CiSCA chairperson Bishop John Mambo says it is not the mandate of a presidential spokesperson to give national guidance on policy issues.
And Bishop Mambo says State House cannot dictate civil society debates, adding that it is undemocratic for President Edgar Lungu’s spokesperson Amos Chanda to be directing Zambians on what they should or should not talk about.
On Wednesday, Chanda told journalists at a press briefing held at State House that individuals and organisations, such as CiSCA, that shunned the National Dialogue Forum (NDF) had no right to discuss the resolutions of the forum because it would be undemocratic.
But commenting on this matter in an interview, Bishop Mambo said there was no way Chanda could stop other citizens from exercising their right to freedom of expression.
“We are talking about the Constitution which is the supreme law of the land and the only person that can comment on directing us on the way forward is the President. All the leaders at NDF, starting with the chairperson was nominated by the President. So we expect the Head of State to give us direction, Amos Chanda was not elected. In 2016, we elected Edgar Chagwa Lungu as President of the Republic of Zambia, so you can’t just have anybody commenting on policy issues. What Amos Chanda should have done was call a press briefing at State House, where the President is introduced to answer questions from Journalists. It is not Amos Chanda to answer. That has been policy through out; from Kaunda’s time, it is the President himself answering to questions on policy,” Bishop Mambo said.
He argued that Zambians had every right to discuss the outcome of the just ended National Dialogue Forum because it was provided for in the constitution.
“This dialogue forum has passed and very soon they will come out with a report. It is time now for us to start commenting on the issues that have been recommended. First of all, the people of Zambia have spoken; we do not need deputy ministers. Secondly, it was a campaign promise by PF that they would not have deputy ministers; they would give us more money in our pockets; there will be a Constitution in 30 days. But they have not done it in 30 days. How many committees has the PF put in place since they came into power? Who went to the Heroes stadium and signed the Constitution? We need to reconcile across religious affiliation and see eye to eye and say ‘we are sorry, let’s move the country forward’. That’s being one body of Christ and that cannot be done by a forum like the one that has just passed. It is only the body of Christ, including those who attended the NDF from the Church, they should be part of the process to bring healing into our nation,” Bishop Mambo said.
He added that Chanda was being undemocratic himself by stopping other citizens from enjoying their freedom of speech.
“He’s undemocratic himself. What’s democracy? We should have more democracy than any other country in the world being a Christian nation. We should be free to speak, and just like we said, we will go round the country as Churches and as Civil Society, that’s what we said at our press briefing. We will start with Churches to ask God to forgive every Zambian; secondly, we will ask God to bring healing upon this country and thirdly, we will ask God to give us leaders who will have the heart for the people, not dictators. It is dictatorship when Amos says no one should comment on NDF, that’s like the way Idi Amini in Uganda was, it’s dictatorship. In a democracy, you speak your mind. The only limit to democracy is that you cannot insult and do name calling,” said Bishop Mambo.
“And by the way, Amos is part of the over 15 million Zambians and if he’s speaking, why shouldn’t we speak? If the Head of State is speaking, why shouldn’t others speak? We are praying for freedom of speech as Church, freedom of movement and all that, that is democracy.”