COVID-19 and the Performances for the Camera In Zambia
By Elias Munshya
The two government ministers, based on their performance when announcing the COVID-19 deaths, seem to have acted so well for the camera that some of our people think that they are a couple made from heaven. I do not think heaven, but perhaps hell. I am a Pentecostal after all. How we elevate thieves and celebrate them, shows partly our lack of seriousness as a people regarding values that we want to see in our leaders, or our future leaders. It also indicates lamentably the power of media – or the lack thereof. The questions that we must be asking our selves is not how one performs for the camera; but rather what that person has done for others, for the little person, for the poor. So far, all we hear is that the couple is corrupt. Or slightly that one of them is now facing corruption allegations. The lady just recently banned a television station and caused China to interfere in our common sense. The gentleman is a cunning thief and should not have been close to any microphone or television camera. That is if we are talking of a nation that has functioning democracy; or whose leaders have basic human decency.
But the PF government lacks common human decency; each state contract is an opportunity to steal. It is sangwapo for ba pompwe. They have no fear of God in them. For just a few days ago, it was announced that the PF party has been taking market levies from Lusaka markets and bus stations to the tune of millions of Kwachas – the money that can do wonders for Miles Sampa. Without an ounce of shame, the PF’s Secretary-General announced with the glee of confusion that the gentleman bandit of SOWETO market would be in the Lusaka executive. Lusaka’s executive mayor is left looking like a powerless child with no energy to bring decency to the embezzlement happening at City Market, at Kulima, and at SOWETO. His party’s bigwigs are the ones responsible for the robbery. What can a little mayor do? Nothing much, except perhaps to moo, and moo some more.
Excellent communicators Pentecostals are. Using words, they paint beautiful worlds. They are great saleswomen and men, or perhaps marketers, par-excellence who love the light, the camera, and the action. One thing this faith has not done well, however, is to try and portray the positive things it does in Zambian society. Mention Pentecostals, and what comes to the mind of most people, is the excessive lives of its two or three leaders, at most. Their lavish lifestyles. Their mansions. And their unnecessarily many cars. And, I almost forgot – their designer shoes and belts, or perhaps designer underwear (who knows?). Mention Pentecostals, and, “sowing the seed” comes to mind. But there is a lot our faith can offer, and it must be able to herald the good things that it does beyond the deception of fake glamour. You will never get to hear much of it, but Pentecostal clergy are doing great work in their communities. They are present in Chinsali; in Mwense, and in Mongu. They are living among the people. They are acting as marriage counsellors and therapists. They are taking care of orphans and widows in Chiwempala where I grew up. They call you brother and sister because if you are born again – you are family. Some Pentecostals have started schools and are paying for school fees for the vulnerable. It is a faith of sisterhood. It is a faith of the poor and the downtrodden. It is a faith of hope, and help. But why does not this faith manage its media and public relations in ways that are reflective of the excellent work it is doing. We will continue to wonder – until, as the Pentecostals put it, “the last day”.
Last week, a named big fish of the Pentecostal faith was alleged to have demanded that his members continue to pay tithes and seeds. Even as COVID-19 pandemic is reaching its height. The condemnation was almost unanimous and universal. Some suggested that the man of “Gold” was only interested in the money from the victims of the pandemic. Some indicated that even if the preacher is entitled to collect tithes, it was insensitive for him to demand that people continue to give to the church during a pandemic. From that one video caption; I think it was unfair for Zambia to go berserk. Zambians should have paid attention to the good work that good church is doing. But the challenge is upon the Pentecostals themselves to explain the good work they are doing. They should stop giving this impression that they are just about collecting money from the poor. Zambians should look and evaluate Pentecostalism not just from the perspective of the few wealthy Lusaka based business bishops. Most Pentecostal preachers are struggling, like everyone else. They are working very hard for their neighbourhoods and communities. It is just right that the people give these Pentecostals a new look. By Pentecostals, I really do not mean the false prophets where people go for ukusesema, ukubuka, ukulowa, divination, witchcraft and nonsense. I mean the real Pentecostal churches that are truly serving their communities across our country.
Light. Camera. Action. Can make thieves and tribalists look like that they are potential presidents and vice-presidents. But the lack of light, camera, action can also cause a faith of the poor, such as Pentecostalism, appear to be a faith of thieves and tribalists.
At the end of the day, as the nation recovers from COVID-19 and its attendant puzzlement, we will be fair in our assessment of what really matters. And perhaps extend to each other the grace we need during this time. That gentleman thief does not deserve our sympathy no matter how good he looks when announcing COVID-19 cases. And that gentleman bishop deserves our sympathy, particularly when we realise the good work that his church has done across this country.
May God has mercy on us all. Except perhaps, for that gentleman thief!
Elias Munshya holds seven degrees in theology, law, business, and counselling psychology. He is the principal of an international law firm of MUNSHYA LAW based out of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org