In Zambia, the executive director of Transparency International (TI) says critics of the government are not seeking the illegal removal of President Rupiah Banda’s administration.
Goodwell Lungu said opponents of the administration are law-abiding citizens expressing their views about the lack of good governance.
“As far as we are concerned he (Father Bwalya) has not committed any offense. He is merely expressing his opinion about how our country is being governed. And we feel that any other person has every right to express himself or herself,” he said.
Father Frank Bwalya, a government critic was last week arrested and imprisoned during a youth rally after he reportedly raised a red painted card which police deemed a call to remove President Rupiah Banda’s government.
But TI’s Executive Director Lungu denied Father Bwalya advocated the unconstitutional removal of President Banda.
“By distributing red cards, which was just a symbolic gesture indicating that we are particularly concerned that the fight against corruption is losing momentum as well as the chances of us as Zambians being given a new people-driven constitution they are slimming down, as well as the coming up of the draconian Non-Governmental Act by the government. We feel that the government should take heed of our concerns and react positively,” Lungu said.
Police said Father Bwalya was arraigned in court Monday charged with conduct likely to cause a breach of peace during the youth rally held to mark youth day in Kitwe, north of Zambia’s capital, Lusaka.
Lungu said there was nothing sinister about Bwalya’s campaign.
“The campaign that Father Bwalya had been arrested for we feel is a very genuine campaign that bothers on our feelings as Zambians. Where we feel that the government should be able to promote good governance and not bad governance in Zambia…the government doesn’t seem to be very much committed to promoting good governance at the moment,” Lungu said.
During a news conference Monday, a coalition including civil society groups, opposition parties as well as non-governmental organizations demanded Father Bwalya’s release.
The group was quoted as saying we "wish to warn (the) government that we are not intimidated by the arrest of Father Bwalya,” the group said.
But Zambia’s information minister Ronnie Shikapwasha said Father Bwalya flouted the law.
“I think they (groups) are being mischievous. First of all everybody obeys laws in any country and if you break the law whether you are a priest you are an engineer you are a pilot you are a politician that law is not selective. And you are arrested you are prosecuted for that offense of which you committed and it’s the same with Father Bwalya,” Shikapwasha said.
Critics have often accused the government of intimidation and harassment.
But minister Shikapwasha denied any planned government intimidation.
“That is not true. That is fabrication. He (Father Bwalya) committed a felony and if you go against the law in any country there is no favor for anybody who breaks the law… so there is nothing to intimidate about Mr. Bwalya… So, as Zambian government, we go by the laws. Those civil society organizations that are calling for his release they should look at what the law says before they go and do something that may break the law,” Shikapwasha said.