Council of Churches in Zambia General Secretary Fr Emmanuel Chikoya says it is unfortunate that the PF government only embraces those who sing their praises.

And Fr Chikoya says the 2019 budget does not address poverty reduction.

In a statement issued by CCZ communications officer Michael Mazakaza, Thursday, Fr Chikoya condemned government’s decision to deny Kenyan law professor Patrick Lumumba entry into Zambia.

“CCZ General Secretary Fr Emmanuel Chikoya said all well-meaning Zambians must condemn in strongest terms the trend by the PF Government of deporting renowned figures that come into the country to share ideas that can be beneficial to the country. Fr Chikoya says it is sad that the Zambian Government finds it comfortable allowing into the country individuals with questionable reputations like Rhumba Musician Koffi-Olomide yet denying entry and sending back think-tanks like Prof Lumumba that mean well for the continent of Africa.vFr Chikoya has rebuked the PF Government’s incessant attraction to only individuals that sing praises for them while repelling everyone with dissenting views adding that this is not helpful to the Government. He says every Government needs dissenting views that serve as criticism. He emphasized that criticism is health for any institution that desires to move from one level to another,” Mazakaza stated.

“He says in May last year the same PF Government denied entry into the country and sent back South African opposition leader Mmusi Maimane who had come to attend his Zambian opposition counterpart UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema’s court appearance that was due the following morning. Fr Chikoya further recalls that the same PF Government denied Zimbabwe opposition leader Tendai Biti asylum into the country last month. He says all these similar developments are denting the image of Zambia as a haven of peace and security in the Southern African region. He has since called upon the PF Government to stop denying entry into the country individuals that do not have any criminal record as the trend is becoming unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, Fr Chikoya announced that CCZ had elected United Church of Zambia (UCZ) Synod Bishop Reverend Sydney Sichilima as its new president.

Bishop Sichilima takes over from Bishop Dr Alfred Kalembo who successfully served his two terms of office.

And Chikoya observed that the 2019 budget did not address poverty reduction.

“The Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) says in-as-much-as a critical look at the 2019 budget indicates a resource mobilization budget which if implemented effectively is likely to bring the necessary resources required to meet the aspirations and economic objectives of the country, it is lacking in terms of poverty reduction. Commenting on the 2019 national budget presented in Parliament last Friday, CCZ General Secretary Fr Emmanuel Chikoya says in the short term there is little or no changes in improving the social well-being of an average Zambian. Fr Chikoya says the Church would have loved to see changes in the PAYE by increasing the non-taxable threshold to K4,000 from the current K3,300. He says this would have increased disposable income to the general populace hence would have gone a long way in helping reduce poverty among citizens,” he stated.

“Fr Chikoya says increasing the non-taxable threshold should have been considered on grounds that in the recent past the nation has observed an increase in several taxes being introduced compared to limited disposable income. He says the prices of goods and services have been increasing amid stagnant disposable income and wages have remained frozen. He has further pointed out that the Church does not see how the 2019 budget was going to stimulate growth among SMEs with the introduction of the flat tax rate of four percent which is an increase from three percent.”

He questioned the increase in expenditure to the Ministry of Defense.

“And Fr Chikoya says the country is not at war to justify an increase in expenditure to the security wings. He says increasing expenditure to the security wings questions where our priorities are as a nation. He explains that the Church expected a reduction in expenditure on security and instead steadily increase funding to social sectors of the economy such as education, health and social protection. Fr Chikoya says a reduction in funding in terms of percentage to the social sectors is worrying considering that the allocation to the security wings has been increased,” stated Mazakaza.

“On agriculture the CCZ GS says there is an urgent need to address the issues on the e-voucher system which have been affecting the nation’s food production. He says late delivery of inputs has continued hence has been affecting the efficiency in the agriculture sector. Fr Chikoya has also called on the Government to quickly address the depreciating kwacha against major currencies. He says everything being done is tied up to the exchange rate which includes debt repayments hence the urgency. He says if not attended to the volatile exchange rate has the capacity to erode the confidence that citizens have in the economy and also has the potential to erode economic gains.”

Fr Chikoya, however, commended Government for reducing tax for firms that process copper before exporting it saying it was a good move which must be extended to all other goods including timber.