News / Africa

Zambia Priest to Launch Political Party

Roman Catholic priest Frank Bwalya (in red) and supporters hold red cards to display their displeasure with the government as they attend a rally in front of the National Assembly, in Lusaka, Zambia, March 22, 2011.
Roman Catholic priest Frank Bwalya (in red) and supporters hold red cards to display their displeasure with the government as they attend a rally in front of the National Assembly, in Lusaka, Zambia, March 22, 2011.
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Peter Clottey
A Roman Catholic priest says his newly registered opposition party, the Alliance for Better Zambia, will be launched this month, as part of an effort to defeat President Michael Sata’s ruling Patriotic Front in the next general election.

“We have a bright future. The prospects for success of this political party are very high,” said Father Frank Bwalya, leader of the Alliance for Better Zambia party.

“We are carrying the right message for the majority of the people who voted for the Patriotic Front on the understanding that they were going to improve governance record that they were going to respect human rights, improve the economy and create employment, all these things have not happened.”

Bwalya says his new party seeks to democratically change Zambia’s political landscape, which he said has been weakened by what he calls the ruling party's confrontational governance style.

“This is why we don’t want to waste time we want to make sure that we educate the people, [and] enlighten them about the ineffectiveness of this government, and that come 2016 we can have real change,” said Bwalya.

The Alliance for Better Zambia was officially registered last week by the Registrar of Societies, a designated government agency in charge of approving political parties.

Father Bwalya becomes the first Catholic priest to lead a political group in Zambia’s history.  Bwalya says the party will work with all Zambians irrespective of their ideological or ethnic persuasions.

“Zambians should expect the best of a new political dispensation.  They should expect the emergence of new leaders of high integrity who do not put self-interest before public interest,” continued Bwalya, “Zambians should for once expect a president that is going to discipline erring [or] corrupt ministers.”

He has often accused senior officials of the administration of using state institutions to prevent the official registration of the Alliance for Better Zambia party.  The government denied the accusations.

Political observers credit Bwalya for playing a prominent role in the Patriotic Front victory over the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) in the 2011 general election.  Some MMD supporters say Bwalya now regrets supporting the PF during the vote.  Bwalya disagreed.

“I have never said I regret because although the man [Sata] turned out to be a letdown, we think that he played one important role, that of removing the MMD who started violating our rights and were just bent on destroying the country.  We were in that kind of a desperate situation,” said Bwalya.

Critics say Father Bwalya does not have the required experience to be the country’s next leader.  They said the opposition priest is single, unmarried and without children, which they argue makes him unqualified to run the affairs of the Southern African country.  They also said Bwalya lives in a plush house, despite not being employed after stepping down from the day- to-day activities of a Catholic priest.

Bwalya says the accusations are unfounded.

“I don’t believe that to make a good president to be a good man or woman, you need to have a family,” continued Bwalya, “there is a background to why I don’t have a wife and children.  It’s because I have been a priest and I’m still a priest.  So you can see that these people have nothing [tangible] to use against me and that is why they are resorting to this cheap accusations.”
Clottey interview with Father Frank Bwalya
Clottey interview with Father Frank Bwalyai
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