I believe we can learn something from the philosophy of science: Knowledge of Facts i.e., what happened? Knowledge of facts is available to everyone who has seen, observed or heard about something. For example: if there is political violence (as a fact) during campaigns, then we expect everyone who has seen or observed such violence (through eye witnessing, social media or television) to have knowledge of such political violence. When television news reports an event, they usually sample (from onlookers) the knowledge of facts. Anyone who witnessed an event can narrate how such an event unfolded.
Knowledge of Reason for the Fact: Why did it happen? i.e., knowledge of reasons for the fact is not available to everyone, even if they might have seen, observed or heard about something happening. For example, if there is political violence (as a fact) during campaigns, then we do not expect everyone who has seen or observed such violence (through eye witnessing, social media or television), to have the knowledge of the reasons for such political violence. A transition from knowledge of the facts to knowledge of the reasons for the fact requires skillful (technical) knowledge that employs discipline-specific explanatory principles. As such, knowledge of the reasons for political violence would require the technical knowledge of the explanatory principles into other fields like social psychology, political science, sociology or in skillful-life experiences and more especially to make a projection into the future. And of course television news would go into the streets for sampling knowledge of facts, but would have to carefully choose expert opinion on knowledge of reason for the fact.
Let me try to make a sampling analysis on the recent Sesheke violence, from which I believe our beloved Catholic Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu had made the wrong projection. It is usually said that the world is three days i.e., yesterday, today and tomorrow. And if you do not know yesterday, you won’t know what day to-day is and certainly tomorrow will take you by surprise. What had really made the Sesheke by-election so violent and somehow involved what some people concluded to be witchcraft! In the first place, each political party has its own strongholds i.e., it’s own territory and Western Province has been the opposition territory since the UNIP era. The problem arose when PF won the Mangango parliamentary seat in the constituency which was deemed to be in UPND territory. The fierce tug of war ensured since UPND could not avoid to lose another parliamentary seat in Western Province and so it had to defend the Sesheke seat at all costs. And on the other hand, since the PF had won the Mangango parliamentary seat they believed that they had penetrated and made an opening in Western Province and were equally determined to win the Sesheke seat at all costs.
We generally regard our Church ministers as the moral conscience of our society and they stand on more superior moral principles than politicians and surely we do not expect them to be emotionally carried away and make careless cadre type political pronouncements. The danger is with such unguarded statements our Church ministers can easily lose credibility.
His Grace Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu has always been at the centre of political controversy and with a leaning to the opposition UPND dating back to 2005 when he took up his position as the Archbishop of Lusaka and thus making him the most senior Catholic clergy in Zambia. We must lean on history to help us to try to peep at the route of this now emerging political clergy-turned politician and prophet in line with Reverend Dr. Nevers Mumba.
He launched his political career through the support of the Church-led Oasis Forum. An illusion is defined as an ‘’erroneous perception of reality’’ and politicians like magicians depend upon it to trick their audiences. But illusions can be fatal. If a person chases a mirage in the desert thinking its water, he would eventually die of thirsty. In the same way, the enthusiasm that was created when the Oasis Forum managed to attract a large group of intellectuals and successfully helped to campaign against President Chiluba’s third term bid. The Forum’s Chairperson was Bishop Paul Mususu and was assisted by firebrand orators, Reverend Japhet Ndhlovu and Father Joe Komakoma.
The first thing was that it triggered into the hearts of the Oasis Forum leadership the ambition for political leadership. The weekly newspaper, Monitor and Digest of 20th July 2007 came out with the headline: ‘’Oasis Forum Political Party Coming.’’ Francis Mangaila reported that some named individuals with political ambitions were secretly pushing for the transformation of the Oasis Forum into a political party that would challenge the existing political parties in 2011. ‘’The individuals with media, law and religious backgrounds are said to be unhappy with the performance of the current crop of politicians in the country, hence the argument that Zambia lacks credible leaders….. But when contacted for a comment, Oasis Forum spokesperson, Musa Mwenye brushed aside assertions that the organization would be turned into a political party.’’
The second was from the capitalist-exploiter’s interest who detected the insurmountable political potential in both the intellectuals who had supported the Oasis Forum as well the Church leadership and the combination of which, if he played his cards correctly he could exploit the situation to his greatest advantage. This development came to light when the then Minister of Justice Honourable George Kunda told Parliament that the donor community had refused to fund the constituent assembly.
