Columnists Features

When political debate divides Church

PAUL Moonga.

THE events surrounding governance issues, the arrest of United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema and the resultant entry into fray by the Church, have taken up a larger share of our polity in the recent past.

With due respect, concerns about perceived or real bad performance by the government is not an issue that anyone should be concerned about, but the manner and tone are as important as the content.
What is worrying is when these concerns and objections are masked in translucent political jackets. What is wrong is when these objections and innuendos are not genuine but skewed to fight the government without justification.
The concerns are even deeper when the Church is the one that sits on one edge of the chair to deliver biased sermons to the Zambian and international communities.
I want to draw attention to the continued accusations by the Catholic Church against Government in the name of the pastoral letters, in which they have called President Lungu a dictator.
If they fail to explain the meaning of dictatorship in relation to the Zambian situation, they risk losing faith in their parishioners and render themselves mere actors of the Christian faith.
I am aware that the statement was jointly issued by the Catholic Bishops, the Council of Churches in Zambia and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ). I am also aware that EFZ secretary general Phukuta Mwanza has disassociated his organisation from the contents of that joint statement.
This only leaves CCZ and some Catholic bishops on the plane, but the latter has been consistent in fighting the government of President Lungu using the pastoral letters that are originated without consensus from the other bishops.
With due respect, the leadership in the Catholic Church needs to realise that it is associated with a rich history of providing counsel to political and other leaders. I am making this position because I am no longer convinced that this great church can pick up any tool today to demonstrate that it is sitting in the middle of the chair.
The church leadership is simply deviating from the genuine Christian faith that is already known. The faith that counsels wrongdoers before they fall into troubled waters. The faith that reaches to both troubled souls and those that are on their way to danger. Catholic leaders have lost that plot.
They are blind to reality because they see no wrong with Mr Hichilema refusing to acknowledge that President Lungu is the head of State.
Interestingly, they have ganged up to promote the idea that Mr Hichilema’s election petition was not heard after he lost the 2016 presidential election. That argument, in my view, is fraught with unmeasurable irregularities and let the record be asserted.
Mr Hichilema’s election petition was heard in the Constitutional Court but his lawyers mounted a huge number of applications even when they knew the life time of the court was 14 days.
President Lungu never sat in that court as a judge and Mr Hichilema was never represented by the President. His lawyers simply made a myriad of applications even on the day the ruling was to be made in a court they knew had a limited life span.
Under what circumstances should Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu say Mr Hichilema was justified not to recognise President Lungu because his petition was not heard?
Society should instead raise objections on the conduct of Mr Hichilema’s lawyers who were not concerned about the welfare of their client.
In my final analysis, accusations that the governance of the country is questionable are baseless and should be dismissed. I believe that President Lungu is being blamed for mistakes committed by his political opponents.
Even the issue of the treason charge, which Mr Hichilema is facing, has roots in the conduct of the UPND president and cannot be blamed on President Lungu.
This government is doing very well in many spheres of its performance, including the economy and its international relations, and that is why there are several visitations by different heads of States.
The Zambian Kwacha is faming very well against other international convertible currencies while the construction industry is booming. So, it is wrong to blame the President and Government, which is performing well.
Additionally, it must be mentioned that this government has invested heavily in the social cash transfer in order to help the poor in this country. This should have been the top-most concern for all those who appear to enjoy offering unsupported criticism.
The Catholic Church and other allied institutions have never acknowledged all these efforts. This has potential to make citizens speculate that they have refused to acknowledge these good deeds because they discount from the standing of the opposition.
The church has no choice but to remain neutral for them to remain relevant to the direction of this country. Anything short of that endangers the society they have elected to serve. The Catholic bishops must therefore repent or stand down.
The author is a member of central committee for Patriotic Front.


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