The Economics of Religion in Zambia: The Fight of the ‘Prophets’

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By Hjoe Moono

Introduction

Since the introduction of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and National Guidance, there has been anxiety from the public regarding its role. The recent events around the prohibition of foreign ‘Prophets’ and pronouncements by the Ministry bordering on what are deemed ‘Fake Prophets’ has left the public with mixed feelings. There are questions hoovering on whether the Ministry’s role is, in addition to working on Zambian morals is also tasked with regulating Churches in Zambia.

The brewing fight between foreign ‘Prophets’ with spiritual interests in Zambia and local Papas and men of God provides an interesting parallel to the economic principle or protectionism in trade. This essay highlights this similarity and shows the role of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and National Guidance in the fight of Prophets as one that can be abused by local Men of God in their competition against foreign ‘Prophets’.

The Basics: Infant Industry Arguments for Protectionism

In economics, there is an argument that countries put forward to stop the importation of goods from other countries with the aim of promoting their local industries – it is called the Infant Industry Argument. This argument is based on the rationale for “Trade Protectionism” – That is, let us protect our local ‘infant’ or ‘developing’ companies from foreign competition by putting barriers to stop the influx of foreign manufactured goods that can be manufactured locally. By barring foreign produced goods, local demand would be channeled exclusively to locally produced goods which would thus promote their growth. Once the local companies have grown strong enough, the government can now remove any trade barriers to allow foreign goods and thus also open foreign markets for locally produced goods. So, for example, what the Minister of Agriculture announced a couple of months back that all imports of fruits and vegetables should be stopped fits into this argument – so that all shops should now stock only locally produced goods.

However, this policy of protecting infant industries has been with mixed success as in many cases, it has been abused. Local companies that have failed to grow into competitive international export companies have lobbied politicians in many countries to impose export bans so that they are the only local supplies – in exchange for share of profits to be made by having exclusivity in local supply. The economics literature has lots of examples to show how, even when even when infant industry protection is well–intentioned, most governments have found it hard to know which industries to protect, and as examples would show, some well and heavily protected industries have failed to grow. One cited example is that of Brazil1, which during the 1980s enforced strict controls on the import of foreign computers in an effort to grow its own “infant” computer industry. This industry never matured; the technological gap between Brazil and the rest of the world actually widened, while the protected industries merely copied low-end foreign computers.

So, bringing this to Zambia, local companies would lobby to the Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry and complain of ‘Cheap Imported Foreign Goods’ that hurt the growth of local industries. The Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, having a mandate to support local economic growth will issue a directive (SI) putting restrictions on the importation of foreign goods. The restrictions would range from the quality of goods produced and the need to have been certified to having foreign companies partner with local companies if they want to supply. In extreme cases, containers of foreign goods headed to Zambia would be turned away from entering Zambia at the border if the quality standard does not meet the standards set by the Zambian government. The other restriction is on quantity – that only a certain amount of foreign goods would be allowed in the country. This way, the local companies would enjoy little or no competition and thus make money.

The Fight of ‘Prophets’ and Ministry of Religious Affairs’ Intervention

Having the background explained above, I now want you to appreciate that the recent fights we have witnessed between Zambian ‘Prophets’, Papas and ‘Bishops’ – Not Catholic Bishops – and Foreign Prophets, in particular Ubert Angel and Prophet Bushiri is not a spiritual fight between ‘True’ and ‘Fake’ men of God. No. It is a fight for ‘Market’ of ‘Souls’. The ‘Souls’ here are Zambian Church Goers who seek healing, blessings, prophesies for jobs, marriages and elections victory. These ‘Souls’, given Zambia’s economic situation (High poverty, high inequality, high unemployment, frequent elections) are many and are willing to spend their incomes in exchange for the Prophets and Bishops’ blessings. It therefore makes Pentecostal ‘Religion’ a very lucrative business in Zambia.

Inspired by the private jets flying ‘Bishops’ and ‘Prophets’ of Nigeria, many Zambian ‘Bishops’ and ‘Prophets’ too have upped their game by living in opulence and glamour as they preach to their flocks on ‘Prosperity’ and ‘Miracle Money’. It is not strange lately to see our once humble ‘Bishops’ & ‘Prophets’ driving the latest Mercedes Benz cars and living in the most luxurious of mansions with body guards. Competition among these prophets even locally has been fierce – from who has the largest and most beautiful church to who holds the largest “Prayer & Worship” rallies.

