The Catholic Bishops of Zambia have urged all the politicians across the political divide to make every effort in ensuring political cadre management and to immediately tone down their confrontational rhetoric as a way to end the escalating political violence.
In a pastoral letter issued by Zambia Conference Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) and read by Archbishop of Kasama Archdiocese, Most Rev. Ignatius Chama at the inauguration of the 125 years’ celebrations of the Catholic Church in Zambia held at St Anne’s Cathedral Parish in Chipata Diocese, the prelates said Zambians are expecting the politicians to focus on key governance and developmental issues that would help the electorate to make informed decisions. “Democracy requires in the first place that all citizens exercise their right to vote in a free and peaceful environment. Much as we are proudly acclaimed for being a peaceful country, we should never take things for granted,” The bishops said. They further stated that given the increasing incidents of politically motivated violence and continued tension between members of the political parties, the record of being peaceful is increasingly being threatened. The Catholic bishops expressed fear that if the current spate of violence is not cured may have a serious impact on the voter turnout as many eligible voters might fear going to vote due to security concerns. “As we have often noted, the free will of the people is the hallmark of any credible election. We must therefore pay particular attention to key aspects that can enhance or reduce and even negate the credibility of the forthcoming elections,” The bishops said. They stated that it is the duty of the police to protect life and property and also maintain law and order in the country. The bishops called upon the Zambia Police Service to perform their duties of maintaining law and order professionally and effectively without undue pressure from partisan influence. They indicated that the police must be impartial in applying the law fairly to anyone who breaks the laws of the country. They also called on the police to implement the public order act in the most appropriate manner by ensuring that they do not exercise any inconsistencies or biases when dealing with different groups of people for any alleged offences or when political parties have provided notices for holding of their public meetings and political rallies. The bishops further called on the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) not to be seen to be an institution that is being manipulated to suit the interest of one group or political party. They said ECZ commissioners and members of staff must remain resolute and professionally conduct their business in providing the necessary mechanisms in the electoral process that would guarantee free and fair elections. The bishops said the ECZ officers must remember that the Lord demands fairness in every business deal in which He sets the standard according to Proverbs 16 versus 11. “The ECZ is the legally constituted body mandated to manage our elections in such a manner that the right of the people to choose their leaders is unfettered. Given the many pressures exerted on the ECZ by various interest groups during election, there is need for high levels of integrity by the ECZ officers,” The bishops said. On the Media, the bishops said the role of the media in the electoral process cannot be over emphasised because it has the duty to cover all players in the electoral process. They indicated that all players in the electoral process needed access to mass media to propagate their agendas and programmes in a more efficient way. The bishops said an impartial media that would treat every player equally is cardinal and urged the both the public and private media to adhere to the principle and ethics of fairness as well as truthful. They urged the public media to be professional to ensure full and fair coverage of all political parties. The bishops also called on the responsible use and reception of social media stating that all the consumers of the media outlets to be critical of the messages they receive from various media because it was not everything that they read, hear or watch to contain the truth especially the information they get from the social media. Meanwhile the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops has said the Catholic Church does not and would not support or prop up a particular political party or candidate. The bishops stated that choosing for any candidate for political office is the free choice it leaves to the flocks charging that the church embraces members from diverse political persuasions and jealously protects their freedom of association. They said based on the Christian principles, the Church could provide some guidance that could help its members make informed decision of choosing among the many candidates and political parties that present themselves for election. “Drawing from the social teaching of the church, the qualities that candidates for political office should have are: professional competence on political, economic and social programmes, courage to speak out the truth, concern for social justice, desire to work for the common good instead of self-enrichment, disposition to use power for service especially service of the poor and under privileged,openess to dialogue, good moral standing, transparency and accountability to the electorate,” The bishops said. They stated that all Christians have a moral responsibility to vote for candidates who follow the example of Jesus who came not to be served but to serve and who emptied himself for the good of all. The bishops said Christians should not vote for candidates who were arrogant with a propensity to use violence, people with questionable moral standings, those with proven record of corruption and abuse of power and public resource and those who put narrow sectarian or ethnic interest before national interest and the common good. They appealed to the Catholic priests to remain nonpartisan stating that it was morally wrong for the Catholic priests to use the pulpit to campaign for or de-campaign any political party or parties. The bishops said the Catholic politicians must attend mass without being given platform to speak during liturgical celebrations. On Referendum, the bishops said there it is imperative that more effort is made by both the Government and Non-Governmental Organisations actors including the church to educate the people on the forthcoming elections and counsel them to vote wisely without coercing them to vote either yes or no. They stated that little has been done by concerned Government bodies to popularise the new and expanded draft on the Bill of Rights is which a subject of the referendum. The bishops called on all Zambians who have registered as voters to turn up and cast their votes during the voting day. They said voting is not only a right but also a duty to the country to help identify and put in place credible people who would make the state function in promotion of the common good. They appealed to Zambians never to get tired of voting as apathy would only give greater chance to opportunists to carry the day. They stated that voting is one of the fundamental rights and duties of every citizen and appealed to all Zambians not to be cheated and bribed during the elections. The Pastoral letter was signed by Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu, Archbishop Chama, Bishop Alick Banda, Bishop Raymond Mpezele, Bishop George Lungu, Bishop Charles Kasonde, Bishop Evans Chinyemba,OMI, Bishop Clement Mulenga,SDB, Bishop Patrick Chisanga,OFM Conv, Bishop Moses Hamungole, Bishop Justin Mulenga, Bishop Benjamin Phiri, Bishop Emeritus of Mansa Diocese Aaron Chisha, and Bishop elect of Livingstone Monsignor Valentine Kalumba, OMI. Download Full Pastoral Letter Here