THE Church has always given clear guidance on its position regarding Bill 10 but the PF government has chosen not to listen, Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) general secretary Fr Emmanuel Chikoya has lamented.

Reacting to President Lungu’s call on the Church to be clear about what was wrong with Bill 10, Fr Chikoya said efforts had been made to have high-level meetings with those in authority, but that the gates of “higher offices” were always closed.

Fr Chikoya said it was strange that President Lungu was claiming not to have heard the submissions of the Church on Bill 10 when so many meetings had been held behind the scenes over the matter.

“How clear does he want us to be? Because the Church has been clear. And why is it difficult to meet the Church? Believe you me, efforts have been made to have high-level meetings, but they’ve landed on deaf ears. So, is it really prudent for one to go to a certain platform and showcase to the world that the Church is unclear on Bill 10? I don’t think so, we are not unclear. One would, therefore, say that maybe there is a listening problem because the message from the Church is very loud and clear that when the process that produces something is not owned, the process of that product is always going to be contended. If you go back to the enactment of the NDF (National Dialogue Forum) Act, the Parliamentary Select Committee after they received submissions, they recommended for the withdrawal [of Bill 10). But what did we see? We saw the arrogance of numbers and that Bill or Act was passed into law from that rushed process of a dialogue in eight days,” Fr Chikoya said.

“That was supposed to be a National Dialogue Forum. I don’t know what people understand. It was not a National Constitutional Forum. So, that is a defective process and unceremoniously, the all-inclusive dialogue was abandoned because there was a premature miscarriage caused by government. So, it’s very strange that, today, despite all the meetings that were held behind the scenes, we would be turning around and saying that. What kind of being clear do you want to hear? Because the message is already loud and clear and these are documented; someone can just Google and see the messages that have been shared and you will be able to see what have been the most contentious issues.”

Fr Chikoya reiterated some of the problematic clauses which the Church had identified in Bill 10.

“You need parliamentary oversight over debt contraction; you can’t bring back deputy ministers; you can’t give the mandate to someone, who has just slightly edged the other to form government with a minority. No, we want a majority-elected (Republican) President, given the full mandate so that they don’t spend all the five years trying to build their hold on leadership. What are you trying to cure by removing the 50 (per cent) plus one? That will create more problems. And when you talk about the differently-abled, what stops any political party during the adoption process to adopt differently-abled people right now? What stops the politicians from ensuring that there are enough women MPs? Nothing. So, we would rather not be ‘doubting Thomases, but ‘verifying Thomases’ on this matter. We can’t trust them (government); this is just an issue of people trying to hide their plans. And what is the guarantee that this will be implemented once enacted if the laws that are already there are not being implemented? And they want to undo the FIC (Financial Intelligence Centre) and then put it as a department somewhere else, is that progressive? That is not progressive, it is retrogressive. If anything, we need FIC to be strengthened. So, at the end of the day, I think the voice of the Church has been loud and clear, let’s just clear whatever wax is in our ears and listen,” he said.

Fr Chikoya encouraged government to listen to opposing views.

“When people reach out, listen to them. Unfortunately, there seems to be something wrong with the gates of some of these high offices in this country because they are unreachable and yet there will be claims publicly later on that, ‘tell us ABCD.’ People have whispered so many times! But so sometimes they will begin to shout publicly when what has been whispered is not being heeded to by those that are expected to act,” said Fr Chikoya.