Christians, activists in Ncube support block

An interdenominational prayer service for besieged Archbishop Pius Ncube will be held in Bulawayo today while human rights groups and southern Africa bishops have described adultery allegations against the prelate as a tactical distraction from Zimbabwe's pressing problems.

CISA Africa News reports Catholics and other Christians will today hold an ecumenical prayer service in support of the Archbishop, his secretary, Rita Normanton, confirmed.

At the same time Zimbabwean human rights organisations have come out in defence of Archbishop Ncube against sensational allegations that he had an adulterous relationship with the wife of a junior civil servant.

Archbishop Ncube, the church's leading voice against misrule in Zimbabwe, has said he will challenge the suit filed last Monday.

Rights groups said the "sex scandal" involving the archbishop was "well-crafted to divert the people's attention from the real crisis facing Zimbabwe."

The groups also said state media had violated Archbishop Ncube's right to privacy and a fair trial by their sensational reports and commentary on the story, the London-based SW Radio reported.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said it believes the drama was a "diversionary tactic". The group said it was aware of the "underhand tactics" used worldwide to silence human rights defenders.

These included character assassination and the use of hate speech or propaganda to de-legitimise the work of those who exposed human rights violations.

"The recent attempts to draw the public's attention away from the problems bedevilling our society must be exposed for what they are," the ZLHR statement said.

It said Ncube was being victimised for his fierce criticism of bad governance, corruption and state-instigated human rights violations. The archbishop has been outspoken against the Gukurahundi massacres, Operation Murambatsvina and the continued socio-economic and political crisis, blamed on Mugabe's administration.

The Solidarity Peace Trust of South Africa said it believed the alleged scandal was an attempt by Mugabe's regime to "smear" the good character of the archbishop.

"The actions of the Mugabe regime and its Central Intelligence Organisation are reminiscent of the Apartheid Security Police during the dying days of Apartheid in its efforts to cling to power."

In Harare, ZimRights castigated Mugabe for finding Ncube guilty before he had appeared in court. Mugabe offered last week to pray for Ncube, saying "the archbishop's failure to uphold celibacy was unfortunate."

Last week the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops Conference said that "Zimbabweans and the international community will not be sidetracked by these allegations in their efforts of finding a lasting solution to the serious problems bedevilling the country at present".

Zimbabwe: Support Prayers Planned As Rights Groups Defend Ncube (CISA News Africa, 24/7/07)
Bishops hope adultery charges don't shift focus from Zimbabwean crisis (Catholic News, 23/7/07)
Zimbabwe democratic forces stand by Archbishop Pius Ncube (South West Africa Radio, 24/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Robert Mugabe (Wikipedia)
Pius Ncube (Wikipedia)

Ncube says adultery claims "politically motivated" (CathNews, 18/7/07)
OK to invade and remove Mugabe, Ncube tells Brits (CathNews, 2/7/07)
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Bishops back Zimbabwe cricket boycott (CathNews, 11/5/07)
Zimbabwe bishops on "dangerous path", Mugabe warns (CathNews, 7/5/07)
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Zimbabwe Church accuses S Africa over failure to act (CathNews, 21/3/07)
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Zimbabwe's anti-terrorism bill threatens freedom, says Justice and Peace director (CathNews, 28/7/06)
Bishops denounce Zimbabwe "clean-up" (CathNews, 20/6/05)

25 Jul 2007