News / Africa

Priest in Politician’s Clothing Eyes Top Seat in Zambia

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.
x
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.
Anita Powell
Zambia’s government is not delivering on its promises, says a prominent critic who used to support President Michael Sata. The Rev. Frank Bwalya, a Catholic priest, says Sata’s administration is cracking down on the opposition and on critics - and he says the public outrage is prompting him to trade in his clerical collar for a politician’s suit.

Bwalya pulls from the Bible to describe his home country of Zambia and the president he once supported, but now vigorously opposes.

“The promised land is still there. The problem is that Moses is refusing to step aside. And while he is resisting to step aside, he is becoming destructive," said Bwalya. "That is the problem. If he had not become destructive, we would have been patient, to say, let him go all the way and take him to the point where somebody else is supposed to take over. But now that he has become destructive we can not wait, to stop him. And by stopping him I do not mean to remove him by force. I do not mean that.”

Running for office

That is Bwalya’s way of saying he plans to run against Sata in 2016. He said his new party does not yet have a platform. In fact, it still has no name. But he said he wants to bring in new ideas and get rid of old ones, to reduce corruption and cut politicians’ perks, and to use experts to solve problems in the copper-rich nation.

In this way, he fits the mold of many African opposition movements, defined more by their opposition than by their positions.

Bwalya supported Sata when he ran in 2011. Bwalya recently joined a growing number of critics, however, who say the president has reneged on his promises to bring development and fight corruption, and has instead cracked down on the opposition.

Bwalya is not alone in making such allegations. Last year, the U.S. State Department documented unlawful killings, torture, arrests of critics and restrictions of freedoms in Zambia.

Why Sata changed his tune, said Bwalya, he does not know.

“It is a question that every Zambian is asking: ‘What has happened to the president? Is he hijacked or has hijacked himself?’ But we all do not know, to be very honest, why he has turned around like this," he said. "Why he has started doing the same things that made us support him to become president, those same things we condemned."

Taking exception

Zambia's Vice President Guy Scott said Bwalya is being overdramatic.  

“I mean, it is a little bit overwrought, overplayed, this argument. I mean, he is the president, he is supposed to govern the country. And we have a parliament, which is supposed to pass laws and so on and so forth," said Scott. "So, where you draw the line between authority and I suppose what you would call abuse of authority is really the question. And I do not think I see a very concrete definition of authority abused by our side, by our government or our president.”

Scott acknowledged that the southern African nation has human-rights issues to address, but said few can be attributed to Sata’s Patriotic Front.

“These are human-rights issues going way back before the election that brought us to power. Some of them have said, 'Yes, somebody should not have been locked up for two nights in jail, in police cells and so forth.' But the majority of these violations are two things: first of all, the majority of these violations are ongoing problems, like the conditions of police cells are a violation of human rights because it’s been 40 years, or nearly 50 years, since anyone maintained the water system in police stations. I mean, it is not us who suddenly created all the conditions that people are saying are abusive of human rights,” said Scott.

Bwalya's combination of being a politician in priest's clothing might unsettle some international-rights campaigners. He said that if he is elected president, he has no plans to change the country’s laws that criminalize homosexuality. He said he fully supports the church’s positions on birth control, but added that he will follow his Cabinet ministers’ policies on such issues even if they conflict with his faith.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid