Tag Archives: Church and State

The Cobra Who Charmed a Nation: The Life and Times of Michael Chilufya Sata

E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.

President Sata with President Kenneth Kaunda

President Sata with President Kenneth Kaunda

Michael Chilufya did not have one life. He had many lives. His relatively long life, by Zambian standards, where life expectancy is around 45, mean that there is a huge span from which one could chose his story. Like many of his contemporaries, very little is known of his childhood. Born in 1937, there is very little known about the young Sata except that he was born in Mpika and went to primary school there. Around 1964 during the fight for the country’s independence some accounts situate the young Sata as a constable in the colonial police force. There are some accounts that he spent some years in the United Kingdom after serving as a colonial police officer in the 1960s.

Sata rose to national fame and notoriety when in the late 1970 and early 1980s he emerged as a talkative member of the United National Independence Party (UNIP). This political recklessness did wonders for him. He quickly caught the eye of the then President Kenneth Kaunda who appointed him District Governor of Lusaka and later as Local Government and Rural Development Minister. In many ways, Sata was different from most of his political contemporaries. Most of his colleagues were mostly educated and had stints in the Foreign Service. Sata never had the luxury of the two. He never served in the Foreign Service and his education level remained humble. Nevertheless, in spite of that, he still managed to catch the attention of the nation and that of Kenneth Kaunda. As Lusaka Governor, the tough talking and pragmatic Sata embarked on a modernization program for the city. He presided over the building of the flyover bridges over the town-centre and established a quasi-private company to take care of the water reticulation system in Lusaka. That company has continued to this day.

The Late Michael Chilufya Sata

The Late Michael Chilufya Sata

When in 1991, the dawn of multi-party democracy rose over Zambia, Sata was among some UNIP loyalists who crossed over to the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) late. As a politically cunning and calculating tactician, Sata chose to remain in UNIP until late so as to perhaps get the best of both worlds. When he joined the MMD, he became an instant hit. At the MMD convention of April 1991 Sata was elected chairman of local government. He pledged his total support for President Chiluba and the two became political confidantes. To be clear, Sata had the political clout of his own within the MMD. In Chiluba’s government Sata served various portfolios. He worked as a Local Government Minister. During his tenure in this portfolio, allegations of corruption surfaced. But was cleared by both his boss and the Anti-Corruption Commission. He also served as Health Minister. Chiluba’s choice of Sata for the health portfolio surprised many because some thought that Sata was not intellectually sophisticated to lead a portfolio that had medical doctors and nurses. But Sata excelled in this ministry. Hospitals became cleaner. Morale among health workers was revamped. The straight talking Sata encouraged nursing schools to admit Enrolled Nurses so that they could become Registered Nurses. Under his watch, he changed nurses’ uniforms to include the wearing of pants. Sata also served in several other portfolios such as Labor and as Minister-Without-Portfolio.

Sata’s politics, however, during the first term of the MMD did have enemies. The most vicious of the fights was between himself and the then Vice-President Levy Mwanawasa. After realizing that he could not break the bond between Sata and Chiluba, Mwanawasa resigned from the vice-presidency citing irreconcilable differences with Michael Sata. For his part, Sata claimed that Mwanawasa was a political novice whose skills were only good for the practice of law and not politics. The resignation of Mwanawasa would see Sata being elevated to more visible status within the party and the government. Indeed, after the 1996 convention, Sata became National Secretary of the MMD. As Chief Executive of the MMD he became the architect of the Chiluba political engineering.

Michael Sata with Hakainde Hichilema

Michael Sata with Hakainde Hichilema

After the 1996 elections, Sata mostly served as a minister-without-portfolio in Chiluba’s cabinet and as the MMD’s Chief Executive. Throughout all this political career, the down-to-earth man of the people image made Sata very popular on the street. He was a lovable character. When speaking to the people, he would use the common language that citizens on the street could understand. He was a constant feature in the media. He was a story maker. Towards the end of Chiluba’s second term, rumours started swirling that Chiluba was interested in going for the third term. For his part, Sata appeared to have been the main architect of this initiative. He advised Chiluba to appoint District Administrators to bring “government close to the people”. Nevertheless it was clear that this initiative was really about the Third Term.

In 2001 when it became clear that Zambians would not support Chiluba’s Third Term bid, Sata had some hope that it was he that the party was going to adopt to succeed Chiluba. Shortly before that, Sata as National Secretary presided over the expulsion of over 50 senior members of the MMD including the country’s vice-president then, Christone Tembo. If there was anyone who was playing his cards well, it was Sata. But Chiluba had other plans. At a party meeting at State House, Chiluba influenced the MMD to pick Levy Mwanawasa out of political retirement to become the party’s candidate. This infuriated Sata. There was no way Sata was going to support his nemesis Mwanawasa as presidential candidate for his MMD. In 2001, Sata broke off from Chiluba, left the government house and formed his own party, naming it the Patriotic Front after Mugabe’s party in Zimbabwe.

