By Field Ruwe
Power is sweet; it is heroin, which once tasted increases with a habit. Nevers Mumba has tasted and enjoyed the pleasurable sensations of power. He feels special that with only a humble education he has in his lifetime risen to the second highest position of the land, that of vice president. For this he deserves kudos.
Now power has motivated Mumba to desire establishing even greater control over others. With his new post as president of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), power has subjugated his consciousness, and induced euphoria.
As a result, the eminent televangelist who once said he was called by God to be a prophet and that his calling was higher than that of the president, has forsaken his Lord in prodigal son style.
The question is how has power found access to the control room of Mumba’s heart and mind? Another question, perhaps important to many of his once followers; why has he walked out on God to serve Ceasar?
In addressing these questions let me first provide a brief historical background. The emergence of the AIDS virus in Zambia in the mid-1980s took all of us by surprise. Not at any point in our existence did we think such a mystifying cataclysmic disease would ravage our wellbeing.
When it hit hard we all turned to God for solace. As for the inflicted, repentance was a matter of urgency. They wished for a spiritual rebirth, to be born again as expressed by Jesus: “Very truly I tell you. No one can see the kingdom of God without being born again” (John 3:3).
Although the term “born again” had begun to spread its tentacles in Zambia in the late 1970s, it was the German charismatic evangelist named Reinhard Bonnke who would promulgate it. In 1981, Bonnke with his famous war-cry “Africa shall be saved” traversed Zambia, conducting a series of faith healing crusades.
One of his interpreters was twenty-one-year old Nevers Mumba. As Bonnke’s protégé Mumba came face-to-face with both religious and political power.
With a keen eye, Mumba watched as the virtuoso used his awesome clerical power to mesmerize thousands of desperate and susceptible deaf, dumb, disabled, blind, and sick congregants.
It is important to note that Bonnke’s opponents describe him as “a false prophet of the Lord;” a fraudulent pastor who uses his power to rob poor desperate Africans. I urge readers to watch the documentary “A Question of Miracles: Faith Healing” available online. It is a very well-researched and in-depth look at the world of televangelists like Bonnke and Hinn.
Mumba knows Bonnke better. He watched him tap the heads of the sick, curse their diseases, and exorcise their demons. He no doubt learned the tricks of the trade.
In fact, Mumba was learning so fast Bonnke sponsored him to Dallas, Texas, the Mecca of faith healers, to attend a two-year associate degree in theology at Christ for the Nations College.
In the U.S., Mumba saw that evangelicalism was a gold mine. It was an alley to money only dreams are made of. He witnessed the rise of the Evangelical revivalists and the birth of celebrity pastors like Benny Hinn, Jimmy Swaggart, Marvin Gorman, Paul Franklin Crouch, and Jim Bakker. These “men of God” possessed wealth, power, and control.
He knew how they made their money. He saw some in person or on television, meticulously dressed, suave and urbane. Some of them were brainwashers, hypnotists, manipulators, scammers, exploiters, frauds, tax evaders, and yes, others were perverts. They drove expensive cars and lived in castles.
Mumba desired a piece of the cake. In 1984, he returned home as a charismatic homiletic practitioner with a “brimstone-and-fire” message for Zambians. In a Bonnke revivalist mode, he founded Victory Ministries International and created a “Zambia shall be saved” inspirational theme. It is here that power found access to the control room of his heart and mind.
Using the “persuasion techniques” learned in school, he quickly became Zambia’s “born again apostle.” Punishment cries such as “You’re a sinner! You must be born again!” became synonymous with his sermons.
Such were powerful words that, as he had learned in school, wiped a person’s brain-slate clean, substituted it with the fear of hell, and achieved conversion. Once converted a person would completely submit their whole.
Mumba had launched his ministry at the height of political turmoil in Zambia. AIDS was rearing its ugly head, the economy was eroding at a fast pace, and food riots were the order of the day.
In the religious circles, the charismatic evangelical Pentecostal churches with their born again mantra were peddling a different “instant rebirth” type of worship from the liturgical Catholic Church and the mainline Protestant churches.
Gifted with a public persona, Mumba rose to the occasion and called for a invigorated morality and fulminated against promiscuity and adultery. He became so popular he could afford air-time on television.
