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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.

Beyond “House, Money, Car”: Why Ms. Kay Figo Deserved Compensation

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

Zambia should change laws that unfairly disadvantage women - Munshya

Zambia should change laws that unfairly disadvantage women – Munshya

The facts of the 2012 case of one Ms. Kay Figo and her lover Mr. Van are very well defined. Around 2007 a 55 year-old Mr. Van  met a 21-year Ms. Kay Figo at a Kabwata nightclub. Due to love at first sight, Mr. Van that night invited Ms Kay to his Makeni home.  They  lived together for a period of 5 years. The relationship had broken down for at least two years of those five years. Noting that the relationship had broken down, Ms. Kay sued Mr. Van before the Lusaka Local Court. Ms. Kay’s argument was that she deserved compensation from Mr. Van for lost time while “dating” him. She wanted the court to recognise her time with Mr. Van as deserving some level of legal or equitable recognition. Some reports suggest that Ms. Figo had actually wanted this 5-year cohabitation to be recognized as a common law or some form of customary marriage. Mr. Van argued that, to the contrary, he did not need to compensate her because as far as he was concerned he was not married to her. It was also Mr. Van’s argument that during the 5 years he had lived with Ms. Kay he had tried repeatedly to reach her family so that he could get her to marry him. Reaching family suggest that Mr. Van might have wanted to marry her through customary law and practice. He argues further that she was not willing to introduce him to her family. As such she refused his proposal for marriage. That having been the case, he argued that she was un-deserving of any compensation.

This matter has received lots of media attention. Some in the media have characterized Kay as an “untaught” girl and as a gold digger just out to get Mr. Van for his money. Indeed that Kay was quite specific about the amount of compensation she wanted from her former lover, only went to stoke the suspicions in many that she was an opportunist going for a “house, money and car”.

The Lusaka Local Court reached its decision in October 2012. The local court justices dismissed Ms. Kay’s action declaring that since she had not been married to Mr. Van, she had no recourse to any compensation. The courts declared that there was no valid marriage contract upon which compensation can be ordered. As such, Ms. Kay was unsuccessful in this claim.

I find the decision of the court to be unfair. I wish to paint this decision within a wider framework of both law and tradition to argue that there is need for Zambia to change its legal framework as to recognise compensation in cases such as the one under consideration.

Ms. Kay Figo

Ms. Kay Figo

In Zambia today, there are principally two ways by which marriage can be contracted. The first is marriage under the Act and the second one is the marriage under Zambian traditions and customs. Marriage under the Act is primarily modelled after European system (sometimes misusing the Bible as justification). In this marriage, two people can contract a marriage and have it solemnized by the registrar of marriage or a gazetted minister of religion. The marriages contracted under Zambian laws and tradition is valid only after definite steps are taken. Legal jurisprudence right now as it stands in the Supreme Court precedence is that a marriage under customary law can only be valid if the man has paid some form of dowry or “lobola” to the family of the woman.

The consequence of the law as it stands right now is that regardless of how long a man has lived with a woman, that union cannot be recognized as a marriage unless he has “reached” the woman’s family and some form of dowry has been paid to the woman’s family. It is not my intention to change the way our traditions or the law defines what a marriage is. I would leave that up to the traditionalists and to the Zambian parliament.

My argument is that there has to be some form of legal or customary recognition of some unions contracted in the manner similar to Ms. Kay and Mr. Van’s. My argument is that leaving the law as it is would disadvantage women who are at the receiving end of unbalanced power within society. Indeed, in much of the English Common law jurisdictions, the law has moved on to where it imposes a “marriage” upon any couple that has cohabited for a specific period of time. In Canada for example, the “marriage under common law” is imposed upon any couple that has lived together for at least 12 continuous months. Privileges for such recognition vary from one Canadian jurisdiction to another.

In the case of Zambia, a couple should either be married or if not then it is cohabiting with the later receiving no legal or equitable protection at all. There is no middle ground. Marriage receives both legal and equitable protection while cohabitation does not. I do not wish to encourage cohabitation. Indeed, a marriage is far much better than two people just cohabiting. But there comes a time where women are disadvantaged due to the unfair balances of power after the cohabitation is over. Indeed, in the case of Ms. Kay and Mr. Van, the man took this young girl from a bar and lived with her for 5 years. That they were cohabiting without being married is clear for all to see. But in the event that the relationship comes to an end it would be unconscionable for the woman to walk out of that relationship without some amount of consideration.

She was a de-facto spouse to Mr. Van while she lived with him. She cleaned his house and took out his garbage every night or probably once a week. She worked hard for him. She provided him with the love and affection he needed. This love and affection made him work well and work hard in his businesses. For at least a majority of those five years, she was there for him. Honestly, that after these years she deserved some form of a “house, money or car” from him. He must not be allowed to dismiss her that easily.

Many commentators have discussed how a “gold-digger” Ms. Kay is. In fact, many have questioned her moral values as “ a girl picked from a bar.” Indeed, I find such criticisms very unfair. Why aren’t the same people condemning the 55-year-old Mr. Van who pounced on this innocent girl? Why is it that when it comes to such matters, the woman gets the most condemnation while the man goes scot-free? In fact, Mr. Van has been left off the hook such that there are reports that he has now started another “cohabitation” with another young woman.