Chiluba and Sata - as MMD leaders 1991 to 2002

Chiluba and Sata – as MMD leaders 1991 to 2002

After leaving the MMD, Sata became a fierce critic of both the MMD party and its new president Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. It seems like the old enmity had resurfaced. The politics was brutal. For Sata, Mwanawasa was a cabbage. In his campaign messages, Sata claimed that Mwanawasa was so sick that his mind and his mouth had stopped coordinating. With these attacks against Mwanawasa and the MMD, Sata’s political star started to rise. His anti-capitalist and anti-Chinese messages found a home among the urbanites. His Patriotic Front party started to pick seats in the by-elections the first one being from the Copperbelt. Yamfwa Mukanga won Kantanshi seat with the support of the Cobra. Something happened however, that seemed to have changed the Cobra’s attitude towards Mwanawasa. Having been a strong critic of Mwanawasa, Sata changed after he himself got a heart attack only to be evacuated at midnight by Mwanawasa. When Sata returned to Zambia, he had the change of heart. He met Mwanawasa at State House and from that meeting the two became friends. Sata’s illness and Mwanawasa’s reaction to it had helped these political leaders come to some agreement and cooperation.

When Mwanawasa died in 2008, Sata joined the nation in mourning his friend. However, he quickly found another enemy, the vice-president Rupiah Banda. In the presidential by-election of that year, Sata was brutally defeated. But by this time, it was clear that his political star had only gotten brighter and it was just a matter of time before he would win the presidency. And sure enough, three years later, Michael Chilufya Sata delivered a blistering defeat to incumbent Rupiah Banda becoming Zambia’s fifth president.

There were a lot of expectations on the shoulder of the new leader. But within the first week of winning, Sata went beyond the limit of how many people he could nominate to parliament. He presented ten names instead of eight. He was forced to retract. He appointed a cabinet full of his relatives and fellow tribes mates. What had been an election of hope quickly gave to despair. To invest in infrastructure development, he borrowed heavily from the Eurobonds. And then one year into power, his physical and mental health started to deteriorate. His close confidantes denied that there was any problem. In fact, they said that he was working very hard behind the scenes.

Sata leaves behind a divided party and nation - Munshya

Sata leaves behind a divided party and nation – Munshya

To his credit, in spite of his invisibility, the business of government continued being carried out. The loyalty he commanded seemed surreal both within the party and the government. Reports of his death emerged on several occasions but each time it was rumoured he had died, he would emerge looking stronger than before. On 20th October 2014, he was flown to London for what officials said was going to be a medical review. He died in London on October 28 2014. He was 78. He leaves behind several children. And for sure, he leaves behind a divided party and nation. However, one thing can never be denied of Michael Chilufya Sata: he was the cobra who charmed a nation.

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Suggested citation: Munshya, E. (2014). The Cobra Who Charmed a Nation: The Life and Times of Michael Chilufya Sata. Elias Munshya Blog (found at http://www.eliasmunshya.org) (29 October 2014)

The Temptation of Nevers Sekwila Mumba (Part II): A Turbulent Vice-President

By E. Munshya wa Munshya

In 2008, as President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa was reflecting on his legacy, one issue he had to confront was whether he had any regrets in choosing Nevers Mumba for his Vice-President from 2003 to 2004. According to Malupenga (2010), President Mwanawasa hoped that in future Zambians will come to the same conclusion he had come to in 2003 – that choosing Nevers Mumba as Vice-Present was a great choice.

Nevers Mumba 2To put Mwanawasa’s sentiments in perspective it is important to begin from
where it all started. When Mwanawasa assumed power, he came to a country that was deeply divided. For the first time in history, Zambia had eleven presidential candidates in the election that brought in Mwanawasa. The margin of victory for Mwanawasa was a paltry 28%, just a point ahead of his closest rival UPND’s Anderson Mazoka. The EU Observers condemned the 2001 elections as having not been free and fair. On the other hand, an active civil society and The Post newspapers had been pushing the agenda that Mwanawasa’s predecessor, Frederick Chiluba had stolen public funds and should be prosecuted for it.

Within the ruling party, the MMD, there were apparent fractures. President Frederick Chiluba, even after he had relinquished the republican presidency, still maintained a grip on the ruling MMD party. Early 2002 was a difficult time for the country and Mwanawasa needed to act fast to show that he was in charge.

Most of the leaders within the MMD were still loyal to President Frederick Chiluba. Vice-President Kavindele, Foreign Affairs Minister Katele Kalumba and many others still held Chiluba in high esteem. To respond to this, Mwanawasa fired some of Chiluba loyalists including Katele Kalumba and Lupando Mwape. Mwanawasa had to find his own niche.

In this context then, the most attractive of all the candidates he had considered to replace Vice-President Enoch Kavindele was Nevers Mumba. Nevers had been attractive to Mwanawasa for several reasons. First, he had long campaigned against Chiluba’s corruption. Starting from the 1997 formation of the NCC it had been a political aim of Nevers’ to bring to light the misdeeds of the Chiluba administration. Faced with possibilities of a prolonged fight against corruption, Mwanawasa needed a good partner for a Veep whom he could rely on in tough times.

Secondly, Nevers was attractive to Mwanawasa because he was considered an outsider. Lacking any genuine political base, Levy had somehow believed that Nevers would be personally loyal to him. Actually, Zambian presidents do have the habit of choosing politically unpopular candidates as their vice-presidents. Any vice-president that proved politically popular or astute has never lasted in that position beginning with Kapwepwe and ending with Mwanawasa. As an outsider with no political clout, Nevers Mumba would be a good candidate for Vice-President.

