LUSAKA, June 11 - Six local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) run by youths have accused the Catholic Church of fanning tribalism through the publication of an article in its Challenge magazine accusing President Mwanawasa of nepotism.
But Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) secretary-general Ignatius Mwebe said in reaction in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that Challenge magazine was not the official paper for the Catholic bishops in Zambia despite church sponsorship.
Father Mwebe said the article was not the official position of the Catholic Church but people within the church had the right to express their own opinions.
The accusation by the NGOs follows allegations carried in Challenge magazine through the publication of a 'family tree' that suggests that most senior positions in the New Deal Government were held by President Mwanawasa's relatives.
Spokesperson for the NGOs Presley Chiyesu at a Press briefing yesterday in Lusaka charged that the illustration displayed hypocrisy on the part of the Catholic Church.
Mr Chiyesu, who is Southern African Youth Consultative Council (SAYCC) Zambia chapter spokesperson, said the 1994 Rwanda genocide was still fresh in people's minds and the six youth NGOs would not want that to happen in Zambia.
"As future leaders and potential owners of this good and peace-loving nation of Zambia, we refuse to have our country subjected to the genocide that occurred in that little East African country," he said.
He said priests, nuns, bishops and influential lay people who had been at the very epi-centre of the genocide initiation and implementation processes were currently being tried by the United Nations (UN) organs for their actions.
Mr Chiyesu said contrary to the claims by the Challenge magazine that as many as 32 people in Government were related to Mr Mwanawasa, only four of them were relatives and these were qualified to hold the Government position they had.
"How true could it be that Peter Magande, Dipak Patel, Situmbeko Musokotwane, Benny Tetamashimba, Richard Chizyuka, etc, etc, are President Mwanawasa's relatives?" he asked.
He said the only relatives in the so-called family tree were the President's brother Harry Mwanawasa and Home Affairs Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha who is the First Lady's first cousin.
Mr Chiyesu said the only other relatives of the President were State House senior private secretary Moses Muteteka, married to the First Lady's niece and political adviser Marvis Muyunda from the extended family.
"As Zambians, are the above individuals not qualified enough to hold positions in their Government or indeed in any institution in their own country?" he asked.
He said members of the six NGOs, as patriotic citizens, had lodged an official complaint to the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia over the alleged violation of media ethics and principles.
Mr Chiyesu said the organisations had also written to Challenge magazine questioning the integrity of the editorial team, which included some people holding senior positions in the same Government of President Mwanawasa.
He called on police and other security organs to thoroughly probe the matter especially that the 'tree' had been modified and copies were being circulated everyday, saying that 'the tree should fall.'