A Warrior to Watch
Ncube's office is decked with images of people he considers true heroes: Mohandas K. Gandhi; Nelson Mandela; Oscar Romero of El Salvador, the slain Roman Catholic archbishop who spoke out for the poor despite pressure from the Vatican to keep a lower profile.On reading the piece, loud Boston-based activists claiming to be "authentic Catholics" planned to a trip to Zimbabwe to protest Ncube's "unclear" and "heterodox" positions on abortion and gay marriage.
Ncube's voice is soft and his manner shy and self-effacing, yet his attacks on Mugabe are so blunt that allies worry he might be assassinated.
Ncube says that his phones are tapped and that authorities recently threatened to confiscate his passport. The secret police, the CIO, follow him, watch his home and monitor his sermons, he says, and last year they questioned his mother, now 88.
"This government, the one thing they don't like is the truth. But I'll not stop speaking," Ncube said. "The evils they are doing are so bad."
After the incident with his mother, Ncube went to the local secret police headquarters, sipped tea with the enemy and politely demanded that they stop harassing her.
"They said, 'We were not trying to harass your mother. We were just doing routine visits.' But I knew they were not doing routine visits," Ncube said. "They wanted to intimidate me because we are all very sensitive about our mothers."
He tells her almost nothing about his activities. She, too, has trouble sleeping.
"Ninety-five percent of what I do, I don't tell her because she gets very worried and nervous and fears for my life," Ncube said.
The criticism that flies between Mugabe and Ncube, both products of Zimbabwe's Catholic education system, sometimes takes on an almost biblical quality. Ncube accuses Mugabe of evil and Mugabe calls Ncube satanic. Government officials and state media have alleged that Ncube is HIV-positive and a rapist.
The president has also accused him of harboring political ambitions. The clergyman denies that, even while criticizing the performance of the main political opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, which recently fell apart amid internal fighting.
"Politics is generally dirty. African politics is extra dirty and dangerous and corrupt," Ncube said. "I don't know any clergyman in Africa who went into politics and remained honest."