Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) secretary general Fr Emmanuel Chikoya says politicians in the ruling Patriotic Front should learn to take criticism, rather than brand everybody who speaks against them as an opposition sympathizer.

And Fr Chikoya says churches must stop the habit of depending on handouts from politicians and become financially self-sustainable.

Commenting on Kabwe Central PF member of parliament Tutwa Ngulube’s statement that retired Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu would be dealt with politically, Fr Chikoya urged political leaders to learn to take constructive criticism and allow divergent views to flourish.

“I would advise our leaders to learn to take criticism instead of branding everybody that speaks something that is not their liking as a sympathizer of the opposition. People should be able to speak freely on various emerging issues and there are issues that hold water, which were said in that interview. These threats of ‘we will deal with him politically’ or whatever, I don’t think a person like Bishop Mpundu will be shaken by those statements. Let there be room for enough divergent views, people should be able to send their views or clarify instead of issuing threats to them. You know, the governance space should not just be left to those who think they have the monopoly of wisdom around that. It is better to listen, even from your worst critic and make better amendments,” Fr Chikoya said in an interview in Lusaka.

And he urged churches to stop the habit of depending on handouts from politicians, who frequent congregations, and become financially self-sustainable.

“And also, the overall stewardship of the resources, citizenship, at the end of the day, we would like to see a peaceful Zambian. Our people need to be empowered. These donations here and there are just creating dependence. We need empowerment and policies in the agricultural sector, the mining sector that tends to empower people. For churches, the era of depending on handouts from guests of honours must remain in 2019. I am one of those who always think that a church that is always begging and always inviting politicians because of their pocket power is a big scandal to a church of Christ,” Fr Chikoya said.

He observed that churches could no longer grow on their own without a politician being involved.

“So, the Church needs to be able to up its game, take on opportunities, look at what we have in terms of land so that we diversify our income sources. It looks like you can’t build anything in the Church unless there is a politician involved or some other big giver. There is need to ensure that we get the act right as church institutions and become self-sustainable, financially. And you will see more of these, especially getting closer to the (2021) elections. A more sustainable church, financially, is more independent and speaks its mind to promote good governance and peace and the well-being of this country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fr Chikoya said Zambians must begin to be above petty politics and have zero-tolerance against all forms of violence ahead of next year’s general election.

“Unless you live in a different world, but we all know that things have not been fine (because) talk of corruption levels, issues of violence, talk of mysterious houses, talk of the Bill 10 issues and all those areas of serious concern. They just need to be attended to. If there is need for a better explanation to why things are the way they are, let them just be explained without threats. As we get into the transition year of 2021, every Zambian must begin to be above the issues of petty politics, they should have zero tolerance to all sorts of violence. We must hold and celebrate our diversity. We need to accommodate and celebrate our diversity in terms of region and all these other issues. Issues of the environment must also be a priority at all levels,” advised Fr Chikoya.