However, trouble began when foreign ‘Prophets’ started attracting more ‘Souls’ than local ‘Prophets’. First many Zambians started flying to Nigeria for healing and to receive blessings and prophesies about their future. High profile Zambians have flocked to Nigeria, especially to T B Joshua’s church. Notable among them was second Republican President Dr. Fredrick Chiluba(MHSRIP). Ethiopian Airways and Kenyan Airways used to be filled with many Zambian pilgrims flocking to and from Nigerian for prayers.

Noting the growing ‘demand’ from Zambia, many Nigerian Prophets started establishing Zambian Branches of their Churches to reduce on costs of travel for Zambian ‘Souls’. So, within a short space of time we saw a huge influx of Nigerian ‘Prophets’. So those local ‘Souls’ who used to travel to Nigerian now flocked these Zambian Branches of Nigerian Churches, and since they could save on flights, they gave handsomely to the Nigerian Prophets in exchange for blessings. Noting the enormous authority that these Prophets have, many of our local politicians turned to them for blessings and association, especially in election years.

However, our local pastors who, until recently seem not to have attracted strong prophetic and healing powers, started losing numbers in their churches as their flock fled to Nigerian prophets. This made many Nigerian ‘Prophets’ very popular and wealthy in Zambia from Zambian tithe and offerings while our local pastors continued to be in the same buildings built since independence or still renting government schools as Church venues while Nigerian pastors managed, in a short space, to build mega churches and afford fancy homes and cars.

As you can imagine, this did not sit well with our local ‘Bishops’ and ‘Prophets’. But what could they do? Nothing, beyond accusing Nigerians of being ‘Fake Bishops or Fake Prophets’ and hoping that Zambians would ‘Support their local Bishops and Prophets’ instead of foreigners who only came to Zambia to lie and get money.

When the President of the Sovereign Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu, Commander of the Armed Forces created the Ministry of Religious Affairs and National Guidance and appointed Reverend Godfridah Sumali as Hon. Minister, an opportunity presented itself for our ‘Prophets’ to seek protection from the influx of ‘Fake’ Prophets. The Hon. Minister, acting in a similar fashion as a Minister of Commerce would do in implementing the ‘Infant Industry Argument’, is seemingly providing guidance on ‘Standards’ which foreign ‘Prophets’ have to meet before being allowed in Zambia to conduct their ‘business’. This is of course under the umbrella of enhancing ‘Morality’ in Zambia.

By blocking entry to foreign ‘Prophets’, the Hon. Minister is re-directing demand for spiritual services to local ‘Bishops’ and ‘Prophets’. This way, all the tithe and offering that would have gone to foreign ‘Prophets’ will now go to our local churches. This way, our local churches will grow, and our local prophets’ miracle prowess will grow without any foreign competition from Nigerian, Zimbabwean or Malawian prophets.
As with the economic infant industry argument, the Minister of Religious Affairs faces the challenge of which ‘Prophets’ and ‘Bishops’ to block from entering Zambia who might harm the business of locals or corrupt the morals of Zambians with their fake miracles. What is reassuring, however, is that the Minister herself is a Reverend and thus a woman of the cloth, and thus she may have direct links with God for guidance on which foreign pastors are real and which ones are fake. So far, however, it seems that only the flamboyant foreign Prophets like Seer 1 and Ubert Angel have faced the wrath of Zambian authorities. This should be good news to our local Prophets – many will turn to you now – Loko is Laka! Buy Zambian. Eat Zambian. Drink Zambian. Pray Zambian. Be Prayed for by a Zambian and of course, give tithe and offering to a Zambian!

Conclusion

I have tried to draw a parallel between the economic infant industry argument for protectionism and the current war of ‘Prophets’ that is building in Zambia. From the foregoing analysis, it is clear that local ‘Prophets’, who can be likened to ‘infant industries’ are seeking the protection of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and National Guidance for ‘Protection’ against the influx of what they term are ‘Fake Prophets’.

Charged with securing and enhancing national morals, the Ministry of National Guidance is now acting like a Ministry of Commerce and implementing measures that block the influx of foreign ‘Prophets’. This move has a demand shifting outcome in that Zambians seeking spiritual services will now have no option but to turn to our local ‘Bishops’ and ‘Prophets’ for services and thus direct their tithes and offering to them. This way, we would make our local men of God more competitive on the local spiritual market.

