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Sunday, June 25, 2017
THE CHURCH FUMES OVER HICHILEMA'S INCARCERATION
During a press conference held at katuwila house on 16 June, three church mother bodies (catholic center in Zambia, evangelical fellowship in Zambia and the Zambia council of Catholics) delivered a strong indictment of the PF government and called for the immediate release of UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema. The three bishops said that Zambia was plunged into a political crisis and the PF has become a political dictatorship.
The Catholic Church has from time immemorial played an active role in Zambian domestic politics – it was the Catholic Church that vigorously campaigned for election of the late PF president Sata during the 2011 presidential election.
The statement issued by the three bishops has been received with mixed feelings across different sections of Zambian society. The former MMD president Rupiah Banda has expressed strong reservations against the statement and has cautioned the bishops from uttering alarming statements focused at inciting political animosities between the PF and UPND. Banda said that the results of the 11 August 2016 presidential elections was a closed chapter that must never be revisited in the sense that President Lungu was declared victorious and thereby recognised as the President of Zambia.
The Zambia police issued a statement warning the police from issuing careless statements surrounding the imprisonment of Hichilema and assured the government that it was going to intensity its patrols in the wake of planned UPND political demonstrations.
President Lungu scoffed at those people advocating for a political reconciliation between PF and UPND on the argument that his previous effort to enter a political compromise had proved fruitless and it was not feasible to set up a political reconciliation now that Hichilema was facing a treason charge before the court.
The UPND leader is incarcerated at Mukobeko maximum prison awaiting trial.
The constitutional court recently threw out Hichilema's bail application citing inconsistencies in procedures. On 14 April the UPND leader, in the company of five other people, tried to stop President Lungu's presidential motorcade en route to Mongu in Western Province in what the Zambia police described as a dangerous and unprecedented act of malicious intent to cause a fatal road accident. The police went on to raid Hichilema's residence and arrested him – the police Inspector General Kokoma Kanyanja slapped a formal charge of treason on Hichilema.
Indeed the constitutional court formed prior to last August's presidential election (through amending clauses in the constitution) has failed to accommodate the political expectations of the UPND in the sense that it failed to uphold Hichilema's petition to nullify the results of the election.
This prompted Hichilema refuse to recognize President l.ungu as the duely elected President of Zambia.
The Catholic Church in Zambia prides itself to be the voice of the politically and economically marginalized strata in society and advocates for political transparency social justice and a free press. The sensitive political statement issued by the three bishops has given rise to skirmishes among the catholic clergy, with some clergy disputing that Bishops Mpimdu's opinion reflected the views of Catholic Church in Zambia.
The recent suspension of 58 UPND members oI parliament for 30 days by the speaker of parliament for having refused to attend President Lungu's opening speech of parliament in February has only helped to inflame the volatile aspersion of a political crisis.
There are unsolicited rumours circulating on the social media that the Catholic Church is lobbying the IMF and European Union to cancel their respective economic and programmes with Zambia. It may become difficult to appreciate the limitations and sanctity of the justice system prevailing in Zambia today when it comes to contemplating upon the stand taken by the three church mother bodies: is the Catholic Church the last resort for everyone seeking political redress beyond and above the jurisdiction of the courts of law?
The Catholic Church is part of the social and political pressure groups and has always remained critical of the political and social-economic reforms pioneered the PF government. It does seem that the alarming valedictory issued by the three bishops is a wakeup call to President Lungu to dispense with the treason trial. given the fact that treason eases take a long time to be resolved. It is feared that Hichilema will languish in prison for a number of years. and thus the need for a more immediate political reconciliation. It is true that the political vested groups in Zambia are of the view that the arrest of Hichilema foreshadows the disintegration of the UPND as the second largest political party in Zambia , a situation which shall leave the PF as the sole political party. The social teaching of the Catholic church on social justice and political governance reflect the double standards taken by the church on issues of poverty, unemployment and economic backwardness in underdevelopment countries of Africa. It ignores the fact that social poverty and economic undevelopment are the offshoots of disparities in the allocation and distribution of income and wealth that cannot be resolved by the political parties in power.
The social and political antagonism between the working and ruling political elites portrays a class struggle within which the Catholic Church will remain to play its haloed verbosity.