Thirdly, Nevers was attractive due to his tribe. When Mwanawasa came into power it was not long before the Bemba political aristocracy got concerned at his lack of regard for the Bemba hegemony. The firebrand of a Bemba aristocracy, Michael Sata was now in opposition and he never hesitated to drive home the point that Mwanawasa’s leadership was heavily nepotic and was patently anti-Bemba. When Levy started to prosecute Chiluba and his close associates, Sata even accused Mwanawasa of unfairly targeting Bemba-speaking politicians. Mwanawasa’s response to this criticism did not help matters. In Ndola in 2003 when he was asked to respond to the anti-Bemba criticism Mwanawasa is reported to have said that he made no tribal exception to the fight against corruption because “corruption stinks.” These remarks became folder for opposition leader Sata.

“Mwanawasa”, Sata claimed, “had insulted the Bembas.”

In a flurry of arrests and detentions, not even Sata was spared from Mwanawasa’s anti-corruption fury. Sata got arrested for theft of a motor vehicle in 2002. As this is going on – president Chiluba, now facing corruption charges, had abandoned his MMD membership to become a member of Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front. Sensing a tribal revolt, Mwanawasa needed a Bemba vice-president to show that he indeed was not as nepotic as his critics were suggesting. That Bemba vice-president was going to be Nevers Mumba a native of Chinsali.

At the time Nevers was assuming the Vice-Presidency in 2003, He was basically destitute. He statutorily declared a house in Texas to be his only meaningful asset. He owed a mortgage of thousands of dollars on that house. The only other asset was Chishimba Farm in Chinsali. Among other sources of income, Nevers had declared was “honoraria he receives when he speaks in conventions overseas.”

How Nevers got himself to this destitute situation has been explained in a previous article. Suffice to mention here that when Nevers entered politics in 1997, he had lost everything by 2001. Chiluba squeezed any value out of Nevers. He had lost his house, his friends, and some closest to him even suggested he was about to lose his family. The price Nevers had paid for politics was just too high. It is this kind of personal sacrifice that should make critics of Nevers Mumba to reflect and realize that Nevers was not into politics for the money. He had invested far too much than he had earned back by the time he was being appointed vice-president. It should not be hard to notice the dedication to the nation Nevers exhibited, even at the price of personal sacrifice.

If anyone did not believe in miracles, they had to. Nevers Mumba, a boy from Chinsali, and a preacher who had abandoned the pulpit and lost everything, was now going to be the second most powerful person in the country. As vice-president he had clear chances of assuming the presidency one day. Im keeping with his motto, Zambia was going to be saved and what had been a remote possibility was now within reach.

In appointing Nevers Mumba – President Mwanawasa was very optimistic. “I have appointed you”, Mwanawasa told Nevers, “because you and me share a common dream for a corrupt free Zambia.” If there were any doubts about the other reasons why Nevers had been appointed – his itinerary in his first 90 days would show. Nevers travelled to meet the Bemba chiefs and addressed their misgivings about the insults that had been attributed to President Mwanawasa. With Nevers as vice-president, Mwanawasa had a Bemba confidante who could buttress any tribal accusations against government. A preacher with a likeable and handsome personality meant that Nevers was going to be the public face of President Mwanawasa’s government. And indeed it took only a few months for Nevers’ star to rise and for President Mwanawasa to realize that the Nevers he had appointed was actually far more ambitious than he had initially thought.

Those close to Mwanawasa would whisper to him about the ambitions of Nevers Mumba. To resolve these difficulties, Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande and Home Affairs Minister Ronnie Shikapwashya would be Mwanawasa’s kitchen cabinet while Nevers was left enough rope to politically hang. Nevers’ inexperience was proving a liability to him. He became politically reckless in amassing lots of political support from the grassroots MMD branches at the expense of his aloof boss. As a likeable person, it was far much easier for ordinary MMD members across the country to meet Nevers than it was for them to meet President Mwanawasa. Perhaps the greatest asset Nevers had from his background as a preacher was his way with people. The star of Nevers had started to rise and the MMD was now perfectly in his control. With a president Mwanawasa that is struggling with health issues – it is Nevers who became the defacto leader of the MMD.

But not for long, for that rope had now drawn close to suffocate Nevers politically. And the crowd was gathering to watch him hit the ground.

It was around September 2004. Nevers had been vice-president for about 15 months. The main opposition party that was threatening the MMD was Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front. Using the levers of power that had remained intact within government and on the grassroots – the PF was growing in popularity by the day. The prosecution of President Chiluba had gathered steam. President Sata saw Chiluba’s prosecution as a general strategy by Mwanawasa to weaken the Bemba-speaking political aristocracy. Indeed, MMD structures in Luapula and Northern Province had started to crumble. Frederick Chiluba had made his political opinions clear – he was in support of Michael Sata, the man he had dribbled in 2001. Patriotic Front cadres would provide escorts to Chiluba each time he appeared in court. At one time after returning from a South African hospital, Chiluba greeted the gathered PF cadres with the “Donchi Kubeba” salute.

MMD branches in Ndola had organized a “Meet the Vice-President Dinner” to raise funds for the party. That September, Mwanawasa had travelled to New York for a UN summit. At home it was Nevers in charge. Mr. Mukutulu Sinyani, the director of the Drug Enforcement Commission had gathered some information that Katanga businessman Moise Katumbi was channeling money through the Congolese border to fund political activities of an opposition party. It did not take rocket science to know that it was President Chiluba, Michael Sata and the Patriotic Front who were the beneficiaries of these monies. That evening, Sinyani briefed the acting president about that information. More than anything else, what Nevers did with this information spelt immediate political doom for him. It set off events that would eventually lead to his dismissal.

