In this audio, Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) executive director Reverend Pukuta Mwanza says he does not know why board chairman Bishop Paul Mususu and the vice board chairman Bishop Fortune Mwiza refused to sign a statement which was issued at the end of an emergency board meeting held today.

And Rev Mwanza says he is close to President Edgar Lungu because he prefers a diplomatic approach when giving criticism, rather than confrontation.

EFZ issued a statement distancing itself from the Friday statement made by three church mother bodies (Zambia Council of Catholic Bishops-ZCCB, Council of Churches in Zambia-CCZ and EFZ – represented by Bishop Mususu.

Reverend Pukuta Mwanza’s statement was signed by Board members Bishop Martin Kamangala, Bishop Chrispin Zulu, Reverend Aaron Chilunjika, and Bishop Shemmy Kakelele, while the top two slots where board chairman Bishop Mususu and his vice Bishop Mwiza were supposed to sign were left blank.

When contacted to explain why the two senior board members’ signatures were missing, Rev Mwanza said they had their own reasons for refusing to sign.

He explained that they were present at the emergency board meeting, but chose not to sign the statement.

“They have their own reasons why and I don’t want to explain the reasons now. but that is the outcome of the meeting showing what transpired in the emergency meeting. They were available, both the chair and vice, but they chose not to sign the statement,” Mwanza explained.

“If people have refused to sign, normally I wouldn’t want to comment because it might require that we have to find another route like the general assembly or something.”

When asked if he was unhappy with the statement made by Catholic Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu because he had a soft spot for President Edgar Lungu, Rev Mwanza said he has always been close to previous presidents and not President Lungu alone because he prefers a diplomatic approach rather than confrontation.

“It is wrong because all the regimes that I have worked with, part of President Rupiah Banda’s regime, President Michael Sata’s regime, and now President Lungu’s regime, my approach has always been the same. If you compare the statements they are giving, they have always been inflammatory, emotionally charges, they are insulting, they are derogatory; I have never insulted any leader of the opposition because I take them as national leaders. My approach has always been to be diplomatic rather than confrontation,” he said.

He charged that the Friday statement read by Archbishop Mpundu had created an inferno out a spark and the crisis was no loner with the politicians but with the church.

“They have created an infernal out of a spark, they have made a critical situation worse. They should never bring in people into their own problems. I am more suspicious why they left me out because I am EFZ persona,” Rev Mwanza adding that there were other Catholic Bishops who were unhappy with Bishop Mpundu’s statement.

When reminded that the catholic bishops he was referring to (Bishop Alick Banda of Ndola and Bishop Benjamin Phiri of Chipata) were from the same tribe as President Lungu and himself, Rev Mwanza said the EFZ statement was not signed in his capacity as a Ngoni.

“But you must understand that the statement which has been signed has not been signed in my capacity as a Ngoni. I don’t think that anyone has the right to insult anybody. My view is that it is wrong to characterise me on the basis of whether the President comes from this region or that region. When we were working with president [Nevers] Mumba last year, does that mean that Mumba comes from Chipata or Petauke?” he asked.

When asked if he made an effort to contact the CCZ or ZCCB and Archbishop Mpundu to express the EFZ concern, Rev Mwanza said it was not up to him to go back to the other mother bodies to ask them why they did wrong.

“That is the matter that the EFZ board might decide because there was no way someone would claim that the EFZ was present at a meeting when I was not there. EFZ does not leave on the street, there must have been a away in which I could have been consulted. That statement was generated by the Catholic Church, hosted by the Catholic Church and Chaired by the Catholic Bishop, so where are the three church mother bodies in that statement?” he wondered.

“It is not up to me to go back to them and find out why they did wrong, it is up to me to organise my constituency and do what is write. EFZ can issue it’s own statement on the political state of affairs, outside the influence of the church mother body.”

Asked if he felt President Lungu’s strong reaction to the Bishops’ statement was justified, Rev Mwanza said he was not a government spokesperson to speak on behalf of the Head of State.

“Well I am not a government spokesperson so I cannot speak on that,” said Rev Mwanza.

Take a listen:

In the EFZ statement, the Board members said the sidelining of the EFZ secretariat during the consultation stage before the church mother bodies issued a joint statement, was against the historic norm.

“When a joint venture or activity has been agreed upon, the three church umbrella bodies have always closely worked together through their secretariat offices in ensuring joint organization and mobilization from their respective umbrella bodies. We regret to observe that the recent joint press conference departed from that historical norm. For reasons unknown to us, the EFZ secretariat was bypassed and left out from all the consultation processes and preparations of the joint press conference and this is where the procedural departure was questioned by the EFZ Board.This also raised serious concerns with regard to the motive behind dealing with and dealing with an individual on the board of EFZ rather than with its established channels and structures,” the statement read in part.

“The side-lining of the EFZ secretariat by the other church umbrella bodies (both the ZCCB and the CCZ) meant that there was no official representation of EFZ at their joint press conference and therefore cannot claim that the joint press conference had the ownership and blessings of the three umbrella bodies, perhaps the two only. By not consulting and working through the secretariat at EFZ, it meant that EFZ had been excluded from a formal and official involvement in the joint press conference. Moreover a day before the joint press statement, an online advert likely to have been placed by the ZCCB announced the joint press conference in which the three General secretaries representing CCZ, EFZ, and ZCCB were going to be addressing the journalists even though the conveners knew very well that EFZ Executive Director had been deliberately left out. So what was the motive of taking such a move of Publicizing an individual’s participation on a program on which he had not been consulted?”

The EFZ further said that the actions by the two church mother bodies were undermining the Board of EFZ.

“Further, we observed that the conveners chose to only deal with an individual on the board of EFZ rather than corporately as an institution and as such we find the action wanting as it amounted to undermining the authority of the board of EFZ – a type of divide and rule. We Christian church umbrella bodies should cherish unity in spite of our theological difference and we should seek to work together without undue suspicions and ill motives. Our strong convictions and differences in opinion should enrich our discussions and debate on national issues and our biblical hermeneutic differences should also be respected because they too form the bedrock of our distinctive identities,” read the statement in part.

The EFZ has also urged the conveners of the joint press conference to withdraw what has been termed as their misleading statement.

“Therefore it must be placed on record that EFZ had no official representation in that meeting and that the conveners should withdraw their misleading statements that the joint press conference was held with the support and blessing of EFZ. EFZ therefore was not a ‘third’ umbrella body in that joint meeting,” the EFZ Board further said.

‘In general and without endeavoring to go into detail and specifically of the joint press statement we are not in support of it because the emotional tone did not reflect the spiritual nature of our work; although the statement described the challenges the country was experiencing, it failed to inspire hope for the people of this country and instead it left the people of this country in total despair. We strongly feel that it is our duty and responsibility to guide our nation by not only pointing at wrongs, but also providing well-articulated alternative solutions to the challenges of the country without being confrontational or antagonistic in our engagement,” said the EFZ Board members.