His wardrobe changed and so did his demeanor. His dress and style was that of Swaggart, Bonnke and them. By 1990, he was attracting hordes of heaven seekers. He exhorted them to sing and dance—and “healed” them.
When in the same year Mwamba Luchembe’s coup attempt failed, Mumba rose to the occasion and prayed for peace. It was his role as an arbitrator between KK’s UNIP and FTJ’s newly-formed MMD that would give him the impetus for seeking political power.
FTJ declared Zambian a Christian nation and became an aficionado at Mumba’s Victory Ministry conventions. With that Mumba saw himself as the country’s most powerful and influential clergyman and was convinced that he was popular beyond his followers.
His fame and self-will began to separate him from his Father. Suddenly he desired the world and what it offered him. Inspired by Pat Robertson’s run for the U.S. presidency in 1988, he abandoned his erstwhile apolitical stance.
Disregarding one of the most powerful verses in the Bible “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” he began to build the world in his own image.
God behold, in 1996, he announced to his devotees that God had told him to save Zambia through the ballot box. He became a politician and turned God’s bureau into a political party called the National Christian Coalition (he would later change the name to National Citizens’ Coalition).
He saw nothing wrong in leaving the pulpit in prodigal son style. His flock asked; “how can God allow our shepherd to abandon us and give his temple to gentiles?” Which God is this?” With that the walls of Victory Ministry began to disintegrate.
The object of power is power, and Mumba was seeking political power entirely to satisfy his lust. He was sure of becoming president in a single try. Unfortunately, it would not be so. His 1996 attempt would prove lamentably futile. It was clear God had taken his tormented flock away from him.
He tried again in 2001, and again the result was a pathetic 2.2% vote with not a single parliamentary seat. Not at one time did he think of “repenting and returning to his Father.”
However, Mumba came close to fulfilling his selfish motive when in 2003 Mwanawasa appointed him vice president and nominated him as MP.
But as they say, power can give, and power can take away. When power induced euphoria, insubordination took root. In less than a year, Mumba was booted out, on October 5, 2004 to be exact.
Mumba’s political career between 1990 and now raises a plethora of questions: Is God sending a message to him like he did to Pat Robertson? Is he best suited to be an evangelist or a president? Is he simply a fraud and an opportunist like some of the evangelists? Is he the Holy Grail Zambia seeks? Can he lead the fractured MMD to victory in 2016 and fulfill his dream?
Let me tackle the last question. MMD is as dead as UNIP. Unlike the latter, the demise of the MMD is rooted in its conception. In 1990, Aka and Chitala formed the MMD not as a political party, but as a social movement advocating for the return to multi-party politics.
The movement quickly became a sanctuary for some of the most dangerous people in the country—jailbirds, coup plotters, barons and dealers of Mandrax and other drugs, money launders, unscrupulous, ravenous, and gluttonous business men and women, psychopaths, snakes, street thugs and individuals filled with utter revulsion for KK.
When KK called MMD the Movement for Mandrax Dealers, he was not far from the truth. In 1991, MMD became a political party and embraced hustlers and thugs as party leaders. Some would become MPs and cabinet ministers. Led by an equally desperate FTJ, they engaged in “gold rush” “get-rich-quick” activities right from day one.
The Ministry of Finance became the Casino Royale and Bank of Zambia the mint-cum-ATM for FTJ and his coadjutants.
They shamelessly looted our wealth and depleted the treasury. To say MMD was one of the most corrupt parties on the planet is an understatement.
Now it is a dead party and Mumba is playing the role of Jesus over Lazarus. It is a waste of time for him to ask God to forgive members of his party. Instead, he and all previous MMD leaders, including King Cobra and his vice ought to be dragged to the Wailing Wall for leading us to the precipice.
As for now the resurrection of the MMD is a tall tale. The future of the MMD is so uncertain. Removing the incumbent from office in 2016 or 2021 is practically impossible. If Mumba succeeds, well and good, but should he fail he has an opportunity to return to his Father—the ever forgiving God, that’s where he fairs best.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, and author. He is a PhD candidate at George Fox University and serves as an adjunct professor (lecturer) in Boston. ©Ruwe2012