Zambia shares thousands of kilometer borders with the Congo DR. It is a porous border to say the least. You can smuggle nearly anything along this long border. From the time Zambia got its independence juggling security for the nation in view of Congolese instability has been a delicate balancing act for any president. The reports Nevers got that evening from Sinyani are by no means isolated. Each president has had to deal with security issues arising from the Congo DR. As such, any issue that comes from Congo DR deserves wisdom and diplomacy to resolve. This is the wisdom and diplomacy Nevers had lacked that September.

At the MMD dinner dance held at Savoy Hotel, acting President Nevers Mumba made some usual political statements aimed at the opposition and then he added:

“Government has information that a particular opposition party is receiving dollars through the Congolese border.”

This statement started a flurry of events so fierce that Nevers could not control them. As Nevers finished speaking to the MMD, it was morning in New York, and President Mwanawasa was about to meet President Joseph Kabila to discuss issues of mutual importance. President Mwanawasa was supposed to meet Kabila at 13:00 Eastern Time.

In Zambia that evening, Congolese Ambassador Dikanga Kazadi reacts swiftly to Nevers Mumba’s accusations. Kazadi’s message is channeled to President Kabila in New York. The Zambian government is accusing the Congo DR of meddling in its internal affairs. Mwanawasa gets the information too that morning. This was going to create a diplomatic standoff.

“The Congo DR having itself been a victim of foreign military interference cannot interfere in Zambia’s internal affairs,” screamed Ambassador Kazadi.

Nevers’ words had exposed his lack of diplomatic skills. His recklessness towards the Congo was going to be his downfall.

In New York, President Mwanawasa gathers his team and comes up with a strategy. An apology to President Kabila would be in order and the two presidents should continue to commit themselves to dialogue on issues of mutual importance. Mwanawasa had redeemed the recklessness of his vice-president. Nevertheless, back home in Zambia, security services are on high alert and Ambassador Kazadi found an opportunity to speak even more. Those baying for Nevers’ blood within government had something to work on. With this weakness they could make Mwanawasa fire Nevers Mumba – but the problem was that Nevers had done a good grassroots organization. The MMD grassroots was firmly in his charge.

While Mwanawasa is still in New York, Vice-President Mumba does something unusual. He summons the press and cabinet to his Government House. On the agenda are the preparations for the 40th Independence Anniversary. Those close to the workings of government notice how unusual it is that a Veep should address the nation when the president is away. Nevers was not going to takeover the government, he was simply announcing preparations for the independence celebration. Mwanawasa while away is informed of this, and his inner circle wonder why Nevers had gone this far.

In Nevers’ mind, government should continue to function even in the absence of the president. As such, since he is part of the government he saw no reason why he could not brief the nation about independence celebrations that would be held in a few weeks time. Except that, Nevers was not going to be part of that celebration. Not as vice-president anyway, because by then he would be fired.

The same month of September – a few days’ latter Mwanawasa returns back to Zambia. At Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, Nevers Mumba is on hand to receive President Mwanawasa. Nevers is looking flamboyant wearing dark eyeglasses.

Mwanawasa’s first words off that plane were to address the litany of diplomatic missteps his Vice-Presidents had made. The words of the vice-president were regrettable, Mwanawasa said. He also mentioned that he had to personally apologize to President Kabila over that misunderstanding. With dark shaded glasses Vice-President Mumba looks down as he listens to the president berate him. A few minutes latter he sees off President Mwanawasa and returns to his Mercedes Benz car waiting for him.

Nevers had been leader of the Christian movement in Zambia. He was the boss for a long time. He was the one to berate his juniors. But as vice-president, he had a very temperamental boss in Mwanawasa. And protocol demanded that he had to defer to his principal. But on that day, a journalist asked Nevers about his reaction towards President Mwanawasa’s sentiments. Whether Mumba had misunderstood the question or not, we may never know. This is how he answered it nevertheless.

“I am not embarrassed by this, the only embarrassment might have been for the other side.”

The “other side” here might only mean the parliamentary opposition of the Patriotic Front.

The next day, this answer made headline news in the Post Newspaper. Realizing that he had been misunderstood and probably misquoted in the report, Nevers wrote his boss apologizing for the misconception. But it was too late.

Mwanawasa had already found an unassuming Augustine Festus Lupando Mwape Katoloshi to be Nevers’ replacement. Lupando Mwape had been fired as a cabinet minister a few months into the Mwanawasa presidency. He was one of those Bemba leaders Mwanawasa thought had maintained allegiance to President Chiluba. This time that he was appointing Lupando Mwape as vice-president he had just reinstated him to a junior position of Provincial Minister.

And yes! Mwanawasa had done another miracle. He had gone for another political non-entity to be vice-president. The reign of Nevers Mumba as Zambia’s vice-president had come to an end.

But the temptation of Nevers Sekwila Mumba continued. Discussions of the next segments in Nevers’ life deserve another analysis.

