According to the Home Affairs Minister of the Patriotic Front government, Fr. Banyangandora was arrested and deported on Monday because his “conduct was found to be a danger to peace and good order in Zambia contrary to Section 39(2) of the Immigration and Deportation Act, No. 18 of 2010.”
The authorities acted against the priest following a sermon he gave the day before focused on poverty, the gap between the poor and the rich, and the role played by the ruling party in the recent cotton crisis, when many farmers in the Lundazi area lost their crops.
However the arrest occurred under bizarre circumstances, as Fr. Banyangandora was placed under arrest and questioned by local authorities, before being taken in a “rendition-like” manner to Lusaka under the cover of night and deported from the country without informing the relevant authorities, allowing him access to legal counsel, or following any normal procedure.
According to a statement released by the Bishop of the Chipata Diocese George Lungu, the PF government violated Fr. Viateur’s basic rights, and handled the deportation irregularly.
“I, like the rest of the members of the Catholic Church, are still in a state of shock that such a thing can happen to him and government does not care to explain as to why he was abducted, where he was taken. We urge the government to seriously consider revoking the deportation order for the sake of unity,” Bishop Lungu said in the statement.
“I further wish to remind the Patriotic Government (PF) that; You were voted into government on a popular platform of correcting the injustices of the past and entrenching good governance and a democratic culture where the rule of law would reign supreme,” the statement continued. “The manner in which Fr. Viateur was abducted and deported has not only perplexed us but has shocked us to the bone. We never thought we would see the day in this current government when the freedom of expression, let alone at the pulpit, would be criminalized in Zambia. We earnestly urge the government to address the real issues that are today affecting the poor people.”
The Church official also argued that despite the fact that Fr. Banyangandora holds a foreign passport, the state still has no right to ignore his human and constitutional rights. The way the matter was treated “flies in the face of natural justice,” the Bishop said, and the fact that he was not given the opportunity to be heard nor was allowed legal representation while being held in a secret location represents an abuse of power of the highest order.