Sting or not, Archbishop Ncube has been had

It’s the talk of the town. The alleged adulterous affair of the Archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube and Rosemary Sibanda has left tongues wagging. The publication of the story and explicit pictures, two days running, with warnings of not suitable for the persons under the age of 18, in a local family daily has sparked debate about whose interests the paper is serving.

The whole story smacks of a set-up. Representatives of the state-media descended into Bulawayo, some all the way from Harare, to cover the serving of the summons by assistant sheriff Thomas Ndebele on the archbishop on Monday.

This was no coincidence and was a sad reminder of the unearthing of the death of Cain Nkala which was reported by Reuben Barwe who had travelled all the way from Harare to witness police “discovering” the body.

Then there were the video pictures which the state media used to get Rosemary Sibanda to confess. That too was no coincidence. Worse still was the publication of “pornographic” pictures in a family newspaper.

Though there were warnings that the pictures were not suitable for persons under 18, one observer asked how a family newspaper could do that when it knew that parents usually send their children to buy the paper for them.

Pius Ncube has been an outspoken critic of President Robert Mugabe and his government, and only last week he was in South Africa saying the crisis in Zimbabwe had reached “life-threatening proportions”.

Reports say the major players in the unfolding saga have connections with the intelligence.

Sibanda is a member of the army but is currently attached to the National Railways of Zimbabwe.

Ernest Tekere, the man who shot the incriminating videos, was a member of the Central Intelligence Organisation and not a former police Criminal Investigations Department officer as the local daily claimed. He now runs a private security organisation, Homeguard Security.

But even if the operation was a sting, the question that has to be answered is why the archbishop fell for it? It must be true that he was involved in relations with members of his parish. One observer even joked: “Even if the CIO were involved, did they take off his trousers? Why are people defending someone who is not defending himself?”

The only plausible excuse, as some are now saying, is that the church leader was set up. The pictures were not taken at his residence. They were doctored. They were taken at a city hotel as some rumours say. But, as people say, there is no smoke without fire. But there is a general feeling that the archbishop was trapped, not framed.

The coverage that the case has received clearly indicates that this is not just a sex scandal. It is a political scandal. The Sibandas are just pawns in the game, ready to be discarded when the outspoken critic has been silenced.

President Mugabe said a few weeks ago, when it comes to playing games, ZANU-PF can play rough and score. Ncube has been nabbed. He will have a tough time proving his innocence. But sometimes, in politics, it is not a question of winning or losing. It is a question of testing your clout, your durability. Can you stand the heat when the tables are turned against you?

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai won a case in which he was charged with treason. But his close associates will tell you that that case, though it was a sting, did incredible damage to Tsvangirai and may have sparked the split of the party just a few months after Tsvangirai was acquitted.

Ncube is in a similar predicament. Can he stand behind the pulpit and preach the word of God even if he is exonerated? There have always been whispers about priests, nuns and brothers having sexual affairs, and even children, but these are usually swept under the carpet.

The difference between Ncube and other priests is that Ncube went into politics. Politics, as they say, is a dirty game. To make matters worse he had created enemies within his own congregation because of his open tribalism which was exposed in open court.

Ncube has been receiving three-page spreads in the local daily for the past two days, something even President Mugabe rarely gets. With the reportage already serialised into episodes, more is still to come.

Propagandists say: “a lie when repeated often enough begins to sound like the truth”.

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