What is certainly most notable, however, is that long-established institutions, such as the Catholic Church, do not need any special protection against any competition. This can be likened to a giant multinational company that has grown and expanded over the years and thus faces no competition because it is the market leader in an industry it knows so well.

The Author is a Lusaka based economist. The views expressed here are solely his and do not reflect the views of his employers.

37 COMMENTS

  1. +8
    -3
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    Three causes today that are inseparable and influence these behaviours hand-by-hand:
    1. Poverty and unemplyment
    2. Ignorance and illiteracy, and
    3. PF cadres and EL’s drunkeniness, weakeness and lack of vision
    Even Sunday Chanda, Mumbi Phiri, Frank Bwalya, Hapunda, and Amos Chanda scramble daily over who should responde to what in the media, when and how; because PF as a collective pary has nothing else to offer the suffering masses.

    • +8
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      The Author is not a Christian from the way he has made this arguments as “Trade Protectionism” or “Spiritual Protectionism”. He also tried to insinuate that the Zambia Bishops and Pastors are just jealous of these foreign “Prophets”.

      I totally disagree, Mr Moono. Have no clue on Spiritual matters. Bishop Joshua Banda was the Superintendent at Tras-Africa Bible college in the Copperbelt. Im not just talking about worldly credentials here, but also sound doctrine. Most Zambia pastors I know are very solid on accurate christian doctrine.

      These modern “Prophets” like Bushiri, Angel and a whole lot of others dont even preach accurate sermons. They rely on shady visions and occult powers, or should we call them Sorcery! I am nor afraid to call Bushiri and the like false prophets.

    • +4
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      sorry, guys, typing fast.. few errors.
      Corrections:
      …”that the Zambian Bishops..”
      …”I totally disagree. Mr Moono has no clue in spiritual matters”
      ..”Most Zambian Pastors that I know…”

    • +4
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      @1.1, I was in agreement with you until you brought up Joshua Banda, Not much integrity left in that name. Ever wondered why theirs been so many splinter churches from he’s church and why its never growing as it should be.

    • +2
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      @1.3; point noted. The Joshua Band I used to know was a seasoned preacher. Well, maybe he is different now, I haven’t listened to the man in ages.

      In any case, Bushiri is a false prophet.

    • +1
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      @ 1.1 and 1.3. Joshua Banda is a walking stick for RB and ECL, while Imakando is a hard core enterpreneur

    • +4
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      Karl Max wrote that “RELIGION IS THE OPIUM OF THE PEOPLE”. These fake priest are using religion to give people artificial, illusory happiness—like opium does to a drug addict; making people feel like these “priests of doom” have the answers that will free them from their bondage. Religion is the natural response to the evidence for the existence of God and the recognition that we are damaged and in need of repair.

      It is important that we differentiate between false religion which gives false security—just as opium gives a false sense of well-being.

    • vote

      Mr intelligent you’re not so intelligent after all. The fact that you do not realize this whole thing is about business is the very reason these pastors, bishops, prophets and the like have gotten so rich at the expense of their followers. If you’re a Christian and a spiritual person read the gospels of Jesus and find where he was collecting money for himself and building mansions. Or even the acts of the apostles, tell us where you find Peter or any apostle charging for a healing or prayers? It is all a scam being perpetrated on the poor and desperate and I can assure you God will get them for using his Word for profit.

  2. +4
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    Great writing Moono. People are now seeking instant solutions to their problems and do not want to wait. Whether these problems are solved by these local or foreign papas or not is difficult to tell. People now want instant blessings, instant nshima, instant this and that. My advice, work hard. Blessings and Luck only happens when opportunity meets preparation. You want a job but do not have qualifications and your pastor asks you to pray. How????

  3. +5
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    Well said Herryman! from the economic side of things. This ’embargo’ is mainly within the Pentecostal movement not well established/traditional churches. I cant image Pope Francis from Rome, or The Bishop of Canterbury, or The President of the SDA Conference in Maryland USA, or the Chief Apostle of NAF in Germany, or any other eminent church leader to “seek clearance from his country of origin” the confusion is only for the leaders in Pentecostal churches.

