Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) president Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu says Zambia is now a dictatorship and if it is not yet, then it is not far from it.

And Archbishop Mpundu says the church is worried by the unprofessional conduct of police who are executing political orders to brutalise citizens.

In a statement today, the Archbishop of Lusaka bemoaned the breakdown of the rule of law.

“Our country is now all, except in designation, a dictatorship and if it is not yet, then we are not far from it. Our political leaders in the ruling party often issue intimidating statements that frighten people and make us fear for the immediate and future. This must be stopped and reversed henceforth…The democratic principles we have come to know have been violated left, right and centre so that instead of going forward and consolidating our still fragile democracy, we are retrogressing and not so slowly!” Archbishop Mpundu stated.

He observed that people now feared to speak out against injustice.

“There is fear and trembling among the people shown in the way they are afraid to speak out against injustices. This is due to several actions by government which were meant to instill fear into and intimidate the masses. One does not need to belong to a political party in order for him or her to speak out on the misdeeds happening in the nation. Furthermore, we are witnesses to what transpired during the run-up to the August 2016 general elections when several media houses were harassed and finally closed. The recent happenings were not reported by several media houses because of the heavy presence of the Police,” he stated.

Archbishop Mpundu said divisions in the country would not magically disappear.

“The politicians especially those in the ruling party must realise that the nation they are governing is deeply divided between those who voted for UPND and those who voted for PF in the last elections. Let the politicians of both parties take it from us since we always have our ears close to the ground that our country now stands on the edge. It is no use playing an ostrich game by burying our heads in the sand thinking that the storm will pass away. It will not, at least not before it has done great harm to this nation,” he stated.

“The use of force and intimidation are not the solution whatsoever. Only genuine and sincere dialogue aimed at national reconciliation is the long-term solution. This reconciliation must be firmly rooted in the Christian values of truth, forgiveness, peace, unity, social justice and freedom. Let us learn to bury our immediate past and rise again to new life…Our nation is much larger and transcends our present and future individual or collective political fortunes.”

And Archbishop Mpundu condemned police for being unprofessional and brutal on critics of the ruling party.

“It is the same story from one administration to the other and the present government is no exception, if not one of the best examples of the misdeed just mentioned! As a result of brutalising the people through the Police Service, the general public is reduced to fear so that the order of the day is corruption and misuse of public funds. Anyone who criticises the government for wrong doing is sure to have the police unleashed on him or her,” he observed.

“We have always been concerned about the selective application of the Public Order Act by the Police. It is quite disgraceful that a quarter of a century after the return to plural politics and more than half a century of political independence from Great Britain, our governments which we put into power through our votes use the Public Order Act to oppress political opponents and prevent them from organizing and assembling together political rallies and to openly express themselves instead of protecting the rights and liberties of the very people who put them into power. Paradoxically, each political party in opposition goes through the biased use of this notorious Act but once in power, they find it so useful that they do nothing to modify or repeal it. Disgraceful indeed!”

Archbishop Mpundu implored police to at least apply the Public Order Act professionally.

He also observed that the Judiciary was a letdown.

“It is an open secret that the Judiciary have let the country down by failing to stand up to political manipulation and corruption. How can one explain the failure of the Constitutional Court to hear and exhaustively conclude a presidential petition…Where is the Judiciary to call the Executive to attention?” he asked.

The Archbishop of Lusaka also condemned the manner in which UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema was arrested, saying it had only heightened tension in the country.

Archbishop Mpundu further denounced attacks on the Law Association of Zambia, praying that moves to kill the institution would fail.