CATHOLIC priest Father Andrew Chewe Mukosa, who recently defied state police intimidation and allowed UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema attend mass at Chifubu Parish in Ndola, has been silenced to the extent of cancelling his weekly ‘social teaching’ programmes on the church-owned Radio Icengelo.
Fr Mukosa is popularly known as the ‘social teacher’ due to his concern for the plight of the poor, powerless and downtrodden in society.
Through the programme, Fr Mukosa has been reaching out to the ‘haves’, imploring them to do more for the ‘have-nots’, a situation that had been yielding results as the homeless in his community, Garneton, have been empowered with low cost houses while several well-wishers have been mobilised to donate clothes, food supplies, education and health needs for the needy in his community.
Fr Mukosa, a Franciscan priest, is a guardian at the Friary in Garneton and also heads St Francis School in the area. Police in Ndola three weeks ago tried but failed to stop Hichilema from attending mass at St Joseph of Curpetino Catholic Church in Chifubu township in Ndola where Fr Mukosa was the main celebrant.
According to sources in the diocese and the Franciscan order, Fr Mukosa has been under pressure from the church leadership, which is also being influenced by ‘external’ forces leading to the unexplained cancellation of his popular programme.
The programme dubbed ‘Catholic social teachings’ was being aired every Thursday at 20:30 hours but has been off air going into the third week today.
“Management just announced that the programme will not be aired until further notice. They just said the programme will not be aired for now,” said a Radio Icengelo employee who spoke on condition of anonymity.
And several sources from the Ndola Diocese administration lamented that the church was losing its prophetic voice with regards socio-political issues.
“You [The Mast] are now our voice. We have become the voiceless, priests are now silenced. We still don’t understand what Fr Mukosa has done. There is no one speaking for him. This is not the Church of bishop Dennis De Jong any more. Where is the spirit of Archbishop Elias Mutale who chose the poor over powerful politicians? Fr Mukosa epitomised the spirit of Fr Miha Drevensek, the spirit of Fr Umberto Davolli, they are not here to side with him. Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu is not in charge, he can’t speak for him any more.
Ba Mpundu is a man of genuine truth, we admire his courage, we need a voice of the people. Do you hear of Fr Augustine Mwewa? He has been silenced. Now it’s Fr Mukosa; who is next? Just watch how everyone will be cowed into watching the people die inside our churches as their wealth gets looted by the PF and we ignore as though nothing happens,” lamented a priest who did not want to be named.
“The other day [President] Edgar Lungu openly attacked the Church. What followed was Given Lubinda. Who is going to respond? No one. Whoever opens his mouth will start receiving calls from all places and our leadership at the very top will be quiet and will probably ask the priest to keep quiet. Now, what kind priests are we going to be? These are very sad times. Mealie-meal prices are uncontrollable, honestly, I can’t stand on the pulpit and tell people that ‘we are living in great times, mealie-meal is now cheaper!’ Newspapers are being threatened, TV stations being closed, radio stations being intimidated, that’s dictatorship, suppressing dissenting views. Surely as a shepherd of the people, we need to remind those in authority that what they are doing is wrong, we can’t praise that.
We don’t lead a congregation of PF members, everyone is in the Church and we must appeal to them. That’s the prophetic role of the church. Do you remember that Christ’s life on earth was to speak against the political elites of those times and when He accomplished His mission, He told His disciples to carry on the mantle not to fear, but look at us today! Fr Mukosa can’t go to Radio Icengelo today to fulfil his prophetic mission, he has been gagged by his own, working with external forces. But who suffers? It’s the poor that Fr Mukosa’s voice gave hope.
We call upon our bishops countrywide to ask themselves; are things any better under this regime? Is this a regime that leads in a Christ-like manner as they preach or are they pretenders who use the church conveniently? They know the answers and should side with the poor masses, not the elite few. For us as a Church, we must stand our ground that every regime that takes political power in this country must know that our mission is to serve all humanity, remind the powerful, greedy and selfish politicians that their ways are wicked and giving hope to the poor and a voice to the voiceless.”
When contacted, Fr Mukosa initially refused to comment but when pressed why his programme has stopped airing, he referred all questions to Radio Icengelo management.
Radio Icengelo station manager Fr Benedict Ng’andwe was unreachable by press time.