By NATION REPORTER
THE Catholic Church has finally broken its silence and has raised alarm on a range of governance fears including the ever-shrinking democratic space, heightened LGBTQ agenda, the spirit of intolerance, attempts to exterminate opposition political parties, the impunity by Speaker of the National Assembly Nelly Mutti to brazenly breach the Constitution as well as the high cost of living.
The Catholic Church has also asked Chief Justice Mumba Malila to put his house in order by providing effective leadership to the Judiciary, which has fiercely come under scrutiny because of some of the political decisions made thus far.
The Catholic Church has also strongly chastised the UPND for sacrilegiously abusing Archbishop of Lusaka Diocese Dr Alick Banda whom the ruling party called the Lucifer of Zambia and that the governing party had never tendered an apology for the slur.
In s strong-worded Pastoral Letter issued yesterday, the Zambia Conference for Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) have red-flagged emerging dictatorial tendencies in the new dawn administration and have called on President Hakainde Hichilema to endeavour to govern the country by the rule of law and not at the whims and caprices of man.
The Pastoral Letter which was signed by all the 12 Catholic Bishops was read by Rt Rev Charles Kasonde, the vice-president of the ZCCB.
In May this year, the ZCCB were supposed to issue a Pastoral Letter but before they could gather, they were summoned by President Hichilema and the Pastoral Letter never saw the light of day.
“Human rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are arbitrarily being trampled on, especially against those considered to hold dissenting political views or persons belonging to opposition political parties. On several occasions, the police have denied opposition parties the opportunity to assemble on grounds of lack of manpower and unspecified security reasons.”
There is also a growing tendency of selective application of the law and it has become tradition for the police to arrest members of the opposition political parties in a violent manner and keep them in detention longer than necessary and never take their cases to court. All these serve as examples of undemocratic practices that fall short of the respect for civil and political rights,” the Catholic Bishops said.
The Catholic Bishops have condemned the governing party for engaging in politics activities schemed at decimating democracy by attempting to kill opposition political parties by sponsoring intra-party confusion.
The Catholic Church is also concerned that there has been lack of impartiality and objectiveness in the Judiciary and have called on the Chief Justice Mumba Malila to provide effective leadership to the bench.
The Catholic Bishops have expressed concern over the recent events in Parliament which has seen Speaker of the National Assembly Nelly Mutti disregard the provisions of the Constitution and recognised expelled Matero Member of Parliament Miles Sampa’s illegal and purported Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Robert Chabinga.
“We urge the Speaker to embrace criticism, build multi-partisan consensus and accept that she is the Speaker of the National Assembly and not of a given political party or any other arm of government. It is also important for presiding officers in the National Assembly to follow the Constitution and not precedence or tradition when dealing with issues that touch on the Supreme law of the land.”
The election of different leaders in the National Assembly should be guided by the Constitution and not precedence especially in instances where precedence may be unconstitutional,” the Catholic Bishops said.
The Bishops have also condemned the UPND government’s adversity to criticism by resorting to the use of uncouth and abusive language when responding to criticism.
They said the UPND government officials had been employing intimidation, name calling and often using rogue online publications to maliciously scandalise critics and political opponents.
“We do not expect this uncalled for behaviour from leaders in a democratic society where divergent views must be accommodated. The denunciation of Archbishop Alick Banda as the Lucifer of Zambia by the UPND secretary general Batuke Imenda was not only an affront on the person of the Archbishop Banda but the entire Catholic Church and its leadership in Zambia.”
“Until now, the chief executive officer of the ruling party has not retracted his words nor apologised apart from the party and government calling for a ceasefire. The demeaning of the Archbishop by the UPND is simply a demonstration of the spirit of intolerance towards criticism,” the Catholic Bishops said.
They have also expressed worry at the gloomy economic situation in the country with the high cost of living and the lack of transparency in the country’s democratic reforms.
What the Catholic Bishops said in their Pastoral Letter yesterday:
The democratic space is shrinking in Zambia with freedoms of expression assembly being trampled upon
Threatening and gagging of media houses
Clandestine schemes by the governing UPND to exterminate opposition political parties by sponsoring intra-party confusion in the opposition.
Clarion call on the Chief Justice Mumba Malila to provide effective leadership to the judiciary.
Condemn Speaker of the National Assembly Nelly Mutti for her biasness and total disregard of the law in her decision particularly on the election of the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament
Advise President Hichilema to stick to his promises to govern the country by the rule of law and not by his whims
Advise government to address the high cost of living and review the mining tax regime
Raise concern over the heightened LGBTQ agenda which is gaining ground with a lot of clandestine support from some organisation
Condemn the denunciation of Archbishop Dr Alick Banda as the ‘Lucifer of Zambia’