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10 August 2007
I write as I please - biweekly column by Wilf Mbanga

Zimbabwe’s state media has been agog this week with salacious stories and photos of Mugabe’s arch-critic Archbishop Pius Ncube – the brave cleric who has been at the forefront of civil society’s criticism of his regime’s human rights abuses and economic excesses.

The State-controlled newspapers, television and radio have always claimed to be family-oriented. But their sensational coverage of the Archbishop’s alleged affair with an adult female church worker (who is separated from her husband), featured lewd copy and several grainy photographs of naked people, could turn any raunchy tabloid green with envy.
The coverage of the story and the allegations against the archbishop have fuelled massive debate in Zimbabwe – giving embattled citizens a welcome distraction from their daily grind of queuing for non-existent essential products and battling to survive winter with power and water cuts that last for up to five days at a time.

Mugabe obviously had advance knowledge of the matter when he made obtuse references on July 7 to some clerics “who have sworn to celibacy but sleep around”.
Next, the deputy sheriff of Bulawayo delivered summons to the archbishop in which he was being sued by a railway worker for destroying his marriage. Highly unusually for Zimbabwe, the deputy sheriff was accompanied by hordes of journalists from the government media – newspapers, radio and television – who had obviously been tipped off.

The next day the government media published photographs purporting to show the archbishop in a compromising position, allegedly taken in his bedroom from a hidden camera. This is far too sophisticated for a lowly-paid railway worker.
The whole affair smacks of Mugabe’s hidden hand. This is not the first time he has employed such dirty tactics to discredit his enemies. The fact that he has no moral high ground, having fathered two children on his secretary Grace, while she was married to a junior airforce officer and his wife was seriously ill, does not seem to deter him.

Soon after Independence, Mugabe had the leader of the opposition UANC, Methodist bishop Abel Muzorewa, arrested on a trumped up charge of treason. Two years later this happened again with leader of the minority party Zanu (Ndonga) the Rev. Ndabiningi Sithole, whom Mugabe accused of trying to assassinate him. He also tried it with MDC leader Moran Tsvangirai who was the victim of an elaborate set-up featuring public relations consultant Ari Ben Menashe, who later turned out to have been given a lucrative contract with the Zimbabwean government. Tsvangirai was eventually acquitted after a long and harrowing court ordeal.

Mugabe is a past master at character assassination - the Archbishop really should have seen it coming.

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Wilf Mbanga, one of the founders of the independent Zimbabwean daily newspaper "The Daily News", is currently living in the UK. He writes about the current situation in Zimbabwe.


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