LUSAKA, Zambia –– Police detained and questioned a Catholic priest in Lundazi, Zambia, about the homily he delivered during Mass July 29, a fellow priest said.
Fr. Viateur Banyangandora, pastor of the parish in Lundazi, was picked up at his residence by police at about 5 p.m., July 30, and was taken to Lusaka for questioning, said Father Evan Sakala, the parish’s parochial vicar.
Fr. Sakala explained that police pointed to comments that Fr. Banyangandora made in which he castigated the government over its handling of an impasse between cotton growers and cotton ginners. Authorities, Fr. Sakala said, apparently considered the comments capable of inciting people to rise against the government.
The Zambian government and the Cotton Association of Zambia have been unable to reach an agreement on the price of cotton being paid to growers. The stalemate has led the association to halt the sale of cotton to the Cotton Ginners Association of Zambia, which offered a price more 50 percent lower than its 2011 offer. The impasse has led some farmers to burn cotton stockpiles in protest.
“We were told that he was being taken to Lusaka for further questioning, but his mobile (phone) is switched off,” Fr. Sakala said.
Eastern Province police commissioner Grace Chipalila neither confirmed nor denied the arrest of the clergyman in Lundazi, a city of about 12,000 residents, 450 miles east of the capital.
However, Bishop George Lungu of Chipata confirmed that a team of security personnel picked up the priest from his residence July 30.
“I spoke to him shortly before they took him, but up to now we have not heard from him or know his whereabouts,” Bishop Lungu said Aug. 1.
Fr. Banyangandora, a native of Rwanda, came to Zambia for seminary formation was ordained in the Chipata Diocese in 2004.