The Temptation of Nevers Sekwila Mumba (Part I): Politics of Personal Sacrifice

By E. Munshya wa Munshya

It is Frank Talk time on prime time television in the early 1990s. One evening, the whole nation is listening in as journalist Frank Mutubila introduces his guest on ZNBC TV. Pastor Nevers Mumba sits confidently in his chair. Next to him is his wife. They are appearing on a program that follows and features news personalities. In the middle of the interview, smart Frank Mutubila probes Nevers about whether he would consider running for public office.“I am a preacher”, Nevers exclaims. And continues, “any involvement in politics would be a demotion.” Those words would become the most memorable lines of that Frank Talk interview.

When NeverNevers Sekwila Mumbas is saying that politics would be demotion. It really means just that. His name had become a household name in Zambia. He was an international preacher attracting the very best of international charismatic preachers. In a Christian nation, Nevers had access to State House at any time. Among his closest friends were President Frederick Chiluba and his Vice-President Godfrey Miyanda. Nevers Mumba was for all reasons a man with a lot of influence, the influence that came as a result of his faith commitment and leadership within the charismatic Pentecostal movement. His yearly Victory conferences became pilgrimages for Zambian Pentecostals.

Nevers’ influence did not just involve the MMD regime, however. President Kenneth Kaunda counted among many admirers of Nevers. In the dwindling days of his presidency, Kenneth Kaunda, a Chinsali native had turned to Nevers, another Chinsali native for counsel. The meeting at State House that Nevers had with Kaunda occupied several pages in Nevers’ book Integrity With Fire. According to Nevers and using Pentecostal language – President Kenneth Kaunda had given his life to the Lord after meeting Nevers at State House around 1990.

After winning the 1991 elections, President Frederick Chiluba’s government policy was to recognise and respect church leaders. Ignored for a long time under the leadership of Kaunda, Chiluba was going to give more visibility to Pentecostal leaders. He lavished them with recognition and Nevers Mumba was among those Chiluba honored with Zambian diplomatic passports. The reason for this honor was simple: “Christian preachers were envoys of the Christian nation of Zambia.”

On television, The Zambia Shall be Saved program was featured weekly, and sometimes appeared twice a week. In that program, Pastor Nevers Mumba became a firebrand of what it meant for Zambia to be a Christian nation. He would preach about faith, about prosperity, about international exposure. He would also preach about black consciousness. In those programs Nevers would testify about his wealth, his vision and the plans for his church and consequently for Zambia. Things were going well it seems. Zambia was going to be saved, and indeed it was getting saved.

Nevers was an alumnus of Hillcrest Technical School in Livingstone. After completing high school he interned for a few months in the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines. But this was not going to last long. He was to meet Evangelist Reinhard Bonkke in the early 1980s. When Bonkke met Nevers it was like at first sight. Nevers was going to be Bonkke’s Bemba interpreter and before long a scholarship had been arranged for him to study in the USA.

Upon return from the USA around 1983, Nevers registered a ministry under the Companies Act. In those days, Kenneth Kaunda had banned registration of new religious movements. The only recourse for beginners like Nevers was to use the Companies Act. Victory Ministries Inc. was born and with it came the influence, the splendor and the pomp. The poor boy from Chinsali had finally broken into the big league. For Nevers, what Kaunda had said about Zambia being free in 1962, he was going to tweak it and call rebrand it as “Zambia shall be saved.” This was going to be his mantra for life.

That splendor characterized Nevers’ life is an understatement. Ministry supporters of his had given him a mansion in Riverside, Kitwe. Victory Ministries was a staple all over the country. Crusades were held across the nation. Nevers Mumba was that embodiment of those rich American preachers. If any one could say there is money in Christian ministry, Nevers had broken that ceiling. He was swimming in money, in power and in influence. Given that influence, it is true; becoming a politician would truly be a demotion.

And then something happened.

It was in 1997, in Kabwe. Nevers had somewhat a change of heart or mind. We may never know. Or may be he had another born again experience. He announced that he had formed an organization to push for political reforms in Zambia. The National Christian Coalition was going to take on President Chiluba’s government.

When Nevers is making the decision to challenge Chiluba in this manner. He knew that this move would come at great personal and ministry risk. Indeed, if Nevers had cared about his own welfare he knew that challenging the Chiluba government would be a risky move. And it is this move that many analysts of Nevers never pay attention to. By breaking with the Chiluba government, Nevers had demonstrated tremendous courage. He knew he was going to lose all the honor, splendor and respect the Chiluba government had accorded him. In fact, he knew that the words he had spoken to Frank Mutubila earlier would come back to bite him.

But for Nevers, the nation was at stake. Chiluba had become corrupt. The promise of a Christian nation was not leading to a more moral nation. In that context, Nevers felt he could do something about it. He risked it all. And indeed the response from those in power was swift fierce.

After the NCC announcement, Vice-President Miyanda went to ZNBC. He berated Nevers Mumba. The war of words had now become the war between two of the countries’ foremost Pentecostal firebrands: Nevers in one corner and General Miyanda in another. Clearly, Nevers had fallen out of the league. With those words from General Miyanda, Nevers’ world started to shrink. And it shrunk faster than Nevers had expected. The sacrifice he had envisioned for his people was going to demand more than he could handle. If he had been tested and tried many times while preaching, the new political frontier was a temptation on steroids.

