Wednesday, February 16, 2011
By Speedwell Mupuchi in Kitwe
Wed 16 Feb. 2011, 04:01 CAT
THE Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) has challenged President Rupiah Banda to urgently and conclusively deal with the issue of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964.
According to reliable sources who attended the meeting between President Banda and CCZ leaders at State House on Saturday, the church leaders told President Banda that they were saddened by the turn of events in Western Province which resulted in the loss of life.
"We believe that the issue of the Barotse Agreement has been pending for a long time and now time is ripe to completely hold the bull by its horns and deal with the matter of Barotse Agreement conclusively," according to a joint pastoral letter read by CCZ president Moses Mwale.
The leaders noted the President's efforts in bringing together all stakeholders to amicably dialogue and forge a way forward in resolving the matter.
"We are happy to note that the Western Province leadership have been to speak with you on this matter and we are happy about the stand they have taken. Our hope now is that the momentum is not lost until the matter comes to rest with finality. Your government will go down in the records of the nation as a government which effectively dealt with the matter peacefully and amicably," reads the pastoral letter.
And according to sources, President Banda in response to the Barotse issue blamed the current state of underdevelopment of Western Province to Lozi rigid traditional customs that forbade land acquisition and ownership.
"He (President Banda) said he asked KK, (Frederick) Chiluba, Sikota (Wina) and they all don't seem to understand what the problem is. He said it appeared some people just don't want the Lozi traditional leadership," said the source.
"He said the problem had presented an opportunity to review the Lozi culture, especially relating to ownership of land, because no investor is willing to invest in an area where they will not own the land. The President gave an example where he has to first pay homage to the Litunga before visiting government projects and programmes. He says this does not happen in other provinces."
And the church leaders urged the government to urgently act on cleaning the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ). The leaders expressed worry about the happenings at ECZ because they could easily erode confidence in the electoral process.
They appealed to President Banda to help restore confidence in the ECZ.
The leaders also urged a level playing field ahead of the polls and that political leaders should meet to discuss and iron out all contentions.
"The discussions should also include agreements on how the state media and the public order Act governing campaigns will be applied fairly," they suggested.
The leaders also applauded President Banda's assurances of free, fair and violence-free elections this year.
"We understand these pronouncements to mean that the Police Service will be allowed to act professionally and will not be intimidated by politicians as reported in a statement attributed to the Police Inspector General," read the letter.
The leaders urged President Banda to pay attention to the concerns and complaints of all the electoral players so that a level playing field and a good electoral system were in place for the 2011 elections.
The church leaders also expressed concern over revelations that more government resources and hard-earned taxpayers' money were being stolen, misapplied or diverted to personal projects annually.
"This state of affairs, Your Excellency, is a source of worry to the Church and should not be condoned. Zero tolerance to abuse of public resources which you have constantly talked about remains as our strong expectations as the Council of Churches," reads the pastoral letter. "The impunity with which government resources are being abused by our public officials should be checked meticulously by those that you have given the responsibility of doing so."
The leaders warned that abuse of resources would affect President Banda's efforts at developing the nation's infrastructure as vital resources were being misapplied.
They also regretted recent revelations of misappropriation of funds and scandals regarding land allocation in councils and requested government to institute full investigations in all councils and take corrective measures.
"We as church leaders, therefore, call upon you, Your Excellency, as the chief custodian of our resources to fully exercise your constitutional role and protect our hard-earned money so that it can be used to reduce poverty in the nation and be used to meet the numerous challenges being faced by the nation," reads the pastoral letter. "We call upon you, Mr. President to cause to be prosecuted all the persons found wanting in abusing your government and taxpayers' money."
The church leaders also talked about how the bumper maize crop was going to waste with the reported rotting of the maize that has remained uncollected in the rural depots.