Tanzania’s general secretary clarifies archbishop election

By ACNS staff
Posted Apr 1, 2013

[Anglican Communion News Service] The general secretary of the Anglican Church of Tanzania has published a full account of the recent election of the archbishop-elect.

The Rev. Canon Dickson Chilongani said the church issued the statement after what he called “speculation and gossip” on the Internet surrounding the election.

“We have decided to give details of what has been confirmed by all bishops present as a free and fair election,” he wrote to ACNS. “We hope that this will clear up any misunderstanding and all will work for the unity of the ACT [Anglican Church of Tanzania].”

The statement (in full below) was also published on the website of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA).

Archbishop’s election in Tanzania

The election was prayerful, open and transparent. All present assented to the legitimacy of the election and the results were confirmed by all bishops present in writing. All in the Anglican Communion are asked to pray for unity as we in the Anglican Church of Tanzania give thanks for the ministry of Archbishop Valentino Mokiwa and pray for Archbishop Elect Jacob Erasto Chimeledya.


The Special Electoral synod of the Anglican Church of Tanzania met on 21st February 2013 in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Dodoma to elect the sixth Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Tanzania. Since then some unfounded accusations of corruption, bribery and tribalism surrounding the election of our new Archbishop have been made on the internet.

The internet can be used to develop relationships, but it can also be used to spread gossip and destabilize the church. None of those writing these false stories sought to confirm them with us. It is very sad that someone who did not attend the election would spoil what was confirmed by all our bishops as a fair and transparent election.

My aim is not to counter these accusations, as it is not a tradition of our Church to do so, but to outline what really happened, so that those who are wise can judge for themselves whether such accusations are genuine or not.

The election started with a service where the retired Archbishop, Donald Leo Mtetemela preached. Bishop Mtetemela preached strongly about electing a spiritual leader, a pastor with integrity, someone who loves God and one who is able to strengthen unity within the Church as it faces prevailing challenges and able to take the good news of the gospel with vigour to the people. We trust in prayer. God was with us.

There was confirmation of quorum and legitimacy of voters:

Following the service each bishop sat on a pew with four (4) members from his diocese. The General Secretary then called each member by name to confirm the quorum. Voters from each diocese were identified and introduced in turn. They stood up and when a name was called, that person had to shout ‘present’ so that everyone would see and hear them before they sat down. At that stage whoever doubted the legitimacy of any voter was free to raise an objection. No one raised any objection. Of the 140 expected voters, 11 were missing so there was a total of 129 legitimate voters.

During the voting process, the General Secretary called each person loudly and that person went to the main Altar of the Cathedral to vote before returning to the pew. Who they voted for was secret, only known to them. The Synod then nominated two people to count the votes after taking their oath publicly. We customarily do not announce the votes for each candidate to the public but for the purpose outlined above, the Bishop of the Diocese of Dar es Salaam Valentino Leonard Mokiwa gained 63 votes and the Bishop of the Diocese of Mpwapwa Jacob Erasto Chimeledya 66 votes, a total of 129, equal to the number of legitimate voters.

Crossing the Historic Divisions

Both Archbishop Mokiwa and Archbishop Elect Chimeledya received support from electors from many different tribes, and from representatives of both High Church and Low Church dioceses. The ethnic diversity of Tanzania does not allow for any single tribe to dominate in a national election such as this. We are from many tribes and any one tribe cannot form a majority. We speak in the languages of the nation – Kiswahili and English – and we do not exclude others by using our tribal languages.

Uniquely in Africa the Province has both ‘High Church’ (‘Anglo-Catholic’) and ‘Low Church’ (‘Evangelical’) dioceses. These divisions were imposed on us by missionary societies. The election of Bishop Chimeledya – an evangelical – has been welcomed by people from both High and Low Church dioceses. Bishop Mokiwa was supported by those from the Low Church as well as the High Church.

All those who voted considered who would bring unity and order within the Anglican Church of Tanzania. Opinion was divided, but the majority voted for Archbishop Elect Chimeledya. Bishop Chimeledya never really expected to be elected Archbishop and he did not campaign for it. It was his fellow bishops along with clergy and lay representatives who – having recognized his pastoral gifts and integrity- elected him Archbishop who is primus inter pares (one among equals).

The Funding of the Synod

It is extremely difficult to fund such elections. Tanzania is a country that is in the process of development and finances are scarce. However, our people give. They do so generously and from a deep commitment to the life of the church. We are self-governing and this governance is self-financing. For this special electoral synod every diocese donated through their annual contributions. Our provincial institutions – Central Tanganyika Press, Dar es Salaam Bookshop, Mtumba Women’s Training Centre, Vocational Training Centre and St John’s University also gave generously. We also received a grant from the Anglican Missions Board (New Zealand). We are deeply thankful for our partnership with the Anglican Board of Mission (New Zealand) and the CMS NZ Mission Partners who work in our Province. The expenses of all electors are paid for from this central fund. No one is excluded, so all can participate in the election. The synod was not as luxurious or expensive as it is being portrayed and all accounts including those used for synod will be audited.

Bishops Signed a Legal Document to Endorse the Results:

Throughout the election process, the Registrar asked voters to ask for clarification in case anything was not clear. After the results were announced, he also asked if any of the voters wanted to re-count the votes to satisfy themselves or had any objection. It is Bishop Mokiwa who twice pleaded that there should be no recounting of the votes. His plea prevailed in the synod, indicating that everyone was satisfied. What followed was for bishops to sign a legal document, i.e. they subscribed to the deed of confirmation to endorse the results as well as the new Archbishop.

Constitutionally, ‘if one Bishop present during the election declines to sign the legal document he has to explain the reason and, if genuine, the election must be repeated’. We thank God that all the 25 bishops present signed the deed of confirmation, meaning that the election was fair and transparent thus it cannot be repeated. It must be emphasized, however, that these bishops signed the legal document as required by the Constitutions and Canons of the Anglican Church of Tanzania on behalf of their dioceses and not as individuals or the House of Bishops of the Ordinary General Synod.

I must insist that the election of the Primate in Tanzania is not done by Houses (i.e. of bishops, clergy and laity). Rather, it is done by delegates representing their dioceses. This is why it is a constitutional requirement that the Bishops should subscribe to the deed of confirmation on behalf of their dioceses. In our constitution the clergy and laity are given the opportunity to object, but are not asked to sign the legal document.


Following the election one objection has been received by the provincial Registrar signed by a priest and lay elector. It is being dealt with in line with the constitution of the Church.


I hope this provides a clear picture of the way the election was conducted and proves that the exercise was fair, transparent, free of corruption, free of bribery and tribalism, and contrary to what is portrayed by critics who were not present at the election but only speculating on the internet.

Rev Canon Dr Dickson Chilongani PhD
General Secretary, Anglican Church of Tanzania