Nevers’ fellow preachers were next to call him out. He was a traitor, some of them screamed. He was challenging his fellow brother in Christ, some exclaimed. Some of his detractors accused him of leaving the “calling”, a treasonous crime within the Pentecostal fraternity. The words he had used to Frank Mutubila were replayed over and over again. Some even suggested that he was selfish just wanting to get into politics for more power, splendor and influence. Any one who has watched Nevers knows that he has far given more to politics than he had taken out. And if there was any doubt about that – challenging Chiluba’s corruption was the first step.

Chiluba’s machinery continued to respond swiftly. The NCC’s status as a society was threatened. Nevers had to quickly transform it into a political party and rename it the National Citizens Coalition. Chiluba summoned the Zambia Revenue Authority to audit the Victory Ministries Inc., which had for all these years operated as a non-profit company. Nevers was going to pay back back-taxes in millions of Kwachas. All the privileges Nevers had were to be withdrawn. The diplomatic passport was withdrawn too. Nevers might have bargained for too much. And he had bitten a bigger chunk he could not swallow.

But when he started speaking about his journey towards politics, Nevers was loved by the opposition and by civil society. As a close preacher to Chiluba he had noticed the abuse and corruption going on with Chiluba. Nevers had noticed how the government was working against the Zambians instead of working for the Zambians. Chiluba’s closest confidante, Michael Sata, was also on hand to berate the “disgraced preacher”. It was Nevers against Chiluba, Miyanda and Sata. It was Nevers against the machines of power and the testing and trails were only going to get fiercer.

That mansion in Kitwe was going to be subject of litigation. Victory Ministries faced closure. The Zambia Shall be Saved program on TV was only saved by court intervention. The temptation of Nevers Mumba had only started to intensify.

Pentecostal political theology is still in its infancy as an academic subject. Many observers of Pentecostal political theology especially in Africa do characterize it as one that attempts to maintain the status quo. At best, most analysts see Pentecostals as perpetrators of the status quo. As such, Nevers Mumba’s decision to challenge the status quo was a bit unusual and a departure from what is expected of a Pentecostal preacher. In this regard then, Nevers becomes an embodiment of that spirit of resistance against corruption and abuse of power. After noticing that Zambia was going the wrong direction, Nevers bucked his own Pentecostal movement to challenge the excesses of his brother in Christ, Frederick Chiluba. This Nevers did at great cost to his own life and in fact, to his own integrity.

Pentecostalism is for many reasons predicated on an understanding of God who can do anything. As a faith that lacks a central authority, it is by nature quite chaotic and dynamic. In Pentecostalism God speaks directly, but more than that, God continues to speak daily to his people. As such, when Nevers says he could not join politics that is what God could have told him in 1992, but by progressive revelation may be God told Nevers something else by 1997. He had to abandon the church in order to challenge the corruption he saw in the Chiluba government.

This contrasts Nevers and President Michael Sata. Both of them were close to the Chiluba axis of power. But when he noticed corruption, Nevers broke with Chiluba at great personal and family cost. Sata on the other hand stayed with Chiluba in the middle of the worst corruption Zambia has ever seen. In fact, Michael Sata only left Chiluba after it was apparent that Chiluba had dribbled him on succession. Nevers’ decision to leave Chiluba’s MMD was a decision for others, for Zambia. Sata’s decision to leave, however, was based on personal ambition – the desire to be President and only leave corruption when he gets disappointed from being adopted as MMD candidate.

By the time Nevers was campaigning to be president of Zambia for the 2001 elections, he had been reduced to a pauper. The levers of power had worked their way into Nevers’ life. He had lost everything. The only thing he was left with was that Pentecostal confidence in the God who can “do anything.” Nevers had lost his house, his reputation stained, and his friends had run away from him. He had not committed any crimes, or may be the only crime was to cry out against the shoes, the designers Bombasa, and theft he saw in the Chiluba administration. And for doing that, he suffered for it. Politics for Nevers had been a demotion, but a demotion he fully believed was for the good of the nation.

By the end of the 1990s, Nevers’ children had just become teenagers. They needed a father who would provide for them. Having lost the income, the influence, the power, Nevers had paid a huge price for politics. His passion for the ordinary Zambia led him to make these sacrifices. He had some solace in a few friends outside of Zambia who would invite him to preach. Having lost the Kitwe home – Nevers had become a destitute. Politics and a passion for his people and his nation had not made him richer but poorer. And daily, he had to agonize about what happens to his children, and to his family. The days of splendor and glory are over. With a simple stroke of a microphone he could have returned to preaching full time. And as usual, there was going to be more people to welcome back the prodigal preacher.

The temptation of Nevers was too great to bear. The man who could advice presidents was now living in a guest wing at his in-laws. Cruel life. But for a good cause. The cause of his nation.

And then the call came.

Nevers Mumba’s one of his eleven challengers in the 2001 elections had now been president for almost a year. Levy Mwanawasa had been handpicked by President Frederick Chiluba to succeed him. When Levy won the elections, he adopted the fight against corruption as the motto of his presidency. Levy Mwanawasa started proceedings to have Chiluba prosecuted for corruption and theft. Nevers Mumba’s fight against Chiluba’s corruption had now been confirmed that Chiluba was no longer in power. President Chiluba, a man of the people had by the end of his second term faced serious accusation of theft and corruption.

