Church bodies reflections on Zambia’s Independence

CELEBRATING OUR INDEPENDENCE

“A Time to Reflect, Dialogue, Reconcile and Resolve to Move Forward with Unity of Purpose”

A Statement from the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ),

the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ), and

the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC)

1. “Praise the Lord, for he is good; sing praise to our God, for he is gracious; it is fitting to praise him” (Psalm 147:1). 

2. The commemoration on 24th October of our Zambian Independence is an opportune time for a joyful celebration and prayerful reflection. It is also a privileged moment for conducting a clear self-evaluation as a nation and taking a renewed commitment to work harder for national development in the spirit of “One Zambia, One Nation”.  This important occasion accords us a chance to gratefully look at our past with a special focus on what our courageous Freedom Fighters secured for us 46 years ago. We are also called to humbly look at the present and identify the many challenges we face as we continue to enjoy the blessings of our political independence. Not only that, we are supposed to hopefully look to the future with trust in God’s loving care for a people facing numerous problems but also possessing an immense potential to overcome them.

3. By way of this joint Pastoral Letter, we the three mother bodies of the Christian Churches in Zambia – CCZ, EFZ, and ZEC – invite all Zambians to join us in this prayerful reflection.

  1. I.             looking at the Past with Gratitude

 

4. There is so much to be thankful to God for as we celebrate 46 years of Independence.  This has been a time of peace in our beautiful country, with 73 tribes living in relative harmony with each other and contributing to national unity.  We can not pay a blind eye to the fact that Zambia played a vital role towards the political liberation of our neighbouring countries. In addition, many people around the world appreciate us as being not only a peaceful, welcoming and friendly nation, but also a country which has produced a number of reputable statesmen and women, academicians and innovative engineers and scientists. We need to be proud of our own and create an enabling environment that would help them do for Zambia what they are now doing for other countries and multi-national organisations. The example of dedicated Freedom Fighters offers us the challenge to reflect on what we would be willing to sacrifice in order to ensure the sovereignty and dignity for our sisters and brothers. 

5. Today’s challenging task is not political independence from a colonial master but socio-economic independence from poverty, hunger, illness, vulnerability, mal-development, and unjust distribution of resources.  When we reflect on the personal sacrifice many thousands of Zambians endured – not simply the famous few whom we call Freedom Fighters – we are called to examine our own willingness to sacrifice and die a little in a bid to improve our national conditions today. Indeed, our fore-fathers and mothers did not ask for allowances but were instead willing to sacrifice their lives for our beloved nation.

6. And so on this Independence Day 2010, we Zambians need to prayerfully look back with a spirit of gratitude that commits us to work even harder today for true Independence!

  1. II.           Looking at THE present with honesty

 

7. When we look at the Zambian scene this October 2010, we see many immediate challenges that call for a response marked by the same dedication which characterised the efforts that brought us Independence 46 years ago.  What is disturbing to many of us is that what has been recently done to improve many aspects of the socio-economic development in Zambia – and we do happily and honestly recognise these improvements – has all too often been used recently as advertisements for electioneering and for exaggerating accomplishments while ignoring other very pressing needs. But even the acknowledged improvements in some sectors of socio-economic development in this country must not distract us from the simply unacceptable misery that all too many Zambians daily endure in the deplorable settings of peri-urban shanty compounds or isolated rural areas.  Lack of clean water, decent sanitation, access to nutritious diets, acceptable health and educational services – all of us know real life stories of the suffering of our sisters and brothers in these situations.  And so when we honestly look at the present scene in Zambia, we cannot close our eyes to these situations.     

8. As Church leaders, we feel the need to state clearly our own views – representative as they are of our listening to our members from across Zambia – and then humbly invite others to offer both constructive criticism and alternative proposals.

