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Zimbabwe archbishop embroiled in sex scandal

Zimbabwean Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube was named in an adultery case Monday in what his lawyer called an “orchestrated attempt” to embarrass the outspoken government critic.
Pius Ncube
Archbishop Pius Ncube labeled Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe a criminal who would do anything to stay in power at at a news conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, on July 10. Six days later state radio alleged Ncube was involved in a two-year affair.Denis Farrell / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Zimbabwean Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube was named in an adultery case Monday in what his lawyer called an “orchestrated attempt” to embarrass the outspoken government critic.

Ncube was in his office at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Bulawayo when court officials accompanied by a state television crew delivered documents alleging he was involved in a two-year affair with a secretary whose husband was demanding damages in a civil suit, said attorney Nick Matonzi.

Matonzi said Ncube would deny the allegations in civil court when it convenes at an unspecified date. The archbishop declined to answer questions about his private life in a television interview, but spoke of the importance of forgiveness.

State radio reported that the woman, identified as Rosemary Sibanda, “admitted the affair” to the state broadcasting company. The radio report said the woman’s husband, Onesimus Sibanda, was demanding $160,000 in damages.

Matonzi said the court officials held an impromptu news conference in the cathedral courtyard. “From the manner the papers were served, you can see it is some kind of orchestrated attempt to embarrass the archbishop,” he said.

Quiet on personal life
Ncube went on state television saying that a key doctrine preached by the church was forgiveness when there was weakness.

“I will not answer this question concerning my private life,” he said in the interview.

“Yes, I did take a vow. There are a whole lot of other circumstances that take place in a person’s life. I would not be able to answer those items,” he said.

The broadcast showed an interview with Sibanda in which she said condoms were used. A lawyer for her husband also told state television that there was proof of the affair.

Ncube has repeatedly accused President Robert Mugabe of human rights violations and called for him to step down. The cleric has also urged Zimbabweans to take to the streets to demonstrate against the government amid the nation’s worst economic crisis since independence in 1980.

'Where is the godliness?'
Earlier this month, Mugabe urged his ruling party militants to disregard church leaders who have called for his forced ouster while criticizing the chaotic and often violent seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms that have disrupted the economy since 2000.

He accused Ncube and other church leaders of “peddling falsehoods about Zimbabwe’s governance.”

“Where is the godliness? Don’t listen to what they say. ... One cannot tell the difference between a bishop and a layman anymore. Some of them have sworn to celibacy but they sleep around,” Mugabe told supporters on July 7.

David Coltart, an attorney and longtime friend of Ncube, said the archbishop’s integrity had never before been questioned.

“Fascist dictators have used this means to attack opponents through the ages. The law is used as a weapon,” he said.

Outspoken critic
Ncube has demanded disclosure by Mugabe on the massacre of thousands of civilians in the western Matabeland province by troops who crushed an armed rebellion against Mugabe’s rule there after independence.

He has said Mugabe was responsible for economic policies that have led to acute food shortages and starvation among children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups across the nation.

In March, Ncube said he was ready to lead a popular uprising against Mugabe.

A pastoral letter by the nation’s nine Roman Catholic bishops circulated at Easter calling for an end to state oppression angered Mugabe, 83, a self-avowed Catholic.

The state media described the bishops, including Ncube, as leaders of “the settler church” with origins in the colonial era that backed Mugabe’s opponents and Western governments campaigning against him.