When Mwanawasa made the moves to prosecute Chiluba, Nevers Mumba was among the first to support the decision. The Post Newspapers carried Nevers Mumba’s reaction to President Mwanawasa’s efforts. “It was an answer to God’s justice”, Pastor Nevers Mumba had said. May be, as he is saying this, he has in mind the injustice he had suffered at the hand of President Frederick Chiluba. For now, it was just early 2002 and President Mwanawasa had noticed, a Chinsali born Bemba, and former preacher who shared his ideals against corruption.

Levy Mwanawasa’s crack at the presidency proved difficult. Chiluba’s influence within the levers of power was so endemic. If he had to prosecute Chiluba, Mwanawasa needed partners. But partners within the MMD government proved difficult to keep. And so he had to look elsewhere.

Within the MMD, almost all of the senior leaders had been soiled by the Chiluba corruption. Vice-President Kavindele himself had won the MMD vice-presidency under very controversial circumstances at the 2001 convention. By 2003, the Bemba speaking faction in the MMD had been dissatisfied with Mwanawasa. President Mwanawasa was going to find a perfect fit to help him win the Bemba hearts and to fortify his fight against corruption.

It was early 2003. In an evening broadcast, President Mwanawasa had made a choice of a new Vice-President. Nevers Sekwila Mumba from the living room of his in-laws went through the formalities of appointment. He had become Zambia’s Vice-President. Becoming the first preacher to become Vice-President and the second Chinsalian to become Vice-President after Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe in 1967.

President Mwanawasa had found a partner in the fight. President Mwanawasa had also found a well-spoken preacher to help him deal with the public relations issues facing his government. Nevers was swift, flamboyant and hard working. His personality made him likeable. The image of a clean, handsome man coming into office enthralled many.

But this honeymoon was never to last long.

In 2004, Nevers’ crack at executive privilege had been curtailed. President Mwanawasa had fired him. And with his firing – Nevers’ trials and temptations continued.

“The Declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation: Blessing or Curse”: What Gershom Ndhlovu Misses About Pentecostals

By E. Munshya wa Munshya

The book The Declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation: Blessing or Curse is Gershom Ndhlovu’s debut book. It is available at amazon.com in kindle edition. It is a book for the modern person in many ways, first, as a publication utilizing modern technologies. And second, by how much it makes use of the Internet and social media for its resources.

For about $12.00, the book simultaneously downloaded to my kindle on all my three devices. The wonders of modern technology had fused with the awes of creative writing employed by Mr. Ndhlovu. I swiftly commenced my reading, switching between devices as time and opportunity allowed.

The publication of this book in kindle format has implications for Zambia. It is limiting to the extent that only those with Internet and a credit card could probably purchase it. This drastically restricts the reach of an otherwise good historical book. Second, this publication goes to show that the leaps towards modern technologies are here to stay. Zambian authors can therefore publish their books in the most inexpensive manner using such devices as amazon’s kindle. As such, Ndhlovu’s work is a mixture, both a blessing and curse.

Mr. Ndhlovu explains the purpose of his book in the last pages. He states that he was motivated to write this book because pastors and politicians who had been abusing the Christian faith to advance their personal agendas had disillusioned him. These pastors and politicians actually sidelined people, obviously like him, who “wanted a secular system of governance”. He then continues to state that he hopes that “the objective of promoting the separation of church and government would have been met by the facts presented” in his book. After reading the book, I have doubts whether Mr. Ndhlovu actually discharges this objective.

I think the book is good in presenting some political history of Zambia. However, even then, the history Ndhlovu presents is not necessarily new. He has repeated much of the same history written by other authors. Where he stands out, however, is when he addressed the story of Anderson Mazoka and the issue of Zambia’s struggle with homosexual rights. For a young nation like ours – the challenge for equality for our homosexual citizens remains a very important matter and Ndhlovu does very well to give this matter some visibility.

My critical review of this book therefore will centre on Ndhlovu’s treatment of the Pentecostal faith. This book on the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation is undoubtedly a book about Zambian politics as much as it is about the Pentecostals as important players in the declaration drama.

First, when Ndhlovu mentions that pastors disillusion him – he has explained clearly which pastors he has in mind: the Pentecostal pastors. As such, in his attempt at perhaps questioning these pastors he mischaracterizes the history and doctrines of Pentecostals. For example, he mentions that Pentecostals seem to have grown in Zambia because people flocked there to identify themselves with the president. As a result, “some clergy became some the wealthiest people in the land through tithes that congregants had to pay and other connections they forged with the government.”

While I am sympathetic with Mr. Ndhlovu’s loath for Pentecostals, I find it rather surprising that he could actually misdirect Pentecostal history in this manner. It is open knowledge that Pentecostalism has grown exponentially in Zambia. But this growth cannot just be attributed to a Pentecostal president. In fact, Pentecostalism was on the increase from the early 80s. It is during KK’s tenure that Pentecostalism saw its most substantial development. Chiluba only brought visibility to Pentecostals, something that never existed under the dictatorial rule of Kenneth Kaunda.

It is common knowledge that there are very few rich pastors within Pentecostalism, especially in Lusaka. However, most Pentecostal pastors remain very poor – as poor as their congregants. Three rich pastors in Lusaka cannot be the standard to measure Pentecostals just as the rich Catholic Bishops should not be used as a standard for all other Catholics.

