SW Radio Africa (London)

23 July 2007

Zimbabwe: Prayer Service in Support of Archbishop Pius Ncube

A prayer service in solidarity with the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, has been organized for Wednesday by the parishioners in his constituency who said it is to confirm and reaffirm their support for what he stands for. The Archbishop is facing allegations of having conducted an adulterous affair with a Bulawayo woman, in a case that is largely believed to have been orchestrated by the Central Intelligence Organisation.

J.D. Katazo of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace said the majority of Catholic and non-Catholic lay people and churches in Bulawayo view Archbishop Ncube as "a saviour who is articulating their issues" and stand behind him even in the face of the allegations. Katazo said: "The allegations against Ncube are not even an issue in these troubled times when there is no mealie-meal in the shops, there is no meat and there are shortages of just about everything."

The multi-denominational prayer service will be held at St Mary's Cathedral in Bulawayo on Lobengula Street on Wednesday from 1-2 pm. Asked if everyone is invited, Katazo said: "Praying to God has never been by invitation. If you are a man of good will, whether you are a Muslim or a Hindu, if you feel there is a cause for concern then come in and pray. You are welcome."

Katazo added that many people viewed the case as a government created distraction from the hardships people are facing. Condemnation of the Archbishop was also instigated the last time there was an election. Katazo explained that the Archbishop was then accused of being a puppet of British prime minister Tony Blair. He said this time a lot of pornography was used, which is against our culture and against our traditional laws.

A report in the Standard newspaper said Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) believes the drama was a "diversionary tactic" and they were aware of the "underhand tactics" used worldwide to silence human rights defenders.

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