OUR nation today stands at the crossroads and we are in a crisis, the three church mother bodies have observed.
And the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) and Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) have questioned the appointment of opposition members of parliament as deputy ministers.
In a joint statement signed by Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) general secretary Reverend Suzanne Matale, Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) executive director Reverend Pukuta Mwanza and Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) secretary general Father. Cleopas Lungu and read by Fr. Lungu, the three church mother bodies asked Zambians to examine their conscience, seek the truth and work towards bringing back hope for themselves.
“We face many challenges related with governance and survival, among which are increasing levels of poverty among the majority of our people, a pervading cancer of rampant corruption, escalating youth unemployment, the growing gap between the rich and poor, en education system that is falling apart, a poor health service delivery coupled with the unclear constitution making process, the gagging or muzzling of people’s freedom, the arrests of the opposition party leaders and human rights violations,” read the statement in part. “ Our politics have sunk so low as we recently experienced loss of life during political campaigns. Our democracy came at high cost and we should all endeavour to protect it and help sustain this philosophy of governance.”
Fr. Lungu said the church was seriously questioning the justification and authenticity of many of the parliamentary by-elections that had arisen out of appointment of opposition members of parliament as deputy ministers.
“Even though these elections are being held within the provisions and confines of the law, we are also increasingly seeing more and more by-elections being instigated or motivated by greed, individual interests and a selfish propensity for political dominance by the ruling party and the desire for ministerial positions by the MPs that are lured into resignations from their political parties, or that in case such MPs were expelled, they would still be adopted to re-contest their seats on another ticket,” Fr. Lungu said. “Also we question the integrity of these by-elections. Who is really behind the current spell of elections? What value are these by-elections adding to our political environment? Why are our leaders so ready to waste such colossal sums of money in the campaigns whilst our hospitals still face a critical shortage of medical staff, equipment and essential drugs?”
Fr. Lungu said the church was questioning the integrity of the members of parliament who were crossing the floor in parliament for the sake of receiving political favours and appointments.
He noted that many hospitals, schools and other service centres could not offer quality services due to inadequate funding.
“This is because they are subordinated to wrong priorities as everyone seems to be pre-occupied with by-elections,” he said.
Fr. Lungu said the church was urging government to dialogue with opposition political party leaders before such appointments were made to avoid creating an impression of political poaching which often leads to expulsions of those who accept the appointments because their parties did not approve of them.
“We question as to how many deputy ministers the government can appoint. The increasing number of appointments of cabinet deputy ministers eventually leads to a bloated cabinet which is what the people of this country have always rejected in preference for a lean Cabinet as promised by the PF government,” Fr. Lungu said.
Fr. Lungu asked government to avoid threats and using decrees in leading the nation.
“We urge the government to quickly engage their colleagues in the opposition when dealing with critical national issues. True democrats win support by means of political persuasion rather than crushing those with opposing views. As servants of the people who voted you into power, you should always put first the interest of the majority Zambians who are poor, unemployed and do not have access to basic social services and other basic needs,” Fr. Lungu said.
He urged all political parties to engage in a process of soul-searching.
Fr. Lungu urged the political leaders to demonstrate maturity, dignity and magnanimity in the way they exercised their leadership and in the manner they related to each other.
He warned that the country’s democracy would suffer greatly if the opposition was weakened.
“This will neither benefit government nor the citizens. We have been through a one party system of governance before. It is the last thing we would wish for this nation,” he said.
Fr. Lungu urged the police command to rebrand the negative image it continues to project in the eyes of the general public.
“We therefore wish to see a more professional police command that should come up with a publicized clear program of action on how they intend to police political activities during campaigns and other political activities in this nation. Police should ensure that they are not manipulated by anybody aimed at advancing expediency or impunity out of selfish motives,” he said.
Fr. Lungu urged the media to guard against being used as agents of evil.
“We believe that the media should help in preventing the dissemination of insults and hating information and toning down the sensationalizing information involving different persons,” he said.
Fr. Lungu urged the clergy to avoid abusing the pulpit for partisan politics and falling prey to political enticements and corruption.
“Do not be afraid to preach the truth in love and we urge you to continue to call the powers that be to do greater justice to your flock and those outside of your assemblies, parishes and congregations. Never tire at proclaiming the message of truth, justice, peace, love, unity, forgiveness and reconciliation,” he said. “As St. Paul exhorts us: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9)”.
Fr. Lungu said the church was calling for an all-inclusive national Indaba which should address the many challenges the nation was facing as a young and growing democracy. “We firmly believe that this nation can overcome all our current political differences through genuine dialogue and guidance,” Fr. Lungu said.