RETIRED Catholic Church Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu distinguish between defending citizens’ rights from being abused to defending wrongdoers in society.
Archbishop Mpundu’s statement that he will not speak or defend former officials in the Patriotic Front government being prosecuted on corruption allegations is not surprising.
He has never hidden his disdain at the Patriotic Front leadership and the alleged corruption during its administration.
Indeed, the whole nation would support genuine attempts aimed at ensuring that those who commit crimes against society, whether in government or outside are brought to book.
The same goes for those who have served in the public service.
But what the nation wants to see is that the state investigative wings must not abuse and deny those accused of wrong doing their individual rights as enshrined in the constitution.
It is in this vein that we agree with Archbishop Peter Ndhlovu, the General Overseer of Bible Gospel Church in Africa expressing his disappointment at the divisive words coming from Archbishop Mpundu’s mouth.
Archbishop Ndhlovu said it was disappointing that when the country expected words of unity, love and reconciliation from people like Archbishop Mpundu, he was issuing inflammatory statements.
He was speaking in an interview when he reacted to remarks by the controversial retired Catholic cleric who dismissed demands that the Church should speak against the persecution of PF officials on alleged crimes.
Appearing on Diamond TV, Archbishop Mpundu: “The Church will not speak for the PF leadership. They were in Government recently, let them speak for themselves, let them organise demonstrations and speak for themselves. The Church will only speak for the voiceless, the PF leaders are not voiceless.”
But as Archbishop Ndhlovu said, Archbishop Mpundu needed not only to be condemned but counselled for having issued the statement that has potential to divide the nation.
He said the clergy should instead endeavour to preach peace and not promote hatred.
The Church must realise that it is the moral compass of the nation that must promote and defend any abuse of citizens’ rights.
It must never segregate on account that the accused person belongs to the opposition ranks. When individual’s rights are being abused, all must speak with one voice. That is what will make Zambia a better country.
What is causing division in the country is the arbitrary abuse by the law enforcement agencies of people’s rights, when a person is detained without being formally charged.
This is happening even when President Hakainde Hichilema has explicitly directed the investigative wings, particularly the Zambia Police Service to only make an arrest after thorough investigations.
Just last week, former Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo was detained after questioning by the Anti-Corruption Commission. This was after he was summoned.
Even though his lawyers protested over his detention, Mr Lusambo was locked up without being charged. Police bond followed the next day.
Mr Raphael Nakacinda, the publicity and media chairman of the Patriotic Front was detained by Police on Thursday for defamation of the president and proposing violence.
He was only released the following day and only because his lawyer and Lumezi Member of Parliament fished out the dealing officer from the Police headquarters to deal with his bond.
This is why when it comes to individual freedoms, everyone is voiceless when their rights are being abused and this is why the public expects the Church, as the conscience of the nation to speak out.
It must not just pretend to speak for the so-called weak in society. When the government agencies infringe on people’s rights, that should be a cause of concern – whether one served in the PF government or not.
Archbishop Ndhlovu says: “Politicians are all our children and we cannot be happy to see any of them being persecuted even if they wronged us because vengeance belongs to God. They should run to us for help, but if we will be happy to see them persecuted, where are they going to run to?”
Indeed, who will defend those whose rights are abused by powerful state organs if not the Church?