World News

Anti-Mugabe cleric ensnared in alleged sex scandal

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s state-run media has published what it said were photos of Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube in bed with a woman, a day after the outspoken critic of President Robert Mugabe was sued for adultery.

Zimbabwe's Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube in a file photo. Zimbabwe's state-run media has published what it said were photos of Ncube in bed with a woman, a day after the outspoken critic of President Robert Mugabe was sued for adultery. REUTERS/File

The scandal has dominated radio and television news on Zimbabwe’s state-owned stations, beginning on Monday when a state TV crew filmed Ncube being served with the lawsuit.

On Tuesday, the government-owned Herald and Chronicle newspapers ran the photos under the headlines “Pius Ncube Shamed” and “Pius in Sex Scandal.” Several photos showed a man identified by newspapers as Ncube removing his clothes and lying in bed with a woman.

The two dailies said the photos were from a security camera hidden in Ncube’s bedroom in Bulawayo by a private investigator hired by Onesimus Sibanda, who is suing Ncube for allegedly having a two-year sexual affair with his wife, Rosemary Sibanda.

Adultery is illegal in Zimbabwe.

Ncube refused to comment on the lawsuit or photos when contacted by Reuters on Tuesday.

But when asked if the photos were authentic, Ncube’s lawyer, Nick Matonzi, said: “What I can say is that we are contesting the allegations definitely.”

He declined to give further details except to say that Ncube, the archbishop of Zimbabwe’s southern Bulawayo diocese, had filed papers opposing the lawsuit.

Lawyers for Onesimus Sibanda served Ncube with a Z$20 billion ($1.3 million at the official rate and $154,000 on the black market) lawsuit less than a week after the cleric returned from a trip abroad where he was outspoken in his criticism of Mugabe’s government.

“For a long time my client has been suspecting that his wife, a senior church committee representative at St. Pius parish, was in an adultery relationship with Archbishop of the Bulawayo diocese, Pius Ncube,” Sibanda’s lawyer said in the papers filed with the High Court.

A broadcast first aired on Zimbabwe state television on Monday showed Ncube, visibly shaken, being pressed about the adultery accusations and pleading with the journalists to leave him alone.

“We are human beings and we are all sinners. Man is both a saint and a sinner,” Ncube said. “I will not answer those questions which concern my private life. There are circumstances,” he said.

An ardent Mugabe opponent, Ncube has accused the 83-year-old Zimbabwean leader and his government of human rights abuses and suppressing political dissent.

In March, Ncube said he was ready to face bullets in anti-government protests to help bring democratic change in the southern African nation, which is mired in a deep economic and political crisis.

Earlier this month London’s Sunday Times quoted Ncube as saying Britain would be justified in invading its former colony to rid it of Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, but the archbishop has since distanced himself from those remarks.