PRESS CONFEREENCE BY HIS GRACE THE ARCHBISHOP OF LUSAKA, THE MOST REV TELESPHORE-GEORGE MPUNDU.
3rd March 2010
Reference is hereby made to the Press Statement attributed to former President, Dr. Fredrick Chiluba and broadcast simultaneously on ZNBC TV on MUVI TV on Monday 22 February 2010. In this statement the former president mentions my name and the Catholic Church in conjunction with the alleged polygamy of one Mr. Michael Sata, the leader of the Patriotic Front Party (PF).
2. It is very unfortunate that in the fight against his “sworn political adversary” the former president makes insinuations with regard to me personally and casts wild aspersions on the Catholic Church. The comments are unacceptable, in extremely bad taste and should be regarded with the disdain they merit. Mr. Sata is a public figure whose “family life” cannot be hidden from the public eye for any length of time. Dr. Frederick Chiluba was therefore not making any new revelation because what he said was common knowledge long before the birth of the Patriotic Front when Mr. Sata was still side by side with him in the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).
3. Ridicule on the Catholic Church’s Leadership and the doctrine on Marriage and the Eucharist
The question I asked myself is: “Why the so-called revelation which is two decades old at this particular time?” Only Dr. Frederick Chiluba can tell us but it cannot be denied that in his response to Mr. Michael Sata he has accomplished two objectives which seem dear to him, namely to get at the Catholic Church for which he seems to harbour an almost pathological hatred and has attempted to implicate a Catholic Bishop in what he terms a polygamous “marriage” thereby bringing into ridicule both the credibility of leadership of the Catholic Church as well as its doctrine on Marriage and the Holy Eucharist. There is a further, more subtle insinuation that links a Catholic Bishop, that is to say Archbishop Mpundu, to the Patriotic Front Leader as a “relative” through what he calls “marriage” and therefore one who is at least sympathetic to if not a member of that party!
4. The little that he says about Catholic Doctrine on Marriage and the Holy Eucharist exposes his total lack of knowledge about the subject. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Nothing in the entire world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious impetuosity!” The Catholic Church believes in and teaches marriage between one man and one woman which once freely contracted and in accordance with all laid down procedures is indissoluble. The teaching doesn’t change because a close relative of a religious person, a priest or a bishop fails to adhere to it. The insinuation that because my sister is alleged to have “contracted marriage” or cohabited with Mr. Sata, the Catholic Church condones or even “blesses” it is as speculative in the extreme as it is highly reprehensible. In the Catholic Church, there isn’t one set of laws, rules and regulations for the rich, famous and powerful and another set for the poor and weak non-entities. In the mid 16th Century, King Henry VIII of England wanted a set of rules especially for himself as King with regard to marriage but when the Pope said an emphatic No the king broke away from the Church of Rome to form what is now called the Anglican Church. Dr. Frederick Chiluba doesn’t seem to know or appreciate this historical fact.
5. The Catholic Church and successive Zambian Governments
As regards Chiluba’s linking of Archbishop Mpundu with the Patriotic Front, it is a myth in the corridors of political power today and yesterday that the Catholic Church is in league with the opposition. During the colonial era, especially the Federal Administration, the Catholic Church was regarded as “always sympathetic to and siding with the Natives”! Natives meant black Africans. In the One-Party Second Republic there was only UNIP and the Catholic Church was regarded as simply the “Opposition” and we were subjected to horrendously hateful media editorials from the government owned and only tabloids allowed apart from the very weak and now defunct “National Mirror”. Strangely the same government owned media to date have little if anything positive thing to say about the Catholic Church unless it is said by a minister at a Church function. As soon as the MMD was born, the UNIP government branded us as sympathetic to the MMD threatening us with unspecified reprisals if they were retained in power! Today the MMD is in power and their song is, as one of the most prominent Catholics has put it: “The Catholic Bishops are always on the side of the opposition.” The Catholic Church Leadership is not on the side of the opposition but on the side of TRUTH. When the MMD was in opposition the Catholic Church, Fr. Umberto in particular with his “Ichengelo” News magazine published in Chibemba, was their champion. Immediately the MMD came to power the Catholic Church became the “Opposition” and enemy number One. Fr. Umberto became a “persona non grata” and now it is the turn of Fr. Miha to be a “persona non grata”! We Zambians have a very short memory indeed. The only reason why the Catholic Church is vilified by any government of the day, British or our “Liberators” who quickly turn into our Oppressors is that in season and out of season the Catholic Church continues to announce the TRUTH.