    • +2
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      Because they are thieves, who have taken advantage of poverty and joblessness in the communities around them…Just look at Imakando!! That guy cannot even buy a casket for a homeless meber of his cgurch, or at least say a prayer for a widow or an orphan in his Church, but will quickly pray for those with high monthly financial subscriptions..People should find time to ask themselves these questions!

  4. +2
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    Well written article, drawing comparisons with trade. However, I find it not morally right for the local church leaders to use political or civil laws in an effort to protect their local “market” (souls) because zambia is a constitutional democracy. The Constitution guarantees freedom of worship and assembly. The problem is compounded by the fact that only one person, in this case the Minister of Religion and National Guidance? holds the ultimate decision to label a self proclaimed prophet ‘fake’ or ‘not fake.’ To say that she qualifies

    • vote

      Am glad the writer is not a Christian, am fine with God Jesus and the Bible but I’ve a problem with religion (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism…); All these are full of ego, greed and blood. That is why Jesus Christ told no one to establish any of these, but, the KINGDOM OF GOD ( Love, Peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit), opposite to religion, that’s why Jesus hated it, religion is all about how much I should get, it doesn’t matter if it’s through lies, protectionism, or….we preach all sorts of messages to make the people follow us so that we can charge them money. We’ve abandon the message of the KINGDOM which is the only message Jesus Christ told us to preach.

  5. +3
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    ”Loko is Laka! Buy Zambian. Eat Zambian. Drink Zambian. Pray Zambian. Be Prayed for by a Zambian and of course, give tithe and offering to a Zambian!”………lol ! Great article Mr Moono! I think Boma should introduce a levy on these businessmen.

  6. +3
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    They are Hungry for riches.That’s why some of them they will do anything they can to get rich.Churches members are becoming poor and poorer…

    • +2
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      Most of them they are political cadres; Bishop Joshua Banda,Rev.Phukuta Mwanza we know they are pf cadres…

  7. 0
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    Continued…
    To say that she qualifies because she’s a Reverend in her own right is objectionable.

    The best way forward was for all the Papa’s, Bishops etc., to form a supreme body of ecclesia and come up with regulatory measures. They’d then require that every Prophet re-register their “churches” under the new conditions. Using the government to restrict others freedom of worship exposes them as having a hidden agenda

  8. +1
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    Religion has just brought Laziness in Africa, especially Zambia! Hard work and earning an honest living is the best way to worship! Diligent hands bring riches. Lazy ones will always have poverty knocking on their doors. As their wants multiply, they start looking for quick fixes and that is how they fall prey to smooth Sayers!

  9. vote

    I thought the ministry is religious guidance etc but why targeting Christianity yet there are other religions which are pagan or abominations in the sight of the true God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob the God we claim as our God is this Christian nation.These pagans are free to enter and leave Zambia at will. Remember man is a free moral agent who is free to chose right or wrong though God pleads that we chose life through the salvation offered to us by Him. Leaders must leave people to make their choice because not even God forces us to worship Him> Then why not ban witch doctors and generally witchcraft in Zambia? what benchmarks are we using to know who is fake or true? Zambia is full of headlines and this is not good for our international image.

    • vote

      True Cain, I have also failed to understand why other religions have been allowed in Zambia including Islam, Hinduism plus magicians and witchdoctors but deny entry to a person who claims to be a Christian like Ubert Angel or Bushiri. The local Pentecostal bishops are just afraid because non of them is as gifted as Bushiri, Ubert Angel or T.B Joshua.

  10. vote

    Well spoken Mr Moono. Thank you. Its only sad that people called ‘bishops’ and ‘prophets ” are turning the word of God into business. laziness ,Greed, selfishness and materialism has been used by Devil to lure our people into supporting false prophets. They want miracles, instant wealthy from god without working for it. most of them don’t want to have faith in the true God but want benefits from him.Let the Government and themselves open their eyes and love God if they don’t , may they perish in the greediness and lust .sign of the last days .all these things were prophesied -Mathew 24:1 to end 2 Timothy 1:1-5.

  11. vote

    Great analysis. The point is they are all fake prophets. The difference is there are fake local prophets and fake foreign prophets.

  12. +1
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    Good article. Deviates from everyday rhetoric and discusses a subject objectively. One doesn’t need to be a Christian to make this analysis and another wastes their time in trying to inference Hjoe’s faith.
    Good work ba Moono!

