Interview: The defiant Archbishop of Bulawayo tells Peter Stanford he is prepared to face police guns to end the ruinous rule of a 'power-mad' dictator
His telephones are tapped. His elderly mother has twice been subjected to terrifying visits from Zimbabwean state security officials. There have been threats to withdraw his passport and his name appears on a death list of prominent opponents of President Robert Mugabe.
But Pius Ncube, the 60-year-old Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, remains defiantly unbowed as his country descends into chaos.
He has called for mass street protests to force Mr Mugabe from office. Unrest in the country continues after police broke up a peaceful demonstration in Harare on March 11 and brutally assaulted Morgan Tsvangirai, the Opposition leader.
The archbishop has announced that he is prepared to stand in front of the "blazing guns" of pro-Mugabe security forces if it is necessary to inspire Zimbabwe to liberate itself from the Zanu-PF leader's ruinous rule.
On a recent visit to London, Archbishop Ncube said that he refused to be intimidated by Mr Mugabe's threats on his life. "I am angry, very angry that the people of Zimbabwe are suffering as much as they are," he said. "Mugabe is an evil man, a bully and a murderer. I will not be bullied or bought by him."
Sitting in a small office at the south London headquarters of the aid agency Cafod, the archbishop spoke quietly, often with his eyes closed or gazing out of the window. But there was no mistaking his fury and his determination to confront the regime.
Some Zimbabweans, the archbishop said, are just too depressed to go on living. "Mugabe is mad for power and he will cling to it even if it means destroying the economy and destroying Zimbabwe," he said.
The president, 83 this year, has, in the past, branded Archbishop Ncube a half-wit, a liar and a Western lackey. But in a country where political opponents have been ruthlessly eliminated or scared off, the Jesuit-educated Mr Mugabe seems finally to have met his match in this Catholic cleric. Archbishop Ncube appears to feel no fear. He will carry on protesting, he said, even if doing so risked making himself a martyr. "The Church has a prophetic role to speak the truth when no one else dares to. I accept that it may mean that I lose my life."
The accepted wisdom in the West is that Mr Mugabe, having started off well after Zimbabwe achieved independence in 1980, has only lost his way in recent times as he has grown old - most notably by allowing so-called "war veterans" to seize and lay waste to white-owned commercial farms in 2000.
Archbishop Ncube believes, however, that Mr Mugabe's recent actions have simply confirmed what has always been true of him since he came to power. "He has never been able to stand opposition," he said.
But the opposition is weak, he added. Mr Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, "has overridden the wishes of his party" - which has split into two camps - and shown weakness. Archbishop Ncube has written: "I believe it is not enough to replace one leader with another. We need true transformation in Zimbabwe - that means transformation of democratic institutions and transformation of our attitudes to governance. Zimbabweans have no first hand experience of true democracy."
Some of his most stringent criticism was reserved for other African leaders, including Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa, who, he charged, have failed to exert pressure on Mr Mugabe to relinquish power.
"I'm very angry with African leaders for letting their people down. They have cared too much for themselves and too little for their people. Their record, since the end of colonial rule, is enough to make you weep," he said.
His faith has been put to the test, but it is the frailty of humans and their failure to use their brains which is to blame, he said.
"We can't blame God if we don't use them and stand up to our leaders," he said.