By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
The Catholic Church has sounded an alarm on an array of national issues including governance, fight against corruption, rule of law, moral decay, unemployment, constitutionalism, cadrerism and the human rights situation among others.
In a statement on the State of the Nation, the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) has catalogued regional and tribal sentiments, public health, free education, environment and climate change as well as agriculture and food security as other concerns.
The Catholic Statement on the State of the Nation follows a steady rise in immoral activities such as sodomy, homosexuality and child sexual abuse, electoral violence, tribalism, regionalism, political intolerance, hate speech, bribery and the polarisation of the media and corruption.
The bishops have observed the need to re-look into the constitution and other pieces of legislation, expressed concern on regional and tribal sentiments, as well as high unemployment and poverty levels, among others.
They have stated that the manner in which the Kabushi and Kwacha parliamentary by-elections were conducted was unacceptable and left much to be desired and that it was a recipe for violence if left uncorrected.
“Both the courts and the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) could have done better,” the Bishops said.
The statement was signed by ZCCB President Archbishop Ignatius Chama, Rt Rev Charls Kasonde, Rt Rev. Alick Banda, Rt Rev George Zumaile Lungu, Rt Rev Benjamin Phiri, Rt Rev Clement Mulenga, Rt Rev Evan Chinyemba, Rt Rev Patrick Chisanga, Rt Rev Valentine Kalumba and Rt Rev Edwin Mulandu.
On moral decay, the Bishops have observed that ethical standards among citizens have drastically dropped and that it was with deep sorrow that there has been a steady rise in cases of child sexual abuse, early child marriages, child labour, sodomy, gender based violence, human trafficking, homosexuality, bestiality, suicide and abductions in Zambia.
“These are clear indications that moral standards among our people have drastically dropped. We therefore call upon security agencies to act promptly. As a nation, we all need to put our heads together to bring these immoral activities to a halt. For us to achieve this noble objective we ought to uphold Christian and family values which are of paramount importance. The use of vulgar language in the nation especially through social media should be discouraged,” the Catholic Bishops stated.
The Catholic Church observed that regional and tribal sentiments was another matter of concern and challenged government to lead and be seen to lead the way in eliminating the tribal talk and sentiments.
The ZCCB has emphasised the need for a genuine, inclusive and democratic national reconciliation where political leaders ought to realise and appreciate the fact that their priority should be that of serving Zambians.
“The political situation in Zambia is still characterized by the continued politicking and trivializing of important national matters by political leaders at all levels. Regional and tribal sentiments still enjoy a centre stage in the country’s political circles,” the Catholic Bishops said.
Another concern raised by the Bishops is the unemployment for which they stressed the need for Government to urgently improvise practical strategies on how best to deal with the falling standards of education.
While recognising that Government had employed 30,496 teachers and 11,276 health workers, the Bishops stated that it was impossible for government to employ all citizens.
ZCCB also expressed concern at the high poverty levels, saying poverty and inequality levels in Zambia had continued to rise and that Government needed to urgently address inequalities.
“Zambia faces both high levels of poverty and inequality, even when compared to other countries in the region. Investment and impressive economic growth over the decade brought benefits to urban areas, but poverty in rural areas remains widespread,” the Bishops said.
The Bishops also observed the need to re-look into the constitution and other pieces of legislation, such as the electoral process, Public Order Act, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Penal Code is long overdue.
Zambia’s Constitution, they said, has remained susceptible to regular alteration and politicization.
“The perceived biasness by the Electoral Management Board (EMB) especially towards the ruling party has resulted in the diminishing public confidence in the Electoral Commission of Zambia. The way the recent Parliamentary By-elections in both Kabushi and Kwacha Constituencies on the Copperbelt, were conducted leaves much to be desired and a recipe for violence if left uncorrected. Both the Courts and the Electoral Commission could have done better,” the Bishops said.
The Bishops also have condemned police brutality to political opponents as a way of treating those suspected to have broken the law.
They demand that property trespassing, arbitrary arrests, detention and depriving of the accused of their property must be done within the confinements of the law and if not, these should not be tolerated at all.
Other areas of concern raised are on human rights situation, cadrism, fight against corruption, constituency development fund, agriculture and food security and free education policy, among others.