  13. vote

    The govt has a duty to protect unsuspecting citizens from tricksters and clairvoyants. Such unscrupulous individuals come in many shades. The most dangerous being those who come in the name of God to hook up citizens desperate for quick fixes to their daily needs and wants. Zambia, having declared itself a Christian Nation, opened its doors wider to charismatic preachers, who will stop at nothing, even it means stealing from the poor by scaring them to hell.
    Bravo govt.

  14. vote

    If only Christians appear to be targeted (as decried by Bushiri), it is because only Christians have behaved poorly.

  15. vote

    I have never known of any Gods people in the Bible who where fighting within each other or judging each other because judgement is for God himself.
    Surprising no one is able to realize that fact because all of them, from Prophet Bushili, rev Sumaili, Joshua Banda and Imakando are serving greedy self needs not the word of God. For we all know that Christianity can not contradict it self and the word of God is sharper than anything.
    So let the word be preached by people who are assigned whether from within or outside.
    Remember Jesus didn’t confine his preaching to his land only but went as far as Judea and the surrounding areas which were foreign.
    Our Bishops think please before act.

  16. vote

    The Bible says ‘it is difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven just as it is difficult for a horse to pass through the eye of a needle”. So what does this mean exactly? It is simply impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven. They are supposed to share the riches with the poor. It is a fact that some people in this country go to bed on empty stomachs while the rich have plenty of food to spare. Honestly if someone is a Pastor and is very rich and knows that some people are going hungry can’t that be on his conscience?

  17. vote

    Who can have such a conscience? – Pukhuta Mwanza, Joshua Banda or Imakando? looo

  18. vote

    You will judge them by their fruits. True it is all the issue of Economics. Even our Lord Jesus saw this creeping cancer of the Love of Money in the Church. Remember when he chased the money changers who He admonished for making the House of God into a Den of Thieves. The Bushiris of this world fall into this category of thieves. The others you will be able to judge them by their fruits, I need not mention names. The Government cannot let this field go unregulated. Government is God ordained just like the Church and the Family are Institutions approved by God. Whoever wants to exploit these institutions or run them under must be stopped. We put goverments to enact laws and implement laws. Anarchy should never be entertained be it from a politician or a “prophet”.

  19. 0
    -1
    vote

    Atheists are more intelligent ‘because they overcome the instinct of religion’
    People who don’t believe in God tend to be more intelligent – and this is a fact which has been shown by multiple studies. But the debate over why atheists might be more intelligent goes back much further, to Greek and Roman times – and it’s not because one belief system is more ‘correct’. The logical explanation is they exercise their analytical minds and search out things and in the end they become very good problem solvers. However you don’t need to be an atheist to exercise your mind! Atheists become better Christians!

  20. +2
    0
    vote

    If the minster does not look for fake prophets to bar from entry into Zambia, what else will she be doing, just sitting? There are enough fake prophets already in zambia, and the minister herself is a fake reverend.

  21. vote

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  22. vote

    Jesus ate free things from people.This is why men of God have such a culture of exploiting followers.It is an easy way of of getting rich.No income tax involved.This is why clergymen will contrinue fighting over dominance.If the bible had a passage which said Jesus was a farmer,all these clergymen would have been farmers or abandoned the pulpit for other engagements.But as long as it is porous like the bible encourages, innocent followers will continue to be exploited until Jesus comes.

  23. vote

    Most Africans are poor not because they are lazy but because of cultural back grounds which are embedded in witchcraft and occultic worship. These demonic powers have claimed ownership of most African families and have set limits of what they can do. No matter how hard you work if you are bound, you will never make it in life. You need to be delivered in order to attract the blessings which God has given you and the prophetic ministry carries the anointing of delivering people from such demonic powers hence the intense attack against the prophetic ministry.
    Most people are flocking to the prophetic ministry because they have come to understand that there is a hidden hand in their suffering and being delivered is the answer to their problems.
    So where i go to look for solutions and what…

  24. vote

    CONT-So where i go to look for solutions and what i contribute in search of my solution is nobody’s business especially that all who look for spiritual solutions are mature. In my opinion barring foreign prophets is not the solution especially that they don’t force anybody to see them.

Comments are closed.