Zimbabwe's state-controlled media are carrying explicit photographs of a man they claim is Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube, allegedly taken with a naked woman inside his bedroom. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA the outspoken critic of President Robert Mugabe is being sued by a civil servant who said the cleric destroyed his marriage.
Archbishop Ncube, sounded weary on the telephone from his home in Bulawayo. He said the pictures were part of what he called "a long-term strategy." He said many people had shown him support and he is praying a great deal.
The pictures, allegedly taken by a secret camera in the Archbishop's bedroom, show a naked man the state press says is Pius Ncube and a woman in a bed in the same room.
The state media was on hand Monday when the sheriff of Bulawayo served a summons on the Archbishop at St. Mary's Cathedral.
The summons says a technician at the National Railways of Zimbabwe, Onesimus Sibanda, claims his wife Rosemary worked at the cathedral and was having a two-year affair with the archbishop. Sibanda has demanded about $100,000 in damages.
Rosemary Sibanda, told Zimbabwe state media she was separated from her husband at the time she began a sexual relationship with the archbishop.
A founder of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, attorney David Coltart, founding said the revelations in the state press and the summons appeared to be a well co-ordinated campaign to embarrass the outspoken government critic.
Coltart said he does not believe a state-employed railway technician could have afforded a sophisticated operation like the one that produced the lurid pictures published in the state press and on television.
He said Archbishop Ncube was President Mugabe's most consistent critic, and the state had felt restrained from arresting, torturing or killing him, as happened to many others who opposed the present government.
He said President Mugabe had obviously known in advance of the revelations as he referred to priests on July 7, saying, "Some of them have sworn to celibacy but they sleep around."
Coltart said it is hypocritical for the government to focus on this issue because President Mugabe had children with a married woman when his first wife, Sally, was dying.
Coltart said he and many of his colleagues and friends would support Archbishop Ncube, regardless of whether the allegations contained in the summons or in the state press proved to be true or not.
A lawyer for the archbishop, Nicholas Mathonsi, said in his years as a lawyer in Bulwayo he had never seen a summons delivered with a crowd of state journalists in attendance.
A long-time parishioner in the archbishop's church, said she was not concerned about what he might or might not have done in his private life. "He has never condemned human frailty, but he has always condemned evil," she said.
Over the years, several senior Catholic clerics in Zimbabwe have had children and remained in the church, despite their vows of celibacy. This is the first time a Catholic cleric's alleged sexuality has been made public in Zimbabwe.