Pius Ncube – Mugabe’s distraction of the year
By Violet Gonda
17 July 2007
Once again Robert Mugabe, the master of propaganda and dirty tricks, has the whole country talking about allegations that have been brought against Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube, rather than the price controls that threaten to destroy the country.
Zimbabwe is awash with stories that Archbishop Ncube is being sued for adultery. According to reports in the state controlled media, the cleric, who is Robert Mugabe harshest critic, allegedly had a two-year affair with a married parishioner who is also an official in his church. The Archbishop’s lawyer Nicholas Mathonsi described the allegations as an orchestrated attempt to discredit his client. He said: “I think a line must be drawn between someone who has been found guilty by a court of law and somebody who is being tried in public for political expedience.”
Although the allegations have shocked many people it is not Ncube’s guilt or innocence that people are talking about. It is the suspicious nature of the photographs published in the state media and the carefully planned handing over of the summons and the state media feeding frenzy that followed. A ZTV crew just happened to be on hand when the deputy sheriff handed over the court summons and grainy pictures showing the Archbishop next to what they suggest is the head of a woman on a bed, have been splashed all over the local Herald newspaper.
Lawyer David Coltart said: “The amount of publicity given to this matter is highly unusual and it lends credence to those who say that this is something that is orchestrated by the state.” He added that remarks made by Mugabe last week saying there were some priests who vowed to be celibate, but are not, is proof that he had full knowledge of this, way before the matter came to light on Monday. Coltart said the graphic naked photographs of the woman who is implicated in this case that appeared in the Chronicle newspaper have disgusted many people. He said: “How she has been treated goes against the culture of Zimbabweans and it is disgusting that the regime has stooped so low.”
This intense media focus comes at a time when Zimbabwe is reeling under an economic crisis that has resulted in many more thousands of people fleeing to neighboring countries in search of refuge.
The state has strong reasons for wanting to discredit Pius Ncube and an alleged sexual scandal is the most effective way of silencing their most outspoken critic. The regime has over the years leveled a variety of accusations against the outspoken cleric in the hope of silencing him. They have also tarnished other senior clerics with allegations of sexual impropriety, such as the Methodist Bishop Charles Mugaviri, who was proved to be innocent.
Observers say Ncube has a high profile in and outside the country and because of this the regime could not easily kill him as they did with little known cameraman Edward Chikomba, or opposition activist Gift Tandare.
Ncube recently called on stronger nations to invade Zimbabwe in a worst case scenario. Only last week the Archbishop, who is also the co-chair of the Solidarity Peace Trust, launched a damning report on the crisis in Zimbabwe. The report was circulated to embassies, regional leaders and the international community. It stated that there has been increasing state repression against dissenting voices in Zimbabwe.
Adultery is considered a mortal sin by the Catholic Church and Ncube, as a member of the clergy has taken vows not to marry or engage in sexual intercourse. The church will now have to investigate the allegations.
In Zimbabwe adultery is a punishable offense, although convictions are very few. Reports of politicians being adulterous are nothing new. Robert Mugabe himself was involved with his secretary and fathered two children with Grace, while his first wife Sally was dying of cancer. There has also been little publicity given to High Court Judge Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku who, according to the First Post website, is the subject of 10 lawsuits for alleged adultery, including one with Monica Chinamasa, the wife of the Justice Minister.