Second, Ndhlovu does not seem to appreciate the grievances that Zambians had with Kenneth Kaunda’s involvement with Eastern Mysticism. It is not for me to debate the merits or demerits of Zambians’ aversion for Eastern Mysticism. My duty is just to acknowledge this reality. In Zambia, Eastern Mysticism has been associated with religions foreign to Zambia. When Kenneth Kaunda started to experiment with these religions – most Zambians (Catholic and protestant alike) were uncomfortable with Kaunda. This was not just the case of overzealous Pentecostals misunderstanding Kaunda. Kaunda in his own book “Letters to my children” expressed how that he had abandoned his father’s Christian beliefs in favour of a more syncretic worldview. Meeting the Catholic leaders in the 1980s Kaunda even intimated to Archbishop Mazombwe that he had met an Indian spiritualist that had helped him understand God better.

And contrary to Ndhlovu’s characterization, when Kaunda hired the Indian mystics to be his spiritual advisors he fired all Christian advisors. This was most probably very offensive to Zambians and that is why it formed part of the many reasons responsible for Kaunda’s removal. In this case, it was not only the Pentecostals that de-campaigned Kaunda – even his own UCZ pastors were at the forefront in Kitwe in denouncing Kaunda’s sacrifice of the nation’s soul to Eastern religions.

Third, Ndhlovu then goes into theology. He discusses the merits and demerits of the “born again” concept and uses scripture and tradition to explain that evangelicals are probably mistaken in their view of being born again. When writing a book like this, probably Ndhlovu should have kept himself away from engaging in theological disputes. Church practices never make sense. They are not meant to make sense. If he holds that traditional churches are more biblical in requiring “catechism” which the Pentecostals don’t, that argument should be left to theology rather than history. Traditional churches also have doctrines and practices that they hold on to which in many cases don’t make biblical sense. Could we go on to the dogma of Immaculate Conception? Or the dogma of Papal Infallibility? Or even then of other doctrines held by historical denominations. When making arguments for or against the Church’s involvement in politics it is hardly a good strategy to discredit other denominations based on theology. Theology is an uncertain discipline to prove anything.

I must mention though that as a theologian, I found Ndhlovu’s love and treatment of Scriptures to be quite refreshing. His own writing does seem to confirm the idea that many Zambians take Christianity very seriously. It is no doubt that Ndhlovu relies heavily on the Bible to prove his points. Ndhlovu’s love for the Bible and his use of the Bible also fortifies the general view that Zambians are thoroughly Christian and would rely on the Bible to prove anything. If Ndhlovu feels that politicians have abused the Bible – he could also count himself among them. He has clearly relied on the Bible heavily to push his own agenda.

Fourthly, Ndhlovu mischaracterizes history when he claims that Pentecostal churches mostly welcomed the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation without support from other denominations. Eight days after the declaration all the three church mother bodies issued a joint pastoral statement supporting President Chiluba’s decision. The EFZ, ECZ, and CCZ all took the declaration as a step in the right direction. The idea that the mainline denominations were opposed to the Declaration belongs to later revisions of history and not to the events surrounding the original declaration in 1991. Unfortunately, Ndhlovu takes the bait and documents a revisionist narration.

Fifth, Pentecostal churches have been shown in Ndhlovu’s book as being very supportive of Chiluba and of following him blindly. But a critical look at Pentecostals would show that Pentecostals are not a unified body and neither is it desirable that they should be so. To take a few voices and impose them on all Pentecostals is not fair analysis. In any case, it is from the Pentecostal fraternity that Chiluba got one of the greatest opposition. Pastor Nevers Mumba, at a time when it was not fashionable to do so, abandoned the pulpit and directly challenged President Chiluba’s corruption. Had Ndhlovu wanted to present a more balanced view of Pentecostal response to the excesses of President Chiluba he would have also mentioned Nevers as an opponent of Chiluba’s.

A few facts might be in order. Even if Chiluba was of the Pentecostal faith, most in his cabinet were actually non-Pentecostal. Indeed, the Post Newspaper when criticizing Father Chilinda noticed that it is actually St. Ignatius Catholic Church that had produced the most corrupt government officers under president Chiluba. What this demonstrates is that corruption and government excesses should not be portrayed as a preserve of one church or one faith.

Sixth, it is quite disquieting that Ndhlovu does seem to suggest that Pentecostals never supported Michael Sata’s ascension to power. Pentecostals were among the most ardent supporters of the Patriotic Front and many continue to support President Michael Sata today. Like most Zambians, the voting pattern of Pentecostals is very complex and they do not just vote based on faith. Had this been the case, Nevers Mumba would have enjoyed their vote since 1998.

Pentecostals are citizens like everyone else and they do support politicians not only based on faith but also based on their stomachs. They supported Michael Sata because they believed that he would help bring change to Zambia. In fact, one Pentecostal congregation produced 3 councilors for PF in the 2006 elections in Lusaka. Among these was the mayor of Lusaka. In fact, Lusaka at one time had two successive PF mayors of the pentecostal faith.

A book like Ndhlovu’s is a good start for history. It has lots of positives. But the Pentecostal story needed a response and I hope my critique above will help strengthen the very ideals that Ndhlovu wanted to promote. I highly recommend Ndhlovu’s book and look forward to further dialogue with him on some of these matters.