Monday, November 01, 2010
By Ernest Chanda and Collins Phiri
Mon 01 Nov. 2010, 04:01 CAT
ANGLICAN Bishops have urged President Rupiah Banda not to assent to the Anti Corruption bill that seeks to remove the abuse of office offence from the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) Act.
Delivering a speech at the centenary service of the Anglican Church in Zambia which was held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka yesterday, Anglican Diocese of eastern Zambia Bishop William Mchombo said removing the offence could compromise the fight against corruption.
Bishop Mchombo’s statement on the ACC Act seemingly incenced government officials in attendance with Vice-President George Kunda visibly annoyed.
And former president Frederick Chiluba made gestures of disapproval as Bishop Mchombo was delivering his speech.
Chiluba constantly looked up and sideways while twisting his mouth.
And President Banda’s special assistant for press Dickson Jere, who appeared somehow disappointed, complained to Vice-President Kunda that the message Bishop Mchombo delivered was not in the earlier prepared speech.
Bishop Mchombo said the government should not relent in the fight against corruption.
“The fight against corruption should not be compromised and neither should we relent. It is in this light that we are concerned with the removal of the abuse of office clause from the ACC Act. We do not in any way imply that public officers cannot engage in income generating activities to supplement on their salaries; far from it,” Bishop Mchombo said.
“Certainly there are guidelines that allow for such to happen as long as one does not have illicit access to public resources or pecuniary advantage on account of his or her public office. These excesses are well documented year in and year out in the Auditor General’s reports. That is why, Your Excellency, we implore you not to consent to the removal of the abuse of office clause from the ACC Act 42 of 1996.”
As the Bishop spoke more about reinstating the abuse of office offence clause, the congregation applauded him, with some shouting “ya, ya!”
Bishop Mchombo said the Anglican Church would always speak against abuse of power by those in authority.
He further appealed to the government to enact laws that protect people from abuse by investors.
“The Anglican Church is being true to our Christian heritage by standing where our Lord stood, a ‘voice for the voiceless’. Our Lord didn’t try to change the power structures of his time by becoming, with his followers, part of the powers that be. Instead he created a new spirit-filled community living by, and willing to die for, totally different gospel values,” said Bishop Mchombo. “We will always speak out against the misuse of power that impoverishes the poor people and harms the common good. For instance, admitting to a problem is the first step toward finding a solution. Confessing a sin is the beginning of redemption. It is gratifying therefore to note that some of our leaders do acknowledge that all is not well insofar as the conditions under which some of our people work are concerned.”
And giving a vote of thanks, Dean of the Anglican Province of Central Africa Bishop Albert Chanda said the Church was not against the government whenever it spoke on issues affecting society.
Bishop Chanda called on President Banda to reflect on the ACC bill and restore the offence of abuse of office.
“Your Excellency, we appeal to your conscience to re-look at the Anti Corruption bill and review it. The view of our Church is that the enactment in the ACC Act should be critically reviewed. The concept of good governance should be characterised by transparency and is applicable to all sections of society,” said Bishop Chanda. “And we are hoping as a church that the bill has not been presented for assent.
We pray that according to your powers vested in the law you uphold zero tolerance to corruption by restoring the abuse of office clause. Your Excellency, when we speak as a church we are not being against government. We speak for the people just as God commanded us.”
In response, President Banda, who was guest of honour, abandoned his speech and spoke off-the-cuff, calling for admission whenever people were wrong.
He said politicians created problems while the Church sorted them out.
“If you want to be forgiven, you must accept that you have sinned. We are not holy; we make a lot of mistakes because we are human. And where we are wrong, we have admitted and said sorry, for the people to help us,” said President Banda. “We will always have challenges; there is no human society without challenges. We the politicians are there to ensure that we read the mood of the people; and you have told us to ensure that peace prevails.”
The function was also attended by first Republican president Dr Kenneth Kaunda, his successor Chiluba and wife Regina, and Vice-President Kunda and his wife Irene.
Others were Patriotic Front leader Michael Sata and Kabwata parliamentarian Given Lubinda as well as several opposition parliamentarians and ministers.