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Controversial radio station manager removed from his post

(MISA/IFEX) - On 13 April 2009, Ndola Catholic Diocese Bishop Noel O'Regan removed Fr. Frank Bwalya, Radio Icengelo station manager, from his position following his controversial conduct after the 30 October 2008 presidential by-election in which he accused the Rupiah Banda led government of having been fraudulently elected.

Since the election, Bwalya has made several statements on Radio Icengelo and in the media critical of the Banda-led government and has since launched a political movement called Change or Die Zambia. The police allege that this campaign is likely to incite violence and cause breach of peace. Bwalya claims his organisation is not a political party but says that its crusade will likely reach its climax in 2011 during Zambia's next general elections. He officially launched the movement on 13 April in the Copperbelt region of Zambia.

Bwalya's attempts to hold a public rally and a press conference to discuss the movement have been foiled by police, forcing him to address the public through his Radio Icengelo programme. Bwalya disputes that he has breached any church rules. He accuses the church of having given in to government demands to have him removed from his position as station manager.

"The (Movement for Multiparty Democracy) MMD has been calling for my removal and it has paid off, it is a great day for them. I have been struck and my flock has been scattered but I will rise after three days. I wish to state that I will stay in the tomb of suppression for three days. Thereafter, I will continue with the struggle," he said.

Bwalya, who has been redeployed as a priest for Ipusukilo Parish, vowed to continue working for Radio Icengelo even as a general worker. He had served Radio Icengelo as station manager for seven years.

Meanwhile, Catholic Diocese of Ndola Treasurer Fr. Augustine Mwewa said that it was disappointing that Bishop O'Regan had succumbed to the pressures of the MMD government to remove Bwalya from Radio Icengelo.

Bwalya served as chairperson of the MISA Zambia National Governing Council (NGC) and Chairperson for Broadcasting.

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