Zimbabwe bishop 'victim of state'

Harare, Zimbabwe - The Zimbabwean archbishop who resigned after allegations that he committed adultery has told the BBC that the charges were state orchestrated.

Pius Ncube says images allegedly showing him in bed with his married female secretary were being used to stop him speaking out on human rights.

But he did not deny the claims, saying he could not discuss the case as yet.

Bishop Ncube, is one of President Robert Mugabe's most outspoken critics, urging his removal by foreign powers.

The bishop resigned earlier this month as Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo after photographs and video purporting to be of him and his secretary together in his bedroom surfaced in the media.

Speaking on the BBC's Reporting Religion programme, Bishop Ncube said his accusers had not proved the adultery and that the video they produced was illegal and unjustified.

"This was the evil plan of the government to isolate me and to cut me off from the human rights drive in the country, evil plans of trying to break me," Bishop Ncube said. "That has not succeeded."

The woman's husband is suing him for 20bn Zimbabwe dollars (about $160,000, or £80,000, on the black market exchange rate) over the alleged affair and Bishop Ncube says that this too is the work of the Mugabe government.

"This thing is state driven, it is not from the husband," he said.

'Diverting attention'

However, despite repeated questioning the Bishop would not categorically deny the allegations against him as the case is sub judice, still under the judgement of a court.

He insists he will only speak out once the court proceedings are finished, but said that he expects the case to "fizzle out anyway" as "there is no case really".

Bishop Ncube said the government was just using the allegations against him to distract people's attention from the country's problems.

He said there was a disastrous situation where people were starving and very angry.

He said inflation had reached 15,000% and that there was no food, that electricity was being rationed and fuel was so expensive that very few cars were on the streets.

"The very essentials of our livelihood are not there, and because they are failing to provide them they must try to get people's attention diverted to non essentials," Bishop Ncube said.

The Bishop said he has received hundreds of messages of support by e-mail, letter, phone and from visitors and vowed that he would continue to speak out on human rights.

"I refuse to bow to their pressures in any way, because if you bow to that pressure then they have got you where they want you," he said.

"This is my country and I am free to speak and to criticise the evil things which they are doing against the people."