By Peter Mubanga Cheuka
Over the past few days, the National Day of Prayer and Fasting has been a topical issue for Zambians both at home and abroad. We have heard the Minister of National Guidance and Religious Affairs, Godfridah Sumaili, warn political leaders against discouraging their members from attending this event. In parallel, some civil society organizations have opposed the institution of this day citing government’s failure to take practical steps to address the corruption scandals and looting of Zambia’s national treasury. Likewise, ordinary Zambians also seem to be losing trust and are starting to question the motives behind the institution of this event. In this regard, negative sentiments about this event are now rife on different social media platforms.
Indeed, the scepticism that ordinary Zambians are beginning to show towards the National Day of Prayer and Fasting is justified. Lest we forget, it is prudent that we remind ourselves that religion and politics have historically collaborated to suppress critical thought while promoting subservience to the ruling class. To start with, religion, particularly Christianity, was crucial to the enslavement of our forefathers and mothers in pre-colonial Africa. In this regard, the teaching of the Christian doctrine to our forefathers and mothers was meant to serve one selfish purpose – to make them obedient slaves. This practice was so entrenched that even slave manuals were written by colonial masters and enslavers detailing strategies on how to brainwash and make black people obedient slaves. Amongst the most important ingredients listed in such slave manuals was the teaching of the Christian doctrine. In the name of Christianity and Jesus, our fore bearers were beaten and murdered in slave ships and plantations with little or no resistance, thanks to the Christian doctrine they were exposed to which made them subservient even in the face of oppression. Generally, with such Christian indoctrination, colonizers and enslavers found Africans easy to conquer.
Today, the interplay between religious indoctrination and oppression have not changed much. In 1991, Fredrick Titus Chiluba, not long after becoming the second president of Zambia, declared this country a Christian nation. This was later formalized when this declaration was enshrined in the Zambian constitution in 1996. Today, the Chiluba regime is known to have been one of the most corrupt governments Zambia has ever had since independence perhaps only rivalled by the current Edgar Lungu’s government. Chiluba’s corruption was of gigantic proportion and his cases were actively pursued in court under the administration of Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. He was questionably acquitted under Rupiah Banda’s government. However, in the court of public opinion, Chiluba has gone down in history as one of the most corrupt Leaders Zambia has ever had. This, dear Zambians, is the man who declared Zambia a Christian nation.
About 3 years ago, Edgar Lungu declared October 18 of every year as a National Day of Prayer, Fasting, Repentance and Reconciliation. Judging from experience, which I hope we can learn from, there is only one objective the president hopes this religious gathering will achieve. This is to simply avoid taking responsibility for the dire state of our economy and placing the blame on some supernatural force. The source of Zambia’s problems is so clear that indeed even a blind man can see. Edgar’s government has shamelessly dismissed public outcry over the corruption scandals that have rocked his government. Highly questionable and overpriced contracts which have drained our treasury resulting in unsustainable borrowing is now the order of the day. We have seen his government prosecute citizens for simply asking questions on the smelly levels of corruption in government. Edgar’s government has chosen to ignore alarming levels of corruption including those involving the overpriced 42 fire trucks, ambulances and the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriage way among others. Edgar’s government has also refused to act on the looting of the Zambian treasury as revealed by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) and the Auditor Generals Reports. In fact, it can be argued that the levels of corruption in Edgar’s government can closely rival those of Chiluba. This, dear Zambians, is the kind of government which is trying to rally you and me to pray for the appreciation of the kwacha and an economically prosperous Zambia. I will leave it to you to judge.