President Edgar Lungu’s voice stirred the crowd into a frenzy causing some to speak in tongues and others to mutter the words “Glory be to God!” Lungu heard them and knew his carefully crafted prayer loaded with “Lord, Hear our Cry” was tapping into their unconscious resources. At this dark moment, many who believe that the evocation of the Spirit brings about “signs and wonders” were hopeful God would salvage Zambia from it economic woes.
I can state here and now that the Day of Prayer was nothing less than an uncouth exploitation of the public psyche. It was a well-orchestrated emotional phenomenon designed to elicit a sympathetic and supportive response from Zambians. It became even more perceptible when Lungu, unilaterally promised to build a mega interdenominational church and declared October 18 a national holiday within the same week as Independence Day.
Let me make explicate. Ten months into Lungu’s reign the sudden drop in copper prices, the falling water levels of the Kariba Dam, the drop of economic growth from 7% to 5%, and the fall of the Kwacha caught him off guard. To imagine the worst economic crisis in post-Kaunda era was happening under his watch so early in his presidency was worrisome.
With fourteen months to the presidential elections, he knew the poor performance of the Kwacha would come back to haunt him. He did not want to be remembered as the president who tanked the economy in the interregnum. At a loss what to do, he applied the “wag-the-dog,” tactic used by politicians to distract public attention from an issue unfavorable to the people. He called for the day of prayer to camouflage the label of failure.
A legion of interdenominational souls converged upon the Lusaka Show grounds drawn not by the politics of the day but by the power of God. In their merciful and compassionate manner they left their homes to partake in what Lungu called the national day of repentance, prayer and fasting. Millions more in different venues across the country felt obligated to join in the observance.
The great response to Lungu’s call for a day of prayer can be attributed to the great number of Zambians that have “accepted Jesus as their personal savior.” For many, prayer has become the daily bread. Day after day, they use prayer to confront their own crises, trials, and tribulations. Most are driven by words like “repentance,” “forgiveness,” and “obedience.” Often such words leave them susceptible to exploitation and manipulation.
It can be said that since December 29, 1991, the day Fredrick Chiluba declared Zambia a Christian nation, the country has grown spiritually. Like a tsunami, the Assemblies of God and Apostolic faith have inundated the once domineering traditional churches. Today, worship characterized by intense emotional enthusiasm, raising of hands in the act of praying, speaking in tongues, and dancing to foot-stomping “kalindula gospel” has become the norm. It is in honor of this remarkable transformation that Lungu should have declared December 29 a prayer holiday and not October 18.
Now that I mention the October 18 holiday let me expound. The holiday is problematic and illogical for various reasons. First, the fact that the National Day of Prayer coincides with the worst plunge of the Kwacha in recent history, makes the day undeserving of a holiday. A holiday is by definition a day set aside to celebrate an occasion. For instance, Good Friday is meant to celebrate the death of Christ, and Mandela Day is a celebration of his legacy.
There are no holidays like Earthquake Day, Hiroshima Day, 9-11 Day, Poverty Day, AIDS Day because such occasions bring about unhealthy emotions. In all regions of the world where calamity has struck, dark occasions are observed without taking a break from work. Moreover, the plunging of the Kwacha and the economic malaise Zambia is experiencing are man-caused. They are as the result of uncreative governance, poor planning, bad policies, reckless spending, heavy borrowing, corruption, and lack of transparency and accountability.
Zambians should not be forced to use prayer to glorify incompetence year after year for eternity.
Zambians should not be forced to use prayer to glorify incompetence year after year for eternity. It is unfair to turn to divine intervention due to our lack of imagination and unintelligent survival instincts. God has already taken care of us. He has given us a large quantity of natural resources, including minerals like copper, cobalt, uranium, bauxite. He has given us rivers and lakes, and rich fertile soil and left us to our own devices. It is up to us to use both our heads and hands to turn Zambia into a paradise.
How has Botswana, a country covered in 70% desert managed to surpass us? From Khama to Khama its leaders have exercised the principles of good governance. Year after year, they have shown commitment to improving the economic and social prospects of their people. Between 1980 and 1990 they ingeniously imported Zambian professionals to train their people and are now yielding the benefits. Currently, President Ian Khama is leading an exemplary government that continues to benefit from its God-given resources. He has learned from his predecessors that only good and intelligent governance can unlock potential.
As for us, we have failed to figure out how to solve the load-shedding problems and are instead on our knees stooped in intercessory prayers asking God to fill up the Kariba Dam. The dam was built between 1955 and 1959. It has been constantly supplying 1,600 megawatts of electricity to Zambia and Zimbabwe for fifty-six years. Each time Zambia has experienced a drought a water deficit to keep the turbines turning has occurred. And when this has happened we have experienced load-shedding and power-rationing.
During the 1991/92 drought, the Kariba reservoir dropped to its lowest level. Chiluba did not panic. He turned to aid agencies and Non-Governmental Organization and succeeded in avoiding a national disaster. Lungu should not make people of Zambia to think the water level is such a major natural adverse it calls for God’s intervention.
Instead of depending on the Kariba Dam as a major source of energy, he should create another hydropower plant on the Kafue River and increase the number of standby thermal power plants. Most importantly, heavy-duty industries like the mines should supplement their power needs with wind power and solar energy. China is already applying this kind of energy on their mines. The PF government should appeal to the Chinese to do the same for Zambia for free.
As for the falling copper prices, Lungu must learn from Kenneth Kaunda who was caught unaware in 1974 when copper prices fell sharply on the world market. It was this crisis that led to his eventual downfall. Levy Mwanawasa understood the dangers of depending solely on copper and in his short reign, set out on a task to replace mining with agriculture as the country’s mainstay.
Let me end with these words: Imagine for a moment if in its four years of reign, the PF government had managed to reverse the curse of natural resources and improved the economy threefold; if it had strengthened the Kwacha, created jobs, put food on the plate of every Zambian, and then declared October 18 a day of prayer. A quivering mass of energized humanity, in homes, churches, and stadia across the nation would have been in tears of joy, chanting “Thank you Jesus!”
By Field Ruwe
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, author, and a doctoral candidate. Learn more about him on his website www.aruwebooks.com. On it you shall access his autobiography, articles, and books. Contact him, blog, or join in the debate. ©Ruwe2012.