And the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), The Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) and the Evangelical Fellowship in Zambia (EFZ) have demanded the release of UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema today.
Meanwhile, the church mother bodies says the PF government is using state institutions to oppress citizens because it does not have the will of the people on its side.
Speaking at a press briefing today, in the company of Bishop Alfred Kalembo of CCZ, Bishop Paul Mususu of EFZ and Rev Susan Matale, Lusaka Catholic Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu said State House has denied the church mother bodies access to the President, hence the resolve to issue a public statement and declare the country a dictatorship.
“It is in that spirit that we have for several weeks engaged State House officials and sought an appointment to meet the President Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu. Our aim was to bring to his attention, some of the issues that are of great concern to the Church. Now that we have not been allowed to succeed along that path, we have decided to issue this statement to let the powers-that-be and the people of Zambia know our position on what is happening in the nation,” Archbishop Mpundu said.
“Actions by the government of President Lungu in imprisoning the opposition leader Mr Hakainde Hichilema are viewed with growing amazement and alarm… The view that President Edgar Lungu is creating a new dictatorship is fast gaining ground. With the current state of affairs, it is difficult to see how the UPND can easily recognise the legitimacy of Lungu’s re-election in August 2016.”
The church mother bodies wondered why the police had resorted to using dogs to terrorise citizens.
“Hichilema has been in custody since he was arrested in a late night raid on his home by heavily armed Police Service personnel who used unprecedented force and brutality in apprehending just one unarmed citizen. The State Police brought dogs of the German Shepherd breed that defecated in the vehicle meant to carry Hichilema. Under whose instructions were the police behaving in that way? The Inspector General or his Commander in Chief?” asked Mpundu.
“It was unthinkable that a Zambian government would sink so low as to unleash dogs on its people, as the British colonial administration used dogs on us Africans.”
He observed that the PF government was avoiding to address the root cause of the political crisis and tension in Zambia.
“There cannot be national reconciliation and healing through manipulation of the truth. The kind of leadership we have now is one that allows law breaking as long as it benefits the powers that -be. If this is not dictatorship, then what is it? The political leadership must admit that the situation in the country is characterised by tension; the country is polarised. The politicians must not ignore that what is happening in Zambia today is a contest between good and evil. And the Church through its leadership is determined to stand on the side of good,” Archbishop Mpundu said.
“The fact of the matter remains that the state of the nation today is exactly what the Church says it is, namely, a dictatorship in which force and violence are used to intimidate the population and subdue the opposition. Yes, we in the Church leadership are not repentant; Zambia eminently qualifies to be branded a dictatorship.”
Archbishop Mundu observed that the will of the people was not with the current government leadership.
“The fact of the matter is that only leadership that does not have the will of the people on its side or thinks it does not have the will of the people on its side uses state institutions to suppress that same will of the people,” he said, adding that there was no more press freedom in Zambia.
“The presence of 80 radio stations, online newspapers and independent television stations in Zambia does not mean press freedom. Media and press freedom is about journalists and the media institutions doing their work without fear, intimidation and threats; it is about news editors publishing and airing what they judge as newsworthy for public good and especially holding public office to account.”
He challenged President Edgar Lungu’s spokesperson Amos Chanda’s statement that an arrest of one person could not turn the country into a dictatorship.
“It is a fallacy to postulate that the arrest of one man cannot turn this country into a dictatorship. We in the Church leadership think otherwise. It is not the number of the afflicted victims that counts but it is the principal,” he said.
“The indictment of the Police Service as being unprofessional was not invented by the three church mother bodies, it is found written in black and white in the judgment of Magistrate Greenwell Malumani, which tells us that the conduct of the Police in this case was not in line with the law and Police Professional ethics! Quoting the learned judge, the episode ‘exposed the police’s incompetence, unprofessionalism and criminal behaviour in the manner they handled the arrest of Hakainde Hichilema’.”
Archbishop Mpundu observed that the arrest of Hichilema was premeditated.
“Weeks before the Mongu Presidential Motorcade Saga, a State Agent Kampyongo and a PF Agent Mumbi Phiri clearly told the nation at different occasions that HH would be charged with treason and treated like a rat in the process. True to their words, HH was arrested on a treason charge in a manner that cannot be said to be human because it violated both his constitutional and human rights. Now Hakainde Hichilema has been transferred to the Maximum Security Prison even though he has not been pronounced guilty after the due process of the law. He was tied like a dog because he refused to go,” Archbishop Mpundu said.
“HH is not an ordinary criminal but a political prisoner who should be treated with respect. We therefore call for the release of HH from prison today. If he is charged with Treason, an un-bailable offence, let him be under house arrest as the trial goes on instead of treating him as if he has already been found guilty.”
Meanwhile, Archbishop Mpundu threw a cliffhanger to the press about the fate of President Lungu after he leaves office.
“The late President Chiluba was imprisoned by President Kenneth Kaunda. President Chiluba later threw President Kaunda into maximum security prison and he had to be rescued by late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere! Late President Micheal Sata was thrown into Chimbokaila Prison by President Mwanawasa. Mwanawasa did not live long enough to be thrown into prison by Michael Sata. However, the historical reconciliation between President Mwanawasa and Michael Sata still ring fresh in our memories. Today, we have HH thrown into maximum prison by President Lungu; we leave it to you to guess what the future is likely to be!” Archbishop Mpundu said.
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And during the question and answer session, Archbishop Mpundu urged the 48 suspended UPND members of parliament to seek arbitration in court.
“We believe that Zambai is trying hard to be a nation that is following laws in order to govern so this is an issue that the lawyers should take up, those expelled can go to the courts of law for arbitration, as simple as that. Not only they can but they should because we have these institutions and they should be tried although sometimes they don’t work the way we expect them to work. You have the courts of law and they should go to the courts of law. And particularly that is one way of finding the route cause, HH and the UPND went to the courts of law and challenged the election of President Lungu but that hearing was not done, and this is why we are where we are,” Mpundu said.
“In this particular time it is the same thing MPs expelled (suspended) or some of the seats are declared vacant, is that legal? let’s go to the courts of law and let’s listen to the courts of law. And these courts of law should not be put under pressure by the executive. This is another branch of government which needs to work independently as a check and balance.”
He urged the clergy not to give platforms to politicians in the church
“During the campaigns for the August general elections, I issued a circular to the clergy and religious leaders not to be partisan, not to bring political issues as a venue for Sunday comedy, not to allow politicians and give them platforms in the church at the pulpit because politics are by nature invisible,” said Archbishop Mpundu.