Zambia has revoked the deportation of a Roman Catholic priest who has been critical of President Michael Sata’s government.
The Reverend Viateur Banyangadora, a Rwandese priest, was deported in August after he reportedly delivered a sermon in which he said the “poor were becoming poorer, while the rich were becoming richer.”
But, Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu said the government revoked the deportation order following consultations with the Church, which had a role in last year‘s election of Sata, a Catholic.
“After the decision was made, we received a number of petitions from a cross section of our people, from the Church, from [across] the political spectrum. So, after considering the various submissions, we found it necessary to reverse our decision in the name of the love of Christ that we subscribe to as Christians,” he said.
Lungu said Banyangadora’s deportation was not based solely on the fact that he might have preached a sermon, but rather his overall conduct was found to be unwelcome.
“You see, we have a mechanism for monitoring people, for seeing what people are doing and saying and also for attending church. So, we did not, at any one time, say we are going to kick him out of the country for preaching. But, we said his conduct overall was found to be inimical to his continued stay in the country,” Lungu said.
Civil society groups and the Catholic Church criticized the deportation saying it was done without due process.
Lungu said Zambia enjoys freedom of speech and association, but he said they all are subject to some limitations.
“There are so many priests and so many members of other churches who profess their faiths without being harassed. Freedom, if I may say, is such that it is not absolute. It’s got limits. The freedom to speak, the freedom to associate, the freedom to walk about is all subject to some limitations,” Lungu said.