The whole of last week, through to this week, news bulletins have been awash with rebuttals by State House officials, the Patriotic Front and its allies; scolding former Archbishop of Lusaka Telesphore Mpundu for allegedly spelling doom and bloodshed on Zambia ahead of the 2021 general elections.
Even the President himself joined those who have been attacking Archbishop Mpundu when he addressed a campaign rally in Kafue, accusing the clergyman of praying for bloodshed instead of uniting the country.
“There is one old man who said: ‘I am predicting that there will be violence in Zambia before, during and after elections in 2021.’ Let me tell you in very clear terms that as long as I remain here, I will not allow it! If he is praying for it, we shall also be praying, God will bless us and we will be peaceful. You cannot stand there as an old man and say: ‘I think there will be violence,’ you are supposed to go there and say: ‘I will intercede and intervene and talk to these children to stop fighting. If they don’t listen, you can even pinch them and tell them to stop misbehaving.’ That’s what a good man does. Let’s shame them,” said President Lungu in apparent reference to Archbishop Mpundu.
But before anyone shames the clergyman, is that what he really said? Those who heard him speak will remember that the Archbishop was making reference to the breakdown of rule of law in the country, the failed dialogue process and the lack of political will to end violence. His message was that if these issues remain unresolved, then the 2021 elections will be preceded by violence, the polls will be characterized by violence and there will be post-election chaos. Is it a sin for a man of God to make that warning?
What evil is there in Archbishop Mpundu observing that the failed political dialogue and the unprofessional conduct of law enforcement wings will have a negative bearing on the next elections if not addressed? How does a man who offers a timely warning like that become a prophet of doom?
People have to think considerably before making accusations, especially against those who are holding the pillars for Zambia to be called a Christian Nation. This un-strategic approach by the Patriotic Front of branding everyone who disagrees or questions their governance style as an enemy, will soon teach them a lesson!
Have they forgotten that this same Archbishop they are attacking today is the one who stood up against the MMD’s abuse of power and condemned the violence of Rupiah Banda’s regime? Have they already forgotten how they latched onto this same Bishop before forming government; and subjecting him to ridicule by the MMD who accused him of campaigning for Michael Sata because he was his relative? This is the man they want to attack today with a straight face? People must have shame!
Surely, what would it profit Telesphore Mpundu to pray for bloodshed in the next elections? Is he going to be on any ballot paper for him to benefit a single vote from the violence? These people who are attacking this man of God are taking advantage of the fact that his calling doesn’t permit him to engage in character assassination, they know that he can’t react with the same measure that he is being attacked. But that is being unfair.
Archbishop Mpundu is not a prophet of doom, as President Lungu and some PF allies are trying to portray him. He is a realist. He doesn’t want to bury his head in the sand like the Head of State is doing. The Archbishop has been around since Independence and he has seen the mistakes that successive governments have made. That is why he is offering free and peaceful advice to those who hold political power. He doesn’t deserve to be attacked in that manner.
But we know what hurt State House in the message that Archbishop Mpundu said on radio. It is the part where he said, “if Jesus came back today, He would not only whip the politicians and the clergy for betraying the way of the Christ, but He would also give himself up for crucifixion to save unrepentant mankind.” Further, Bishop Mpundu said when politicians who are running the country are the ones telling citizens that it is okay to steal, the Church should not be expected to be silent because politics is too important to leave to politicians alone.
This is the message that hurt PF and State House leadership. But they know that they have no capacity to debate with His Eminence on that score because every well-meaning Zambian agrees with that observation.
What President Lungu should ask citizens is: “how am I telling people that it is okay to steal?” And we will be very happy to list his statements and actions where he has endorsed blatant theft of public funds; starting with his proclamation that “ubomba mwibala alya mwibala.”