Zambian politics daily departing from tenets of democracy-Churches

SEEKING JUSTICE FOR ALL

Sixty-five (65) years of Christian Unity and Service
(1945-2010)

THUS FAR THE LORD HAS LED US

A PASTORAL LETTER

SEPTEMBER, 2010

1.0 Preamble

To the members of our churches, our brothers and sisters from all walks of life; and the leadership of this Nation, greetings.

This Pastoral Letter comes in the spirit of constructive dialogue between and among the people of Zambia. It also comes as a response to the call from the President, Mr. Rupiah Banda and his Government that the Church should provide the Nation with spiritual counsel and guidance on some of the challenges faced by the nation today.

The Church’s fundamental basis for pursuing social justice goes back to the biblical teachings that all human beings are created in the image of God and thus are equal and valuable in the eyes of God. This basic truth mandates us to draw the attention of all Zambians and the leadership of the Nation to a number of biblical principles of particular relevance to the socio-economic challenges affecting us. Our concern is the wellbeing of the nation and its people.

The aspiration of the Church is to see the realisation of human dignity derived from the enjoyment of fundamental basic human rights and freedoms by all our people.
2.0 Vision
The Council of Churches in Zambia’s vision is to be a prophetic voice with a transformative impact on church and society for the propagation of Christian values and human dignity.
3.0 Mission
The Council serves as an ecumenical organisation that strengthens Christian fellowship and advocates for social justice, peace and development through the facilitation, resource mobisation, capacity building, coordination, spreading of the gospel and networking with stakeholders for the benefit of the people of Zambia to the glory of the triune God.

4.0 Fundamental Values and Convictions

We believe in the triune God, good stewardship, upholding of human dignity, promotion of justice, ecumenical dialogue, integrity, transparency and accountability.

5.0 Unity in the Church

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May you also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me,” John 17:20-21.

The Council deeply regrets the squabbles engulfing some of our own member churches, some of which have been reported in some of our media. We strongly condemn these squabbles. We call upon the leadership of these member churches and their general membership to address the issues behind these unfortunate misunderstandings. We also call upon every member of our denominations to exercise restraint, show maturity and be mindful of our Christian values as we endeavour to resolve these misunderstandings as commanded in Ephesians 4:27 that says ‘not to give the devil foothold’ as they attend to these issues of contention in their churches.

6.0 Social Responsibility and Justice

‘He has shown you Oh man… what is good, to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6:8

The Council endeavours to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ who fed the hungry, healed the sick and defended the weak and poor from all forms of socio-economic injustice.

CCZ will, therefore, support responsible investment that not only uplifts the economy of Zambia by creating quality employment but improves the lives of the worker, his community and takes care of the environment.

We will continue without fear or favour to advocate on behalf the poor and weak, the marginalised and voiceless so that their rights and human dignity are not manipulated and rights trampled upon by the economic desires of profit-making as the only motivation.

We, therefore, urge the government to balance their desire for foreign investment with the need to improve the wellbeing of all Zambians. We particularly call for the strengthening of our labour laws and conditions of service of our workers so that investors and the business owners provide for their workers a realistic decent living wage in line with the current cost of living. Government must ensure that all investment policies are enhanced to include regulations that support proper and fair sharing of resources. We also call upon the government to strengthen their supervisory role so that our labour laws are not flouted with impunity and that the work environment is made safe and friendly.

We urge all Zambians, especially the Church, to be vigilant and report to the authorities all forms of economic injustice, child labour and irresponsible manner of conducting business.

7.0 Health, HIV and AIDS

‘…And he sent them out to preach the Kingdom and Heal the sick’ Luke 9:2 and ‘He came that we may have life and have it more abundantly’ John 10:10

The Council notes that there are efforts by Government to upgrade the existing clinics to semi hospitals to help improve services. However, as the country edges towards her 46th Independence Anniversary, most public health facilities still lack sufficient medicine, adequate human resource, and basic infrastructure for quality health care.

This is unfortunate and regrettable because lives that could have been saved have been lost. We cannot understand why Zambian children are still dying from curable and preventable diseases such as was the case with the recent measles outbreak that took close to 2000 children to their early grave.

We sadly note that huge sums of money are still wasted on medical trips abroad. We also note the insistence of the Government to purchase mobile hospitals despite resistance from many sections of our people. These funds if ploughed back into our health sector could greatly improve the status of our health service system.