However, on the other hand, the Oasis Forum chairperson, Bishop Paul Mususu retorted: ‘’Even those donors that have talked to us in confidence have put it across that if the decision of adopting the Constitution through the constituent assembly comes from Zambians, then they will have no choice but to support it’’ (Zambia Daily Mail 28th January 2006). The question is why where the donors ready to fund through the Oasis Forum rather than the government?
On 23rd November 2005, UPND Kabwata Member of Parliament Honourable Given Lubinda moved a private motion on behalf of the Church-led Oasis forum which sought to suspend Standing Orders No. 39 to enable the House to consider tabling a petition on the establishment of the constituent assembly for the adoption of the Constitution. The MMD sixty-five Members voted against while fifty-two UPND voted for and were dubbed ‘’gallant’’ by the Forum.
The church-led Oasis Forum immediately began to de-campaign against MMD MPs by publishing their names and pictures in The Post and intimidating them that the ‘’people’’ would not vote for them in 2006. And it was at this point that His Grace Archbishop came on the scene. He was Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) President as well as Lusaka Archdiocese Coadjutor and he declared: ‘’…. The involvement of the Catholic Church in the Oasis forum is to ensure that a people-driven Constitution is enacted. (Saturday Post 24th December 2005)
Eventually President Mwanawasa was so irritated by His Grace the Archbishop’s pronouncements that at one time he retorted and The Post of 23rd December 2005 came out with the headline: ‘’Catholic Bishops are just wasting their time.’’ He said they were just wasting their time in working with the opposition to remove him from power because he did not need their support to win.
The tension between the Catholic Church under the leadership of His Grace Archbishop Mpundu and the government grew so tense that the Holy See had to recall the retired Lusaka Archbishop Medardo Mazombwe, and was immediately promoted to the most senior position of a Cardinal in order to overshadow Archbishop Mpundu’s authority and thus Cardinal Mazombwe became the head of the Catholic Church in Zambia. And eventually Archbishop Mpundu made an early retirement before the normal retiring age of 75 years.
And now the question to the current Archbishop Banda which the nation eagerly wants to know is whether the now retired Archbishop Mpundu’s pronouncements still continue to reflect the views of the Catholic Church in Zambia?
And here is what a Jesuit Catholic priest, Father Gerard W. Hughes wrote in his book God of Surprises: ‘’The Roman emperors did not need psychologists and psychiatrists to help them control dissidents. Their pagan subjects were religious people who believed in gods, so the emperors declared themselves to be divine and so hoped to gain a more complete control over the minds and hearts of their subjects. Religious authorities and teachers will always be tempted to control and dominate in the name of God. Christ warned his followers against submitting to this kind of domination: ‘’You must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one Master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ.’’ (Matt. 23:9-11). We need doctors, religious teachers and specialists in every branch of knowledge, and we should be fools if we did not listen to them, but we must never allow any expert to dominate our lives.
‘’The danger in the institutional element is that we never advance beyond a religious infantilism and this approach instills a childish attitude with little or no encouragement to move beyond it. Much of the present tension within the Catholic Church is tension between those who assume that the institutional is the only essential element in the Church and others who are demanding more of the critical and mystical elements. There is also danger for those in authority in the Churches that they may encourage people to remain in the infantile stage, calling this retarded state ‘being humble, loyal, faithful and observant,’ and threatening with the wrath of God anyone who dares to disagree. There is no more effective way of destroying true faith in God than by misusing words like loyalty, humility, obedience and faithfulness.
‘’The Church must encourage the critical element in its members. If it fails to do so, then the individual will not be able to integrate religious belief with everyday experience or, put in other words, God will be excluded from most of the individual’s life until religion comes to be considered a private but harmless eccentricity of a minority…..So a Church which really trusts God is not afraid, but encourages its members to search and question, guiding them in her wisdom and warning them of routes which she knows from long experience to be cul-de-sacs. Her teachings will never be delivered as the last word on any subject, but rather as signposts, encouraging her members to explore the route further for themselves. Otherwise, undue emphasis on the institutional element today is likely to produce a Church of dwindling numbers, loyal, obedient, docile, uninspired and passive members, God’s frozen people.’’
By Political Analyst