6. The role of the Church in a modern world
The song of constant accusation of the Catholic Church Leadership as involving in partisan politics must stop once and for all. We are sick and tired of listening to it and it is positively revolting. It is sickening because we have explained time and again that we as a Church leadership are neither partisan nor interested in political power, not even by proxy. Using the words of my brother Bishop, Paul Duffy of Mongu Diocese: “It doesn’t make sense, it is totally illogical.” It is sickening because the accusation is a desperate but futile attempt to silence the Catholic Church on matters it has the right and duty to speak about. This is a quotation from the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church as it understands itself and its mission in the world: “The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts of the followers of Christ, who, united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit press onwards towards the kingdom of the Father and are bearers of a message of salvation intended for men and women. That is why Christians cherish a feeling of deep solidarity with the human race and its history” Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World known as “Gaudium Et Spes” paragraph 1.
7. Therefore, everything that affects people’s lives is of immense interest to the Catholic Church. It therefore has not only the right but also the duty to contribute to the debate without the sickening comment that we are being involved in “politics”! There is little that is not political. Everything is political: food security, health care, education of our children, social and economic justice for all etc. We have a right and duty to call the leaders we put in power to account and that doesn’t mean we want political power. The government should rejoice if people are interested in what they are doing. It is a very bad sign when people remain mute when decisions which affect their lives are made by those they put into office. It is a sign of a dead nation. It is sign of a dictatorship and an enslaved population. The government of the people, by the people and for the people should and must engage citizens who put them into power in political debate at all times as a matter of right not concession. The electorate who put political leaders into power have the right and duty to hold the same leaders to account not at the end of their term of office but from the word go. Only a very insecure government is afraid of its own shadows, its own people and is allergic to criticism.
8. Our role as citizens
As citizens, therefore, we have every right to comment and critique whatever our government does. It is our government and it is there for us not for itself. Every decision the government makes affects our lives in one way or another, for better or for worse. We will, therefore, not be bullied and intimidated into silence! The accusation of involving in partisan politics is a very weak attempt and it won’t work, it has never worked. The other attempts, for instance to discredit and/or eliminate individuals will not work either because the Church is not just one individual but the Family of God with a mandate to proclaim the Good news. In this it is unstoppable.
9. We encourage our faithful to take part in the political process by joining political parties of their own choice. We as Leadership of the Catholic faithful are not king makers who tell our faithful what party or individual to vote for but we do give guidelines as to what kind of leaders they should vote for in order to exercise their choice responsibly as a Christian duty. We are proud of and cherish the diversity of political opinion and affiliation among the Catholic faithful and that is how it should be. We don’t believe in the so-called “Christian” political parties because history shows that they have not worked and they don’t work. The Catholic Church is the hardest critic of these so-called Christian parties found in some European countries. It is wonderful to note that the Catholic Church, in spite of the diversity of political opinions and persuasions among its faithful remains very much united notwithstanding constant attempts by the political powers-that-be to divide it.