If indeed, Ms. Kay is a bar girl, that criticism should also be leveled against Mr. Van who took her from the bar and within the same night took her to his house in Makeni. He loved her and lived with her for five solid years. Honestly, after having enjoyed her youth and her innocence, Mr. Van cannot and should not get away so easily. He must at least offer reasonable compensation to her. It is just the right thing to do.

She has lost the case. Probably, as a controversial musician, she will even sell more records after this episode. However, she will bear the brunt of this saga while Mr. Van goes scot free to begin pouncing on another girl at a shabeen in Shang’ombo.

Only that next time, we must make Mr. Van realize that once he picks another girl, he would not discard her so easily. The “not married to you” nonsense should not be tolerated. If you cannot marry the girl then do not cohabit with her. But if you so wish to cohabit with her then you should be able to offer any compensation that would normally fall on a marriage of similar length. Here is a number from Ms. Figo.

(c) E. Munshya, LLB, M.Div. (2012). This article was originally published on this website on 5 October 2012. It is republished here in 2014. All rights reserved.

When a Cobra Spits at Crocodiles: Why President Sata Shouldn’t Fight the “Bashi Lubemba”

Elias Munshya, LLB (Hons), MA, Mdiv.

The Issue

President Michael Chilufya Sata in May 2013 used his powers as President of the Republic of Zambia to withdraw government recognition of one Henry Kanyanta Sosala as Senior Chief Mwamba of the Bemba people. According to President Sata, Sosala did “not fully undergo Bemba rituals for him to ascend to the throne of Senior Chief Mwamba.”[i] Just what made Sata to be the arbiter of Bemba rituals is an open question we attempt to ask in this article.

After some hesitation, Henry Sosala succumbed to presidential pressure and conceded to President Sata’s demands. He resigned from the Mwambaship and apologized to President Sata for the embarrassment he had caused him.[ii] On the other hand, the Bemba traditional elders were quite displeased with what they perceived to be President Sata’s interference with their traditional matters. In a meeting held with President Sata’s emissaries, Chiefs Affairs Minister Nkandu Luo and Defence Minister Godfrey Mwamba, the Council of Bemba elders (Bashi Lubemba) expressed concern at the president’s action and asked that Sata stops to interfere in traditional affairs.

President Michael Sata - The King Cobra

President Michael Chilufya Sata – The King Cobra

In August 2013, two months later, the same traditional council sat and decided to pick the same de-gazetted Henry Kanyanta Sosala as the next king of the Bemba Commonwealth. This in many ways went against President Sata’s wishes. First, the President had initially degazetted Sosala as Chief Mwamba. Second, Sosala himself had succumbed to presidential pressure and left the throne. Third, it is quite unusual that the Bemba Traditional Council would go ahead to grant supreme control to a chief who had been degazetted by the president.

That this act by the Bashi Lubemba will set of some stand off with President Sata is clear. Some reports suggest that president Sata has personal interest in the Bemba chiefdom that makes him desire to have a close relation of his to ascend to the Bemba chieftainship. In clear defiance of his wishes, the Bashi Lubemba have made perhaps one of the clearest statement to president Sata that they will not succumb to his wishes. As far as they are concerned, they have made the choice of a new paramount chief of the Bemba, and that person will have to be Sosala – the same person, President Sata degazetted.

In this battle, it is our opinion that President Sata should desist from causing any further confusion in the Bemba traditional affairs. It is also our submission that if president Sata decides to act any further against Sosala or against the Bashi Lubemba, it will be a battle he cannot win. And this is so, for several reasons.

Since Sata Is Bisa, What Stake Does He Have in The Bemba Empire?

It is important to set aside some misconceptions concerning the Bemba Empire. There has been some reports that President Sata being Bisa of Mpika cannot and should not have any interest in the Bemba traditional affairs. The truth is that in the present state of affairs, while the Bisa peoples and the Bemba peoples remain distinct, there has been incessant blurring of that distinction. As such, the argument that President Sata does not have tribal or familial interest in the Bemba affairs because he is not Bemba is an accusation not steeped in reality.

In the Bemba and Bisa ruling aristocracy, there is no distinction between a Bisa and a Bemba. We could take one example: the Chibesakunda chiefdom of Chinsali. Even if the Chibesakunda chiefdom is a chiefdom of the Bisa, Chief Chibesakunda herself is supposed to be a Bemba belonging to the Ng’ona clan. Essentially, then the Bisa people of Chinsali have a Bemba lineage ruling over them. However, with intermarriages and in fact, matrilineal system of succession the distinction that should exist between who is Bemba and who is Bisa in the royal household of Chibesakunda and indeed among their subjects has been blurred further.

The auxiliary blurring of these lines happened a few years ago when the Chibesakunda Royal Court appointed Bob Bwembya Luo, a Bemba from the Ng’andu clan to become the Chief Chibesakunda. This brought some protests from a Bisa and former parliamentarian Newton Ng’uni[iii] who in March 2007 wrote that the new Chief Chibesakunda was actually a Bemba from Abena Ng’andu and as such could not ascend to a throne reserved for Abena Ng’ona. President Mwanawasa’s government was swift in gazetting this new Chibesakunda, partly to bring stability to the chiefdom, which had not had a substantial chief for decades.