  1.  The National Budget for 2011

9. We commend the Minister of Finance and National Planning for emphasising that he wanted to present a “People’s Budget from a People’s Government.” We surely appreciate the efforts being made to maintain a lower inflation rate, accelerate infrastructure development and attract more Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). But we also know that the majority of our people live in extreme poverty. For this budget to be truly called a “People’s Budget,” it must be “a Pro-Poor budget.”  We therefore have serious questions about the truth of the mentioned theme of next year’s budget, arising from our analysis of a Budget that does not appear to put our significant national resources at the service of our national interests.  While it is good to note that the proportion of the health and social protection sectors increased, the education and agriculture sectors saw reduced budgetary allocations as a percentage of the entire budget.  For example, agriculture is given 5.9% of the total budget, while there is an 11.7% total allocation for defence and public order (in a country that boasts of being conflict-free!).   

10. While raising the PAYE bottom tax free line from K800,000 to K1 million provides some relief for employed workers, we consider that in reality, this is only a minimal relief.  Indeed, as the Basic Needs Basket research reveals, the essential food supplies for a family of six is now over K850,000, while other essentials such as water and energy sources raise the cost to considerably more than one million.

11. It is disappointing that the Budget Message did not address other ways of raising the necessary revenue, especially finding ways of fairly taxing the informal sector and approaches for more just taxes on our mining industry.

12. In providing social services so essential for national development and the meeting of the desired Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Budget Message and additional speeches by Government officials should not speak only of the quantity of services (number of schools, hospitals, clinics) but also of the quality of services (availability of well trained and motivated teachers, doctors and nurses and adequate equipment).  This commitment to social development needs to be seen by all Government officials and all politicians as a greater priority than is currently registered.   

  1. Need for a Clear Road-Map for Enacting a New Constitution

 

13. As is well-known, we the three Church Mother Bodies (CCZ, EFZ and ZEC) have from the start had significant concerns with the process by which Government moved to put in place a new Constitution. These concerns were systematically ignored by the Government and the issues raised about clarity of mandate and composition of members of the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) were never fully addressed.  And the result is now evident in the next to the last draft completed by the NCC.  Major issues such as separation of powers, Presidential roles, electoral reform, independence of key Commissions, re-shaping of a Bill of Rights, control over debt contraction and many others have not been adequately dealt with. 

14. All of us the Church Mother Bodies have issued statements on the NCC Draft, expressing our serious concerns and reasoned objections over both the process and content. These statements should be read in conjunction with this Pastoral Letter, to grasp our full views on this matter and our hopes on the way forward.

15. We are deeply disappointed that as of today, the citizens of Zambia have not even been told what is in the final draft constitution submitted by the NCC to the Minister of Justice on 30th August 2010.  Nor has any clear and precise information been made available on the way forward for adoption of a new Constitution – anticipated dates and relevant bodies to take action. Moreover, we would like to express our frustration over the fact that the Republican President did not mention the new Constitution in his opening speech to the Fifth Session of the Tenth National Assembly (on 19th September, 2010) nor did the Minister of Finance and National Development mention it in his Budget Address on 8th October, 2010. 

16. We strongly call upon Government to secure the democratic process of adoption of a new Constitution by demonstrating commitment to a public review of the final draft and a clear road map for public adoption of that draft through the referendum process as originally suggested by the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission.   

  1. Holding Free and Fair By-Elections and the 2011 Tripartite Elections

 

17. We write this Pastoral Letter on the eve of two hotly contested Parliamentary by-elections, in Chilanga and Mpulungu.   The shameful violence seen during the Mufumbwe by-election and the Chilanga nomination of candidates raises deep worries within all Zambians of the future peacefulness of our beloved country. 

18. Other by-elections in Chifubu and Luena were held more peacefully, for which we thank all political parties, the Electoral Commission of Zambia, the police, the press as well as Churches and Civil Society Groups.  We call upon all citizens to both pray for peace and work for peace in any future elections, especially as we move towards the 2011 Tripartite national elections.  A tone of respect for law and tolerance of divergent political views must be widely promoted.

