grabbing board chairmanships of most schools and health facilities in the diocese. The representatives further resolved to ban their bishop from visiting parishes within the diocese.
The Upper Shire Diocese is considered the richest in the Anglican Church in Malawi as it boasts of several schools, health facilities and a training centre which it jointly runs with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP). n