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Zimbabwe Archbishop's Lawyer Moves To Bar Media Use Of 'Defamatory' Images

The lawyer representing Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo in a civil suit accusing him of committing with a church secretary said Wednesday he has demanded that Zimbabwean state media cease broadcasting or publishing photos allegedly showing Ncube in compromising positions with various women.

Meanwhile, President Robert Mugabe took aim at Ncube, one of his bitterest critics, in a speech at the Heroes Acre burial of a senior army officer. Playing to his ruling party audience, Mr. Mugabe ridiculed the archbishop and said he would pray for Ncube when he went to church so the prelate could “repent and return to morality.”

Attorney Nicholas Mathonsi said his client disputes the claim by Onesimus Sibanda of Bulawayo that he became sexually involved with the man’s wife, Rosemary Sibanda, a secretary for a Bulawayo parish, beginning in January 2006.

Matonsi said that if the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation - state television - and the Bulawayo Chronicle, a state-controlled newspaper, do not heed his request he will ask the Bulawayo high court to order the outlets to stop showing the images.

State television Wednesday appeared to rebuff Matonsi’s request, broadcasting the images again in its afternoon bulletin. ZBC officials declined to respond to questions from VOA and Chronicle editor Brezhnev Malaba could not be reached.

Matonsi told reporter Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the alleged images of Ncube are defamatory and that their display violates the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Elsewhere, Roman Catholic Church leaders met in Harare Wednesday. A spokesman said they have not taken any position concerning the charges against Ncube.

Father Frederick Chiromba, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Conference of Catholic Bishop, told reporter Carole Gombakomba that the meeting did not focus on Ncube’s legal woes because the matter has been taken up by the civil court.

Late Wednesday in Bulawayo, church leaders and politicians met to discuss the allegations against Ncube. Attending were officials of the Movement for Democratic Change faction headed by Arthur Mutambara, among them formation vice president Gibson Sibanda, as well as Enos Nkala, a former ZANU-PF defense minister now a member of the upstart Patriotic Union of Matabeleland, or PUMA.

Mutambara faction elections director Paul Themba Nyathi said that regardless of whether or not the archbishop has done what he is accused of doing, the party strongly believes he is the victim of a set-up that the government has mounted because he has been an outspoken critic of President Mugabe.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...