10. Archbishop Mpundu is not a member of the Patriotic Front (PF)
In the MMD, to which Dr. Frederick Chiluba belongs and of which he has re-emerged as a very vocal spokesperson, the name of Archbishop Mpundu is sung even more than those of other bishops. He is regarded as “PF Bishop” number 1. This is, of course, preposterous but this is what the MMD believes and says. Dr. Frederick Chiluba’s successor in State House openly accused Archbishop Mpundu of being partisan at a meeting on the matter of the Constitution with Catholic Bishops in State House in July 2007, just three weeks before the ordination of Bishop Alick Banda in Solwezi. He cited “Intelligence sources” that had kept reporting to him that Archbishop Mpundu was a member of the Patriotic Front. If this is the type of muck the “Intelligence sources” can come up with, then “Intelligence Sources” is a phrase that covers a multitude of sins. I shudder to think of what else they have manufactured in the past and what they can genetically engineer in future against the government’s real or perceived enemies, particularly during the run up to next year’s elections.
11. On 15th September 2007, there appeared the now famous article entitled “Mpundu laughs” in one of the private daily tabloids. The then Head of State was visibly incensed when soon afterwards he gave a press conference dedicated precisely to Archbishop Mpundu offering him a law lecture at State House! What people should understand is the background to the president’s fury. For late President Mwanawasa it was not a matter of the ZEC input on the Constitution making process as explained by Archbishop Mpundu when he was the ZEC President. The late President saw it as a personal attack on himself as MMD leader and President by Patriotic Front member and Catholic Archbishop Mpundu. It was a dramatic display of raw intimidation and acrimony which led to hateful anti-Catholic utterances by politicians in the print and electronic media and even in the National Assembly debates. That is why on 22 October 2007 I called a press conference to reiterate and explain the ZEC stance on the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) and to decry the anti-Catholic rhetoric of the politicians. Our stand has been vindicated by the way this august body has conducted its affairs with regard to the Constitution making process. In February 2008 the late president was to completely stun the Catholic Bishops when he told them at a meeting in State House, “Why do you hate me? I paid for two of you to go to the funeral of your pope and you still don’t like me?” The matter of the Constitution is not a personal issue but a national project requiring all stake holders to be brought on board.
12. When the late president died ZNBC TV organised or was made to organise a live discussion on the “legacy of the deceased president”. The Chair of ZEC requested me to take part. I declined to do so because Mwanawasa saw me, a Catholic Archbishop, a supposedly paid up PF member as his enemy number One. It would have been hypocritical on my part to appear on ZNBC TV to heap praise on someone who sincerely believed the Catholic Bishops, I particularly, hated him. Secondly, the so-called “legacy” is a figment of some people’s fertile imagination, a creation of a clique of people with vested interests in retaining or ascending to political power. The only legacy I know is that once elected into power our leaders become arrogant and intransigent. They want us to shut up, sit up and put up. It is on the wings and the ticket of such a non-existent “legacy” that they were ushered into power and today they are there. Exploiting and adding to the people’s emotionally charged grief they campaigned on “continuing the legacy” of Levy Mwanawasa. No wonder there is little, if any agreement at all among the architects of this fictitious legacy as to what this elusive “legacy” really means.
13. Religious Bigotry and Fundamentalism as a threat to Global Peace
In the world today, it is widely agreed that the greatest threat to global peace is not poverty or nuclear arms but religious bigotry and fundamentalism. A look at what is going on in the Middle East, the suicide bombings carried out in the belief that death in the process of killing or trying to kill an enemy one who is opposed to one’s religion guarantees the crown of martyrdom. The relations between two neighbouring nuclear powers of India and Pakistan convince one of how precarious the world stage is right now. The African Continent has examples of religious extremism and its lethal consequences in countries like Algeria, Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan. Should some religious radicals get hold of weapons of mass destruction then only God can protect us from an Armageddon!
14. Only some months ago, this nation listened in bewilderment as a
Minister of Religion a pastor who also happens to be the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, on the floor of the National Assembly, departed from his allotted task of telling the nation the root cause of political cadre violence and how to arrest the situation. He went on to attack the Catholic Church, not just in Rwanda but all over the world, accusing it of masterminding the genocide in Rwanda, telling the world that our faithful are Catholic but not Christian! He ridiculed the Catholic Church and made the Catholic faithful in this country, objects of scorn and hatred for the rest of the Zambian population.
