Mugabe up to his dirty tricks again

By  Catholic News Service
  • July 26, 2007
{mosimage}The highly publicized accusations of adultery against Bulawayo Archbishop Pius Ncube, Zimbabwe’s well-known opponent to the harsh regime of President Robert Mugabe, are just another part of the president’s campaign to discredit one of his most powerful critics.
On July 16, a posse of Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF zealots and state media reporters accompanying a lawyer representing a man who has sued the archbishop for adultery, arrived on the archbishop’s doorstep. (See story on page 16.)

The unusual process of serving a summons stemmed from accusations by one Onesimus Sibanda, who is claiming $150,000 Canadian for “loss of companionship and pain” caused by the clergyman’s alleged affair with his wife, Rosemary.

Nobody can say for sure yet if the archbishop is guilty or innocent, but the way this lawsuit has been embraced by Mugabe would leave one thinking that Ncube has already been found guilty.

In a country where adultery was made less of a moral issue by Mugabe himself more than a decade ago, the scene at St. Mary’s Cathedral on July 16 was not an act by thrill-seeking townsfolk who accidentally stumbled upon a naked couple. It was the first act in a well-orchestrated political ploy to embarrass Ncube, the president’s fiercest critic and the only man Mugabe had hitherto failed to put down.

{sidebar id=2}I am not making a vain jibe at the president, nor am I apologizing for a philandering church leader. I am merely putting into perspective politics Zimbabwean-style, or more precisely, Mugabe’s tried and tested campaign tactic.

The background is that Ncube has for years been accusing Mugabe of ordering the killing of 20,000 people in Matabeleland region in the 1980s. He further accused the president of single-handedly running down the national economy and killing and torturing his political opponents.

Many critics of the president have said the same, however, the archbishop has gone two steps further. Last year he announced publicly that he was praying for Mugabe to die so that Zimbabwe could be relieved of his dictatorial rule. A few months ago, he said he would  support a foreign invasion to topple Mugabe from power.

For a few weeks it seemed like Mugabe had been conquered. Then in May the president sounded a warning. Any church leaders who dare criticized him were treading on “dangerous ground.”

In reply, the archbishop addressed a press conference in Johannesburg, where he called Mugabe a “megalomaniac” and he offered once again to die leading a popular uprising against him.

In a country where the opposition is preoccupied by infighting, people have been urging the archbishop to stand against Mugabe in next year’s presidential election. Many believe he would win a protest vote.

Last week the president addressed a public meeting and said there were clergymen who “vowed celibacy but are not honouring that vow.” We should have known what he meant.

The lawsuit against the archbishop is not the first time Mugabe has made sure his opponents were down never to rise again. He has an unparalleled track record.

Right at independence Mugabe had a formidable opponent in Dr. Joshua Nkomo, who was leading PF Zapu, an opposing political party. It was widely expected that in the 1985 election, Mugabe would lose to Nkomo.

Former freedom fighters under Zapu were summarily dismissed from the national army, arms of war were planted on properties owned by Nkomo and his party and the world was told that Nkomo was planning an  insurgency against the new government. Nkomo never regained his status of Father Zimbabwe and he died in 1999 a bitter man only managing to become a co-vice president.

In 1990 Mugabe accused his opponent and former colleague in the war, Edgar Tekere, of being a drunk who killed a white farmer in a drunken rage. Tekere protested as much as he could but he lost.

Six years later, another former liberation colleague, the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, was suddenly accused of  plotting to bomb Mugabe’s motorcade as it travelled to his rural home in Zvimba. Sithole was detained and a protracted trial ensued. As the election passed, the trial fizzled out and the case was dismissed. By then Sithole had lost the presidential election and, too sick, he soon died.

In the run up to the 2002 presidential election, Mugabe raised the stakes and introduced an international flavour to his conspiracy theories against his opponents. His opponent was MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai who was lured to Canada by a Zanu PF fixer, Ben Menashe, who promised him funding.

When he got here, Tsvangirai was videotaped talking about getting “rid of Mugabe.” Secret service technicians played with the tapes and Tsvangirai found himself facing a treasonous charge for wanting to assassinate the president. By the time he was acquitted, voters had already lost interest.

This time it is the archbishop of Bulawayo who poses a threat to Mugabe. As sure as the sun comes out tomorrow, doubt has already been sewn in voters’ minds even if he defeats this lawsuit.

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