The following article was published by the PF controlled Daily Mail
MINISTER of Home Affairs Edgar Lungu has described the relations between the Catholic Church and the Patriotic Front government as solid.
This is despite the deportation of Catholic priest Viateur Banyangadora who has followed up his deportation with an attack on President Sata and his government.
“The relations between government, the Catholic Church and the Rwandan government have remained solid despite the deportation of the Rwandese Catholic priest,” said Mr Lungu in an interview yesterday.
The Catholic priest, back in his native Rwanda has, meanwhile, attacked President Sata’s leadership.
Sections of the Zambian media have quoted the priest as saying: “You see, my deportation back home was absurd. I have (sic) in Zambia for a long time now. The people there are great. I was in Zambia under Mr (Rupiah) Banda and I can tell you he wasn’t like that. He allowed criticism.
“But that cannot be said about the incumbent [Micheal (sic)] Sata. He is a very arrogant man. And so are his ministers. He is (sic) man who doesn’t allow anyone to criticise him. When you do, he sends police officers to your home.”
The priest is also quoted as saying Mr Sata’s government may not rule after 2016.
But speaking in an interview yesterday, Mr Lungu elaborated on the deportation.
“We deported the man because he had no legal papers to remain in Zambia,” Mr Lungu said and continued: “We later came to learn about his divisive sermons after his deportation, which he has not even challenged.”
The minister said despite not having valid legal papers to work in Zambia, the priest overstretched Zambia’s hospitality and started preaching hate and divisions.
He described as “desperate” attempts by opposition parties and sections of the media to try and politicise the deportation when keeping the priest in Zambia “spelled potential danger”.
“What the opposition and some sections of the media which are not credible are doing, is to clutch on straws like drowning men,” Mr Lungu said, “but I can tell you it won’t work because the PF is miles ahead of them…they are like specks in the rear view mirror of a cruising car. We are working for the people as they play cheap politics,” he said.
Mr Lungu said “as a responsible government, we know what hate messages spread by people like this priest have done in the region and we would be failing in our duty if we stood by and did nothing while divisions are being encouraged.”
And reacting to complaints from Transparency International Zambia executive director Goodwell Lungu and Reverend George Lungu of Chipata over the deportation, the minister writes in his letter dated August 13, 2012 that the priest has not even appealed.
“We have received no appeal from Father Viateur Banyangandora nor a retraction of his anti-government speeches which had the effect of creating unnecessary hostility between church members and Government,” Mr Lungu writes in a letter copied to President Sata.
Both had written to Government on August 8 2012, to complain about the deportation, but Mr Lungu writes: “Whilst appreciating your counsel to the ministry on the issue of Father Viateur Banyangandora’s deportation, I wish to advise that an appeal against deportation is a right that the affected person can exercise.”
He added: “An appeal from Father Banyangandora is what will form a basis for review of his case.”
On Sunday, about 130 Catholic Diocesan Priests, who attended a national conference in Chipata asked Government to consider revoking the deportation order.
A statement from the Association of Zambian Diocesan Catholic Clergy urged Government to issue a comprehensive statement.
The priests implored the Catholic community and priests in Chipata Diocese, and Zambians to remain calm, peaceful and prayerful as they await Fr Banyangandora’s return.
They said Fr Banyangandora is an effective and committed member of the Catholic Church since his ordination to priesthood in 2004.
The statement was issued by Chipata Diocese Bishop Reverend Geroge Lungu and was read on Sunday in all the Diocesan Catholic parishes in Eastern Province.
And the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) has called on Government to revoke the deportation order.
A pastoral letter issued in Lusaka yesterday by CCZ general secretary Suzanne Matale reads in part: “The deportation of the Catholic priest, Fr Viateur Banyangandora, pastor of Lundazi, is totally unacceptable and unfortunate.
“The CCZ is calling for the nullification of his deportation.”