The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference has said it does not know why Pius Ncube, who is facing adultery charges in his country's courts an arch-critic of President Robert Mugabe, has resigned as archbishop of the Bulawayo diocese.
"We have not seen the reasons he gave [to the Vatican] for his resignation," the ZCBC secretary general the Rev. Frederick Chiromba said after Ncube announced his decision on 11 September. "We can only assume that he felt that those allegations he is facing may compromise his pastoral duties, and probably wanted to give himself time to deal with those issues, outside the church," Chiromba stated.
The State-run Herald newspaper reported on 12 September that Ncube had been pressured to resign by the Vatican.
Ncube resigned two months after a summons of 20 billion Zimbabwe dollars was served on him by the deputy sheriff of the High Court. The deputy sheriff was accompanied by several journalists working for State media and a South African Broadcasting Corporation correspondent, said to be a nephew of President Mugabe's wife. At the time, the amount being sought in the case was about US$160 000, but it is difficult to tell what the figure is now after official statistics in August revealed Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate stood then at more than 7600 percent.
The 60 year-old Ncube made history in 1998 when he was ordained the first black archbishop of Bulawayo. He said in his resignation statement, "I wrote to the Pope within days of what was obviously a State-driven, vicious attack, not just on myself, but by proxy on the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe. In order to spare my fellow bishops and the body of the Church any further attacks, I decided this was the best course of action."
He also said, "I remain a Catholic bishop in Zimbabwe, and will continue to speak out on the issues that sadly become more acute by the day."
The Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe defended their colleague in a statement released two weeks ago in which they said the accusations against Ncube were "outrageous and utterly deplorable" and "an assault on the Catholic Church".
The accusations against Ncube surfaced after a man named Ernest Tekere, said to be a private investigator, produced video clips alleged to have been filmed in Ncube's bedroom. These showed a man said to be the bishop being intimate with a woman. Under Zimbabwe's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, gathering and publication of news in this way constitutes an offence that carries a two-year jail term.
A recently published book entitled "Through the darkness; A Life in Zimbabwe" says that Tekere was once a senior operative of the Zimbabwe government's spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organization, based in north western Zimbabwe, between 1982 and 85. The book mainly focuses on the deterioration of the country’s human rights record following Zimbabwe's 1980 independence from Britain. The book's author is Judith Todd, a daughter of New Zealand-born Garfield Todd, a former Protestant missionary and also a former prime minister of Southern Rhodesia, the name of Zimbabwe before it gained independence. Todd and his daughter became vehement critics of white minority rule, and then later of Mugabe.
With acknowledgements to ENI: www.eni.ch