Courage Under Fire: Profile of Archbishop Pius Ncube
A Catholic cleric who has earned praise for confronting Zimbabwe's dictator plays a prophetic role in battling oppression.
"He [Mugabe] does not apply his faith to his political governance of the country," says Ncube. "He totally ignores it. He is hypocritical when it comes to that. Here is a man who goes to Mass, receives Holy Communion, and speaks at church meetings but yet he does not respect basic human rights. He goes to justify himself."
Bishop Ncube believes that religious leaders around the world have the moral duty to speak out against all forms of social injustice. He laments that in Zimbabwe, some of the clergy have backed Mugabe, whose skewed policies are evidenced in the political and economic crisis in his country of more than 11 million people.
"As far as I am concerned he [Mugabe] is a total failure as far as the application of human rights is concerned," says Ncube. "He has been rigging elections left, right, and center, parliamentary elections in 2000 and 2005, and presidential elections in 2002. He has totally rigged them and thereby shown himself to be untruthful. He has been killing innocent people through the Fifth Brigade [infamous North Korean-trained soldiers, loyal to the regime]. He is a murderer. He gets zero as far as human rights are concerned."
Born Alec Vundlana in 1946 in what was then Rhodesia, Bishop Ncube spent his early childhood in Gwanda, in Zimbabwe's rural south before moving to Bulawayo for his early education. School at the Catholic-run St. Patrick's Primary School sharpened the young man's resolve to joint the priesthood. He adopted the name Pius at his baptism at the age of 14 in 1960.
After secondary school training in Gweru, Ncube entered seminary in Chishawasha, completing his training for the priesthood in 1973. He was ordained at the age of 26 and served as priest in Kezi and Plumtree districts in the Matabeleland South province. He was later transferred to parishes in the city of Bulawayo before being ordained the first black archbishop of Bulawayo.
In his criticism of the Mugabe regime, Bishop Ncube takes his cue from his mentors during his seminary training. It was then that he became aware of the work of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP). Bishops at the time were vocal in opposing the injustices perpetrated by the colonial government of Ian Smith in what was then Rhodesia. They criticized the Smith government's land policy and the political segregation under which Africans were second-class citizens. They also protested the regime's violence, systemic injustice, and selective application of the law.