We call for investment in the medical equipment that the leaders seek abroad and the massive recruitment of health care providers in our hospitals to improve the patient-doctor ratio for a better health care service delivery. We urge health workers to reciprocate the good will and support provided to them by Zambians by improving their professionalism and making sure that no lives are lost due to negligence and laissez-faire attitude as reported in the media.

The Church salutes all stakeholders in Zambia who are in the battle front in the fight against HIV and AIDS at all levels. We call upon each and every Zambian, especially married couples, to know their status by going for voluntary counselling and testing (VCT). We are however saddened by the reported increase in the number of those who know they are HIV positive and yet wilfully infect their spouses.

We therefore call upon our courts of law to mete out stiff punishments against perpetrators of this so that we not only send a strong signal but also assist tremendously towards the fight against HIV/AIDS. We further encourage healthy life styles for those who know their HIV status.

Despite the fact that HIV and AIDS has been with us for many years, there is not in place an effective strategic director to help the orphaned children to make ends meet and to live productive lives. Efforts that are being made are sporadic and cannot sufficiently take care of the huge orphans challenge faced by the nation.

8.0 Defilement and Gender-based Violence

‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female but all are one in Christ’ Galatians 3: 28; and ‘. . .husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church . . .’ Ephesians 5: 25

The Church is concerned at the increase in defilement and gender based violence against our children, sisters and mothers. This trend does not seem to be abated by the heavy sentences being meted out against the child defilers.

We encourage peace and love and invite the spirit of conflict resolution and dialogue into our homes so that family values are not threatened by this violence in our communities. We urge our mothers and sisters that have been victims of this violence to come out in the open and seek healing through counselling from our churches and other such places. Victims of domestic violence and other forms of abuse should gain the courage to report their partners to the church and the police, whichever they will find comfortable.

We, therefore, call upon our social researchers and investigators in our institutions of learning to dig deeper into child defilement and find out what could be causing the increase in the cases of defilement. We also call upon the church to pray against this spirit of violence in our Nation.

9.0 State of Politics after 19 years of Multi-partism and the 2011 Elections

‘But it shall not be so among you; whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve…’ Mark 10:43-45.

Our politics are daily departing from the tenets of democracy and multi-partism in which different political parties compete through progressive ideas for a chance to rule Zambia and improve the wellbeing and welfare of the economy, its citizens and the country. Instead our politics are slanting towards character assassination, name calling, intolerance and violence to win or preserve power at all costs.

Pictures of violence in the Mufumbwe, and Milanzi by-elections are still fresh in our minds. The violent political campaigns and activities experienced in these recent by-elections which left injuries, death and destruction proved that any peaceful society, including our own, can be fragile.

However, CCZ hails the peaceful campaigns that prevailed in the Luena and Chifubu by-elections. This is an indicator that violent-free campaign is possible in Zambia as was before this violence came. Therefore political parties that engage in malpractices must be named, shamed and isolated so that our people do not vote for them.

The right to assemble by the citizens, civil society and other political players is being denied and interfered with by those tasked to supervise the enjoyment of this right. The right to free political speech is also under threat by same people. Issues that affect the majority poor Zambians are pushed to the periphery while our politicians are busy castigating one another.

These pose a big challenge to the nation in view of the forth coming 2011 general elections.

We call upon the politicians, both current and past, ruling or opposition to seriously reflect on why they are in politics and to show high levels of patriotism in the way they conduct their politics and in the way they dispense their political duties.

Furthermore, we call for tolerance and acceptance of divergent views among our politicians so that Zambians are free to join and entertain divergent views in line with our spirit of democracy and multi-partism.

Issues that affect the majority poor Zambians are pushed to the periphery while our politicians are busy castigating one another. Issues that affect the majority poor Zambians are pushed to the periphery while our politicians are busy castigating one another.

Further, the Electoral Commission of Zambia is advised to explore practical ways of stopping electoral violence and that the Electoral Act be revised to provide for the punishment of politicians that cause or instigate violence before, during and after an election.

10.0 State of our Police and Independence of the Judiciary

‘A wicked man accepts a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice’ Proverbs 17: 23; and If a king judges the poor with equity, his throne will be established for ever’ Proverbs 29: 14;

The law enforcement agencies and the judiciary are a cornerstone of a progressive democratic society and must therefore be impartial and should observe and respect the rule of law. Partial police service and judiciary are, therefore, a harbinger of civil strife and social disharmony.

