Zimbabwe: Archbishop Ncube to deny allegations in court

 Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo has been sued for adultery in what appears to be a dirty campaign targeting the personal integrity of the church's leading voice against state oppression in Zimbabwe. Lawyers for the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo called the allegations an orchestrated attempt to discredit him. Lawyer Nick Matonzi said it was "some kind of orchestrated attempt to embarrass the archbishop", who, he said, will deny the allegations in court. Mr Onesimus Sibanda, a junior state employee, wants Archbishop Ncube to pay him 20 billion Zim dollars (about $160,000, in the country's black market exchange rate) in damages for allegedly having sexual relations with his wife. He filed his case at the High Court in Bulawayo on Monday. A declaration served on the archbishop claimed that "on diverse occasions between the period beginning 2006 and in places particularly in the environs of Bulawayo and St Mary's Cathedral, the defendant illicitly associated and engaged with the plaintiff's wife, one Rosemary Sibanda, in an adulterous sexual relationship well knowing of the marital status of the plaintiff's wife." State media has devoted great attention to the episode. (The government shut down all independent media.) National radio said the woman had admitted the affair to" the state broadcasting company. The Herald and The Chronicle newspapers ran detailed reports and gleeful opinion pieces on the issue, claiming they had bedroom pictures of Archbishop Ncube with Mrs Sibanda. The pictures were allegedly taken secretly by a private investigator hired by the woman's husband. Other pictures, the papers said, showed "the usually arrogant Archbishop Ncube" with several other women at different times. The Herald said Archbishop Ncube "went ashen, was at a loss of words and could hardly contain the shock" when he was shown the pictures. The paper claimed "the lawsuit has sparked moral outrage and cast a dark shadow of suspicion over the entire Roman Catholic Church clergy." "Whether he is guilty or innocent, a court case of this nature can be very demanding. He needs all the energy in the world but at the age of 60, how much of that does he have?" The lawsuit comes a week after Solidarity Peace Trust, a church-based organisation chaired by Archbishop Ncube, released in Johannesburg, South Africa, a scathing report detailing violent repression of dissent by the Mugabe regime. The archbishop described Mugabe as "a megalomaniac. He loves power, he lives for power. Even his own party is appealing to him to step down. Zimbabweans are desperate to offer him anything [for him] to relinquish power." Archbishop Ncube has remained steadfast in his frank criticism of the Mugabe regime that has thrown Zimbabwe into the worst political and economic crisis anywhere in the world, outside the war zones. Only one in five people has a job. The country is facing a severe food shortage. Inflation officially stands at about 4,000 percent, although some economists put it at double that figure. There are no basic commodities is shop shelves. Last month a United Nations humanitarian news agency reported that ruling party militia, comprising youths and veterans of Zimbabwe's war of independence, were targeting Catholics in rural areas in a campaign to stop distribution of a pastoral letter denouncing President Robert Mugabe's rule, issued by the bishops in April. Mugabe had dismissed the letter as political nonsense and warned that in issuing the letter the bishops had chosen for themselves "quite a dangerous path." He said the government would treat the country's nine bishops, all signatories to the letter, as "political entities" and "deal with them accordingly." Source: CISA

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