19. But it is clear that we need to continue working at cementing the values of peaceful resolution of conflicts and promoting a culture of respect for each other.  Moreover, stronger actions must be taken to restrain the unruly and anti-democratic behavior of political party cadres.  These cadres should have no role whatsoever on election day and in the period immediately preceding that day.  The Electoral Commission of Zambia must take stronger actions against violators of the Electoral Code of Conduct and the Police from highest to lowest levels must demonstrate unbiased and completely fair adherence to electoral laws and codes.

  1. Our Concerns Over the Mining industries

 

20. It is our firm belief that Zambia is indeed a rich country with abundant human and natural resources. God our creator has blessed this nation with bountiful mineral resources which have a universal destination and are meant to serve the common good. We therefore need to be responsible stewards of God’s creation.

21. We can with satisfaction recall that on the eve of Independence 1964, the new Zambian Government secured arrangements that guaranteed that the rich mineral resources of this country could be made available for the improvement of all the people of Zambia.  While it is true that our nationalised mining industry had over the years a mixed history of efficiency and inefficiency, at least the principle had been established that Zambian resources should be exploited for the benefit of all Zambian citizens. 

22. Unfortunately, since the privatisation of the mines required by the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), this principle has not been respected.  Often times, contracts have been secretly negotiated, advantages have been disproportionably awarded to foreign investors, environmental regulations have been postponed or poorly implemented, accountability has been compromised and a fair tax regime has not been put in place. At the same time, we insist that the government puts in place a legal framework that safeguards the safety and interests of workers who often seem to be mistreated by some investors. These concerns need to be urgently addressed by the government, the investors and all the key stake-holders.

23. We are also disappointed that the Government has steadfastly refused to offer what we and many others in the country could consider a credible defense for not taxing the mining industry in an equitable fashion.  Proposals for a fair “windfall tax” have been summarily dismissed.  There is need to explore mechanisms of transparency and accountability regarding tax payments currently being made by mining companies.  We therefore call upon the President to summon a national “indaba” for a public evaluation of our current taxing regimes with the view of promoting greater efficiency and equity.

24. Moreover, serious concerns are currently being raised about the safety of uranium mining in Zambia, concerns that have not been adequately addressed by the Government.  These concerns deserve fairer treatment and should not be dismissed as coming from ignorant or politically inspired sources.  We call upon Government to design and publish specific guidelines on mining safety, health and protection of the environment that oblige uranium mining companies to protect communities and mine workers  from the harmful effects of radio-active mining.

  1. Church-State Relationship

25. We lament the unfortunate fact that hostile verbal attacks upon the churches in Zambia have been on the increase in recent months.  While at times some individual church personnel might speak out quite sharply, this certainly is not ground for the dangerous threats expressed by some party cadres, the irresponsible insinuations about Church promotion of genocide in this country, and the fallacious ridicule of churches by anonymous writers in the public media. 

26. We surely support a clear separation between the Church and the Government.  But at the same time, we see the need for the two to trust each other, engage in genuine dialogue and work as partners in promoting the development of its peoples, especially the poor.  This requires improving the Church-State relationship, with the Government not favouring only those groups that praise every decision it makes and every plan it follows. On our part, we shall continue to be non-partisan and respectful while playing a vital role of being a voice of conscience calling a nation to order.

27. Certainly we the Church Umbrella Bodies will not be intimidated in exercising our God-given mission of being the watch-dog of the nation and exercising our prophetic ministry of calling for social justice following the example of our Founder, Jesus Christ (see Luke 4:16-20). At the same time, we commit ourselves to continue being credible and reliable instruments for promoting a culture of dialogue, reconciliation, justice, unity, development, tolerance and peace in Zambia.

