Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu says dialogue has failed because the Patriotic Front is using the divide and rule tactics.
And Archbishop Mpundu says former UPND vice-president Dr Canisius Banda should find better ways of lobbying for a job from the ruling party instead of spreading hallucinations.
Featured on Pan African Radio on January 9, this year, Banda claimed that Archbishop Mpundu was making the work of his successor Archbishop Alick Banda difficult because he had refused to surrender the diocese office.
Dr Banda claimed that Archbishop Banda was renting a house in Kalingalinga because Archbishop Mpundu had refused to vacate the official residence for the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Lusaka.
But in this verbatim interview, Archbishop Mpundu regrets the ‘insults’ which have been poured on the church regarding national dialogue, saying had he still been in the ZCCB leadership, he would have advised the clergy to step aside and see how far the politicians could go on their own.
The immediate past Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Lusaka also adds that the Ministry of National Guidance, the National Day of Prayer and the National House of Prayer have brought confusion.
Q. What do you think will happen in 2021 if this dialogue process fails to take place?
A. This is a self inflicted wound…it is us Zambians who hounded out the Commonwealth and now we are left on our own. And now the they want to hound out the church.
To me, it [the dialogue process] won’t go anywhere. Our politicians don’t know how to talk to each other. They will end up tearing each other to bits and what will happen in this country, we’ll be a country so antagonised, so polarised. Just a little much can bring about a lot of violence in this country. It is the political players who are to blame and it is a self inflicted wound.
For me, if I had been in the ZCCB leadership, I would simply say ‘let’s wait and see what they can do’. If they come to us, we can say ‘you are going to tell the people the insults that you were throwing at us are regrettable and you apologise, we can help’.
Right from the word go, the executive had wanted the ZCID to lead this and right from the word go, the opposition political party leaders said they would not be there because they know those who were planted there were all supporting the executive. So they said they would feel unprotected if the Church was not there.
We feel really bad. We want to help but they say ‘no, you are inflicted with leprosy’ but when we stay away, they say what is the church doing? Takuli ifisuma iyo (there is nothing good).
These are the rewards of being a prophetic church and the executive is very good at divide and rule. They divide us as churches and within churches, as individuals.
I remember one time we had some kind of meeting with the church mother bodies but one of the members was not there and he was telling us he was on the way. And one of the functionaries said ‘go and see what is happening’. Reverend Pukuta Mwanza was talking to people from the government in another room, at their own headquarters. So he came back and reported that this man is supposed to be here, to be with us so that we exchange notes, compare our experiences and this man is flirting with the PF top people. There came one dissenting voice here and another one, and they were very happy ‘you see, Mpundu is on his own’. ‘Divide et impera’, those are the tactics of the Romans. They were very brutal people but they were also very clever.
So they will go in one particular church and divide the leaders, they are even talking of a House of Prayer and we said ‘no, we don’t need it’. In fact, they were even talking about a Cathedral. But a Cathedral is a house of prayer, so who is going to be a bishop there?
It is Lungu and his people. And who are conducting the prayers? It is the military and born again people, that prayer session does not start until the President comes, not a priest, not a pastor, it is the President pontificating like a pontifex maximus. We said no! If we have a national day of prayer, let us pray in our own churches like we used to do, every Sunday, before independence, all the churches, in their own way, prayed for the peace and development of this country. And then they get priests like… who go there pontificating. Those people are crazy and those are the people they want to use.
And now there is a Minister of National Guidance and whatever and then you have our own evangelical pastors. Who is going to lead the prayers? Who is really the driving force? It is messy. We have this national day of prayer but it has been hijacked and there is a national tabernacle there, division between Catholics and CCZ, and ZCCB. Let us all say no to this national house of prayer. Who is going to be paying for it? How is it going to be built? Poor Zambia.
Q. Do you agree with Dr Banda’s remarks that the church does not have the mandate to lead the dialogue process?
Dr Banda says the church is not needed in the dialogue process. But he doesn’t know the background of this movement…we were asked to do this by the President and we took it up. Now that we took it up, they are saying we have hijacked the whole thing, it is not fair, you don’t know where we have come from.
It shows how confused this man is. I don’t know who he consulted about that, we were not there to hijack the process, we were asked. And to say that Bishop [Alick] Banda, fine man, is not functional anymore because he is renting a house in Kalingalinga and this will have an impact on the national dialogue, how do the two go together?
Q. What was your reaction to Dr Banda’s remarks that you are refusing to vacate the house where your successor is supposed to stay in?
A. The concerns that were raised by Dr Canisius Banda that I am hanging around in a house where I am not supposed to be is a perfect fabrication because there has never been any official residence of the Archbishop of Lusaka at the Pope Square, to date. When the new one was appointed, we have a house that belongs to the Archdiocese of Lusaka in Ibex Hill and that’s where he is staying. He is very comfortable in Ibex, he has never rented a house in Kalingalinga, never! Where did this man get all this information from? This is fantasy, a fabrication.
I would have liked to meet Dr Canisius because how can he come up with fabrications? A man who is educated comes up with fabrications, he is a laughing stock in our Catholic circles. Talks about the Vatican, he doesn’t even know what the Vatican consists of but he goes on and on. It is very unfair. If we were not Catholic Christians, we would sue this man in court and make him pay but we just treat his pronouncements with the contempt they deserve.
Q. Dr Banda seems to be building a perception that there is acrimony between yourself and your successor, is this a true reflection of reality?
A. It is an imagination of this Dr Canisius Banda, where does he get that from? When a bishop is appointed, he is appointed by the Pope himself, not anybody else. This man was appointed to succeed me. I had been appointed by the Pope in 2004 to be the Archbishop of Lusaka. So the Pope decided upon my request, contrary to Kachepa, contrary to the so-called social media that I had been sacked or pressurised to retire, no. In 2003, I had already asked to retire early because already, at that time, I was 17 years as bishop.
And I was told in 2004 to come to Lusaka so that was probably saying they were not listening to what I was asking for, an early retirement. So I was taken up from Mpika to Lusaka. So on 21st November 2004, I was installed as Archbishop of Lusaka. I had been working from that time until I said ‘enough is enough. This is the 47th year for me to be a priest. I was ordained in 1972. This is the 32nd year as bishop. So I said ‘enough is enough’ I don’t have to wait until I am 75 to retire.
Finally, my request was accepted and I was the happiest person. And you know, the very day I was installed as Archbishop of Lusaka, that was the very day I was appointed as bishop 32 years ago.
Even if I didn’t want to resign and they told me to resign, I would still have to go. When the Pope speaks, you obey. We are trained like soldiers. And after asking to retire all those years someone says I want to hang around? It doesn’t make sense. So that kind of ill-feeling is not there, Archbishop Banda is someone who is a generation behind me and I would be trying to prevent him to become bishop? It doesn’t make sense.
Q. Speaking of being punched, most times you speak, some politicians accuse you of belonging to a certain opposition political party. Does this bother you?
A. I am used to that. I have been a politician longer than most politicians were born…As a church, standing for the truth, are we going to tailor make our statements in such a way that the sitting government is going to be dancing with joy receiving that? No.
It is not everyday that when the church speaks prophetically, the government is going to receive that with dancing and singing. A prophetic voice is one that unsettles people, breaks their consciences, we are used to that.
This is not new, I went to a UPND function and everyone was up in arms. I still have a copy of what I told those people, I went there as a guest speaker on political violence. Doesn’t make me UPND. It just shows how naïve we are in our politics, stone age politics. I am not scared of that.