Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) general secretary Fr Emmanuel Chikoya says the Church has been mandated to lead the national dialogue process, hence no one should dictate when it must hold meetings.

In an interview, Fr Chikoya explained that the Church had no hidden agenda in its quest to spearhead the national dialogue process, and that assertions that it is driving an opposition agenda are not true.

Fr Chikoya explained that the Church would not accept to be used as a rubber-stamp for any party.

“Those assertions are not strange. They have been there since time immemorial. When it was suitable, for example, we were branded as being aligned to PF when they were in the opposition by the MMD that time and throughout history, those accusations continue to prevail. But the interest of the Church is to simply not to be used as a rubber-stamp. We don’t want to be used as a rubber-stamp, we understand leadership as leadership. We were given a full mandate to lead, and no one should dictate how we sit, when and how there will be meetings in camera and in public,” Fr Chikoya said.

“I think the challenge there is because the Church refused to just fit in. The language is we have been invited, [but] we have never been invited and we will never be invited. We were mandated by God. We are ambassadors of reconciliation and peace. That is our mandate right through from inception. These are institutions that have been around much longer than some of these entities that are making these assertions.”

He said the only agenda of the church’s participation in the dialogue process is to ensure that peace prevails amongst all Zambians.

“So, we are on very firm ground. We know when we commend, we will be celebrated, but when we take a position on a certain matter, we will always be accused. We have no political agenda, we have no hidden agenda, [but] we have a public agenda. Our desire is to see a conversion of mind and happiness that will translate into a peaceful, united Zambia where every citizen can participate in the governance of this country, in the economic arena without any unnecessary obstacles. That is the kind of approach that we have and we don’t want to have dialogue as an event. We want the whole country to be in a state of dialogue. While the leaders will be interacting, the provinces should also participate. So, we are clear in terms of what we think should be done, [which is the] the national dialogue and not political dialogue. And of course, we will always have people that will talk, who themselves have vested interest and are accusing us of having vested interest,” Fr Chikoya said.

Asked why there were contradicting statements between the Church and the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID) about the meeting, which was held at Kapingila House 10 days ago, Fr Chikoya said every relationship had differences.

“Every relationship will always have challenges, [but] that does not mean it’s the end of the world. But as the Church, we want to ensure that there is dialogue that is genuine and so we will endeavour along that path. Any other thing that needs to be sorted out will be sorted out behind the scene,” responded Fr Chikoya.

“Every Zambian matters and their opinion is important. Of course, you can’t bring Zambia to one table, but there are leaders of respective interest groups and other stakeholders: we have civil society leaders; we have the Church; we have traditional leaders, and so, we hope from such a collective effort we should be able to have meaningful dialogue because there are platforms through which people can be represented and participate.”