COUNCIL of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) general secretary Fr Emmanuel Chikoya says the PF should stop being paranoid and provide space for everybody, including those who have dissenting views.

Commenting on PF Secretary General Davies Mwila’s statement that Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu was a UPND supporter and he would be treated as a political opponent, Fr Chikoya said the religious society had the right to speak about the ills affecting the country.

He said the culture of intolerance being exhibited by the PF may lead to chaos.

“What we are seeing happening actually has happened even in the old testament times. Those who are in power expect everybody, expect the prophets to speak what they want to hear; but we want to categorically state we are not their mouth piece. We have a responsibility to speak to power, to speak to the moral consensus of this country. We are the salt and the light of the world and salt irritates. So the reaction is not surprising. The culture we saw happening in Chankukula, the destruction of a borehole, a destruction of a political party office, we saw what happened in Kasama and in full view of the police, meetings are being stopped in churches, if you want to get a permit others can walk and petition anyhow. So those are not good indications,” Fr Chikoya said.

“If people focus on that, if these things are not checked, the culture of intolerance will lead to chaos. They are not being champions of doom, they are just saying if you don’t change, if you don’t sleep under a mosquito net for example you will get sick of malaria. Our message to the political party in government, which is the Patriotic Front, stop being paranoid and provide space for everybody to share dissenting views.”

He urged PF to use the same energy they had when reprimanding religious leaders to condemn members of the party who were publicly making tribal remarks.

“We cannot claim that this is the space that is exclusive for politicians and the church should be in that corner. Those who keep on lamenting and mourning about church interference in politics need to wake up and wise up because the church is going nowhere, it is right where it rightfully belongs. So we condemn the excessive reactions and intolerance that is being championed,” he said.

“I wish they can use the same energy to condemn, reprimand and suspend some of their own members who have publicly been very tribal. Those are the worst enemies of Zambia but they will go for a person who is saying the levels of tolerance are slowly getting diminished in Zambia, which is a fact. People cannot go freely in certain areas without incurring the roast of party cadres. You have people that are armed to the teeth in the real sense of the word to defend their political party positions which are not right.”

And Fr Chikoya described UPND deputy secretary general Patrick Mucheleka and other UPND officials for aggravated robbery as unjust.

“We are concerned with the tramped up charges. Yes people may commit offences, there are certain things that can actually be dealt with by just giving a caution to people. I don’t think in this case, the case of aggravated robbery should have been really slapped on those people. Those people can be cautioned and there is community service and other things. So when people immediately go for the most punitive kind of action against opponents, that is again an indicator of how intolerant [this government is],” he said.

“It is like they are just watching and laying an ambush when you just make a mistake then you are in for it. At the end of the day, such things backfire, the Bible is very clear you will reap what you sow. I emphatically speak to the people in government; whatever you are planting, you shall reap, that is what will happen. If you are planting peace, if you are planting justice, you are planting the fair application of the law, you are planting proper functioning and effective institutions that are independently able to operate without being told or ordered to do certain things that is what you reap. But if you don’t, then you have every reason to fear because you are planting violence, confusion, tribalism, intolerance which you will reap in full measure. That is a fact!”

Fr Chikoya said it was time for the leaders to wake up and mature in the sense of providing proper leadership.

“It is high time that our leaders wake up, grow up and mature in the sense of providing proper leadership. They are just in leadership as stewards, they are not the absolute owners. So all this language of no ‘ we are here to stay’, you know, there is time and chance for everything on Earth. The season to rule and there is a season to not be in power. So, people should not live as though today is there forever,” said Fr Chikoya.