ARCHBISHOP Telesphore Mpundu says expressing his opinions freely does not mean he belongs to any political party in Zambia.

Some PF members have been angered by Archbishop Mpundu’s critical statements against government arguing that they are designed to malign the ruling party because the clergyman is a UPND sympathiser.

But in an interview, Archbishop Mpundu insisted that while he did have a political opinion, he was freely expressing his views on matters affecting the country.

“People must be allowed to express their opinions freely and that is how peace can be brought in this country. I belong to no political party; the fact that I am a priest and a bishop, I don’t have my own political opinion? I have that right, the right to freedom of speech, freedom of expression and these liberties of that respect of what I stand for should be given. People don’t have to agree with me. I don’t have to agree with people, but they are free to express themselves. Each time I speak, that, ‘no, you belong to the UPND,’ I don’t belong to the UPND! ‘You are the adviser to the UPND,’ how? I don’t even know how to advise a political party. It is unfortunate that our politics are politics of antagonism,” Archbishop Mpundu said.

“I have said it time and again; we should not just tolerate one another, we should accept and encourage one another. When there are differences, they help us to rethink whatever we stand for, it is healthy. That political space where there is political pluralism and is respected and actually even appreciated, [in] a true democratic dispensation.”

And Archbishop Mpundu said that he did not mean that the PF were trying to kill UPND president Hakainde Hichilema following last month’s deadly police shooting of two unarmed civilians, but that government was looking for faults in opposition leaders to prevent them from standing in this year’s election.

“I think the government in power is trying to find faults, not only with HH, but with opposition party leaders so that they find them with a criminal offence so that they can’t stand. So, this kind of situation where they called HH to explain an issue about the land he is supposed to have bought in 2004, is already under the courts. So, why are they going back to that? I think this is just a way of the ruling party like it has happened in the past to make sure that opposition party leaders somehow are eliminated from standing if they are found with a criminal case. It is just to eliminate competition, that’s all, not to kill him,” explained Archbishop Mpundu.