14. The Catholic faithful are still apprehensive and very angry. Some of them feared for their lives; they were afraid of being assaulted by those who may have been led to think that the Catholic Church is “murder incorporated” as Dan Brown’s notorious “The Da Vinci Code” insinuates. Many wanted to stage a peaceful countrywide demonstration but we persuaded them not to resort to such action. It would have been playing in the hands of the government who would have deployed soldiers with orders to shoot to kill and later blame the demonstrators as having provoked the shooting. To date this man, a Reverend Pastor, the preacher of hatred in the National Assembly against Four Million Zambian Catholics, remains unrepentant and in his privileged government position. During Dr. Chiluba’s administration, one of his senior ministers called the Catholic Bishops liars after they published a Pastoral Letter. We demanded an apology from him but we never got it. Only Dr. Chiluba apologised on his behalf in private but the apology was never published. There are many Catholics in the MMD and many Catholics voted for the present government and the president but the government they voted for has remained silent in the face of their humiliation and vilification. To date we have not heard any word from the highest authorities in the land about this deplorable affair.
15. Last week we were witnesses to the utterances of Frederick Chiluba. Isn’t he a preacher of some standing and in high demand to preach at services in some Churches? Wasn’t he anointed as soon as he went into State House? Didn’t he stun everyone by waking up one day and declaring Zambia a “Christian” nation? Evangelical, Council of Churches in Zambia or Catholic Christianity?! and making sure that the declaration was put in the Constitution preamble? He, from a vantage point, poured scorn on Catholic Doctrine and the most Sacred of practices, maligned its leaders and got away with it. We Catholics don’t go about burning cars, destroying buildings and property or threatening death to those who publicly disparage our beliefs. Our faithful feel humiliated and once again are very angry. They are even angrier because we don’t seem to have the machinery and financial muscle of our aggressors with their command of the mass media to swiftly counter such spiteful attacks. I urge them to remain focused and not to allow themselves to be disturbed by statements meant to mislead and discourage them. They know what we believe in and what our faith asks of us so they should not be worried.
In conclusion, Former President Dr. Frederick Chiluba’s remarks concerning Catholic Marriage, the Holy Eucharist and the insinuations I have mentioned are not just a casual and off the cuff stuff. They are a carefully planned and craftily accomplished phase of an orchestrated campaign against the Catholic Church which is wrongly perceived as the obstacle to certain people’s ascendancy to or retention of political power. In a way we are quite flattered to be attributed such tremendous power which we don’t have and certainly which we don’t want to have. Jesus rejected all power and yet it is in his powerlessness that he redeemed the world.
17. Dr. Chiluba’s unwarranted remarks are a political strategy to attempt to silence the Catholic Church by discrediting it and thereby eroding its credibility. It is a futile exercise because it will not work. Our Catholic faithful and many people of Zambia can see through this very clearly and I dare say that they are not at all amused. The campaign for the 2011 general and presidential elections started with the demise of the previous president. It should not be surprising if similar or even worse attacks come our way in the run up to 2011 elections. Our faithful should not be afraid because the Church’s weapon is the greatest and deadliest, namely the TRUTH. Truth is another name for Jesus Christ who said he was THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE. The TRUTH will set us free. It is this weapon that our antagonists are afraid of and they don’t want us to proclaim it but woe to us if we don’t proclaim the Good News.
18. Two weeks ago we entered the Holy Season of Lent which is a special time of grace in which we examine our lives and turn to God for forgiveness. We repeat together time and again the words of our Lord in the prayer of “Our Father” which he gave us: “Lord forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” On Good Friday we shall hear once again the words of Jesus on the Cross as he breathes his last: “Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” This is our prayer and in it lies at the foundation of our Christian life of Faith, Hope and Love.
+T-G. Mpundu ARCHBISHOP OF LUSAKA
ZEC BISHOP DIRECTOR FOR COMMUNICATIONS
3rd March 2010