The Church has observed with dismay that some officers in the law enforcement agencies have sacrificed professionalism by selectively discharging their functions and duties. The Church is concerned about the selective application of the law when those perceived to be anti government receive its full measure while the opposite is true for those who favour the government.

Further, we have also observed that our judiciary continue to strengthen public perception of selective dispensation of justice. There have been certain acquittals and refusals to appeal high profile cases which have reinforced this view. Some cases that have passed through the courts of law have been casually dealt with, suggesting something was amiss in our judiciary system.

We, therefore, call upon the President, the Speaker and the Chief Justice who head the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary respectively, to strengthen their institutional systems to ensure the independence of these arms of government. This would provide checks and balance and curb the rampant abuse of state institutions. The Church believes that Justice should not only be done but should also be seen to be done.

We also call upon the general membership to continue trusting and respecting these arms of government for without them the whole governance system would collapse and breed anarchy.

11.0 Polarisation of Media

‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge . . .’ Hosea 4: 6

It is unfortunate that the media, also known as the fourth estate, has been polarised into two camps of those that try to make the government look good and those try to make the government look bad. This has denied Zambians crucial information upon which to intelligently judge the performance of their government.

The media have thus become a tool of propaganda of promoting one view without looking at the alternative view. The media have also lost their role of being agenda setters of this country. A polarised and biased media fails to live up to the traditional media role of providing unbiased information to the public for them to come up with an informed decision. This does not inspire confidence and trust in the Church and the many Zambians that rely on the media for information.

We therefore call upon the Zambian press and the various media professional bodies to re-examine the conduct of its members and individual journalists and start encouraging those that are professional in their work while censuring those that have fallen into the hands of the propagandist.

We make an earnest appeal to the national media, especially those that are funded from taxpayers’ money to return to their professionalism and start providing a national service to the Zambians for the betterment of our politics and of Zambia.

12.0 Constitutional Making Process

‘Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees and that write grievousness [which] they have prescribed’; Isaiah10:1

As the NCC have wound up their work and prepared a document that they will present to the government to take to parliament for further debate and deliberations, we reiterate our position that the whole constitution making process has been flawed from the begin. We believed that the process guarantees the outcome and hence we did not see the process that the NCC undertook as going to produce a document that the Zambians would identify with and call their own Constitution. From the beginning of the process, we cautioned against the inbuilt majority of government people, politicians and sympathisers to the ruling party in the NCC as this action reduced the spirit and ideal of democracy and logical or fair debate in the NCC.

With foregoing, the NCC draft document leaves much to be desired. The document and the whole process has failed to meet the aspirations of the people as it has fundamentally departed from the people’s submissions as contained in the Mung’omba Draft Constitution and Report. The hopes and desires of the people have been clear on what they wanted the country’s constitution should contain.

In light of the above, we the member churches of CCZ are, therefore, persuaded to conclude that the current constitution making process has disregarded with impunity the will of the people and has been a waste of the tax payers’ money. These billions of Kwacha that was wasted on a fruitless exercise could have been used to provide for the much needed health and education services if we knew that the constitution making process would take the country nowhere.

We therefore reject the face saver attempt at piece meal amendment of the current constitution and urge all concerned to revisit the people’s submission and give unto ourselves a brand new constitution in readiness for the 2011 elections.

13.0 Conclusion

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways: THEN will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

The Church is confident that this great country of ours Zambia – is a chosen and favoured country. It is a country endowed with rivers and lakes that have water most of the seasons. Our soils are arable and good for producing foods of all kinds while below them minerals such as copper, gold, oil, uranium and coal among others are abound.

The people of Zambia are resilient to all forms of challenges and yet are resolute enough to free themselves from hunger, poverty and other forces that lead to death and destruction.

The Church is confident that we shall all overcome some day all of our challenges. We are also confident that the member churches will continue to play their civic duties on top of our Christian roles of making sure that our families, communities and the Nation lives according to the plans and desires of God. We are confident that with your prayers and support, there shall emerge in Zambia a group of God fearing leaders that will be on the side of God and His people as they transact to the many businesses of this Nation.

The Council, as a one of the three mother church bodies, pray that the Church will remain united in God’s presence and continue to provide a prophetic voice to this Nation as we move towards the 2011 elections.

We are also confident that with the face of God and His glory shining upon Zambia, peace, love and prosperity will once more reign in Zambia and Justice will once more return to our land and flow like the mighty Zambezi river.

Rev. Suzanne Membe Matale
CCZ General Secretary

Lusaka, September, 2010

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