28. At this time of Independence celebration, we can recall with justifiable pride and renewed commitment how this prophetic ministry was historically exercised in the struggle against imposition of Scientific Socialism, in the support of the movement to multi-party democracy, in the protection of the Constitution against the Third-Term threats, and in the contribution to economic justice through the Jubilee movement for the cancellation of Zambia’s huge external debt.

  1. Responding to the Plight of our Peasant Farmers

 

29. We thank God for sending us enough rains to enable our hard working farmers produce the famous “bumper harvest” and thereby making our nation “food secure,” at least for now. As we celebrate this achievement, we need to acknowledge the key role played by the small-scale farmers, the agriculture extension officers and the policy makers. At the same time, we need to urgently address the problem of corruption in the Farmer In-put Support Programme, high prices of farming in-puts, an extremely poor and unjust marketing system as well as lack of a serious diversification programme in the agricultural sector.

  1. III.          LOOKING AT THE FUTURE WITH HOPE

 

30. This Pastoral Letter has given us the three Church Umbrella Bodies the opportunity to reflect prayerfully and carefully on the current situation in Zambia, recalling God’s generous assistance in obtaining Independence for our nation and God’s loving protection of our people over the years since 1964.  As we recall on Independence Day the many gifts our nation enjoys, we cannot ignore the point made earlier in this Pastoral Letter, that all too many of our sisters and brothers do not share in these gifts in ways befitting their human dignity.  Whether struggling for decent living conditions in urban compounds or rural areas, these people deserve so much more than they presently experience.  And so that is why we have detailed some of the very serious challenges facing all of us.

31. We might not expect all our members to agree with everything that we have said in this Pastoral Letter.  But we surely can expect and consequently do call upon all to consider the overall thrust of its message: the need to restore among all of us the spirit of dedication, generosity and sacrifice that enabled our Independence to be gained and maintained.

32. Consequently, we the leaders of CCZ, EFZ and ZEC recommit ourselves to work for the common good of all our people as we soldier on in our mission of integral evangelisation.  And we call upon Government and political parties, business and labour organisations, civil society and faith groups, and all patriotic citizens to cooperate together in restoring a sense of national identity that we can be proud of.   In this way, we shall be able to sing in jubilation about Zambia being proud and free; about Zambia being a land of work and joy and about Zambians being victors in the struggle against HIV and AIDS, malaria, poverty, hunger, corruption, unemployment, environmental degradation, as well as political and gender-based violence.

33. But above all, we trust in the boundless love poured out upon all of us in Christ Jesus.  For we know that “There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, to its hope, to its power to endure.” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Let us then unite and work harder to make Zambia a better nation in which we live. God bless our nation, LONG LIVE ZAMBIA!

Signed by:

Signed                                                           Signed

______________________         _____________________                       ____________________

   Rev. Suzanne Matale                Rev. Pukuta N. Mwanza                  Fr. Cleophas Lungu

 (General Secretary – CCZ)             (Executive Director – EFZ)             (Secretary General – ZEC)

Date:  24th October, 2010.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND GROUP DISCUSSION

  1. On Part One: “Looking at the Past with Gratitude”

 

  1. 1.    What are some of the key successes we have scored and can be proud of as a nation in the past 46 years?
  2. 2.    What are the major failures our country has recorded since our gaining of political independence in 1964?
  3. 3.    What key lessons can we learn from our national history?

 

  1. On Part Two: “Looking at the Present with Honesty”

 

  1. 1.    What are the main opportunities for prosperity and national development in Zambia today?
  2. 2.    What are the major threats our country faces in the present times?
  3. 3.    What can we do to transform our country into a middle-income economy and a land of moral integrity?

 

  1. On Part Three: “Looking at the Future with Hope”

 

  1. 1.    What should be the role of the Government in shaping a better future for Zambia?
  2. 2.    What role should the Church play in our country?
  3. 3.    What should Christians do to bring about the “Kingdom of God” in the here and now?
  4. 4.    What is the role of every Zambian citizen in building a better nation?

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