Using what happened with Chibesakunda as an example, the choice of a chief by a royal council is almost sacrosanct; courts of law do not and should not interfere with choices done by the royal council. This being the case then, those who think that a Bisa has no interest in the Bemba traditional affairs unfairly target President Sata.  We must submit however, that President Sata’s interest or interference in Bemba traditional affairs should not go to the extent of meddling with the Bashi Lubemba.

The Bashilubemba

Traditionally, the Bashi Lubemba is the Bemba Royal Council that is custodian of Bemba traditions. It also carries out the sacred duty of choosing of the successor of the Chitimukulu throne. In Bemba traditional management the second most senior throne next to the Chitimukulu is the Mwambaship. After Mwamba comes several other chiefs such as Mpepo and Nkula. It was customary that after the death of Chitimukulu it is the Mwamba that accedes to the throne.

However, it is not automatic that Mwamba becomes Chitimukulu for it is the Bashi Lubemba who appoints a Chitimukulu. A few years ago, the Bashi Lubemba in favour of a chief Mpepo bypassed a chief Mwamba. Chief Mwamba then decided to take the matter to the High Court. At first instance, Justice Anthony Nyangulu declared Mwamba to be the next Chitimukulu and chastised the Bashi Lubemba for not following customary law that made a Mwamba to be the next Chitimukulu. Mpepo appealed against this decision and the Supreme Court reversed Justice Nyangulu’s decision. In that case, the Supreme Court made some very important pronouncements with regard to customary affairs in Zambian traditions.

According to the Supreme Court, even if customary practice mostly favored a Mwamba as the automatic successor to Chitimukulu, the decision of the Bashi Lubemba was final with regard to whether Mwamba would become Chitimukulu. For Justice Silomba,

“the Bashi Lubemba have the final say over who takes over as Chief Chitimukulu and are not restricted to the system of ladder climbing and seniority.”[iv]

Essentially then, the Bashi Lubemba are the custodians and the courts of law should not replace their customary advice and input. Fundamentally, it is the Bashi Lubemba who make Bemba chiefs.

The Bashi Lubemba are important in making the Chitimukulu because they comprise both the rulers of the Chiefdom and the priests of the chiefdoms. The Bemba royal house strikes a balance between the ruling clan (Abena Ng’andu) and the ritual priests (Bakabilo). A Chitimukulu can only succeed in leading the Bembas if indeed she has the blessing of the ritualists. Royal birth does not automatically entitle one to being Chitimukulu; it must be supplemented by the approval of a clan different from the Abena Ng’andu. It is in this vein, that the decision from the Bashi Lubemba should be respected.

Should Sata Be The Bemba Ritual Expert?

President Sata’s original decision to dethrone Sosala as the Chief Mwamba was that Sosala had not followed proper ritual procedure. The problem here is that the President even if as a Bisa does have an interest in the Bemba chiefdoms, does not have expertise to advise the Bemba royalists about what that ritual procedure must be.

President Sata is president of our republic; he is unfortunately not an expert in ritual practices of the Bemba peoples, even if he belongs to the greater Bemba commonwealth. Indeed, if the Bashi Lubemba are wrong in their choice, it is not for President Sata to make that call.

In fact, there is precedence where a white Catholic priest, Bishop Joseph DuPont, acceded to the throne of Mwamba with full approval from the Bemba royal household. As far as tradition is concerned, it is what the Bashi Lubemba decide that should carry the day with regard to matters of succession. If indeed, the Bemba royal household had erred to have Sosala as Chief Mwamba, President Sata could not unilaterally decide to reverse such a resolution.

Bishop DuPont - A Catholic Priest who reigned as Chief Mwamba of the Bemba People

Bishop DuPont – A Catholic Priest who reigned as Chief Mwamba of the Bemba People

Leaving the Sosala and Mwamba saga aside, the recent decision of the Bashi Lubemba to recognise this same Sosala as Chief Chitimukulu makes things even more difficult for President Sata. Sosala has several things going well for him. First, he was the substantive Chief Mwamba chosen by the Mwamba royal household, and secondly, he has become the choice of the Bashi Lubemba to be the next Chitimukulu. With these two going for Sosala, President Sata is in a serious quandary as to what he would do next.

The Tests From the Judges

For sure, there is no dispute between any competing pretenders to the Chitimukulu throne. The choice of customary practice, going by Justice Nyangulu’s test favors Sosala and so is the supremacy of the Bashi Lubemba (going by the Supreme Court test).

This being the case, President Sata in combating the Bashi Lubemba will quickly realize that a Cobra cannot quite win if it fights the Crocodiles. Abena Ng’andu with their colleagues the Bakabilo, in the Bashi Lubemba, will shame the Bisa Cobra, again.

© 2013, E. Munshya wa Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.A, M.Div., For more information about our articles please visit http://www.eliasmunshya.org.

“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.