By Chimwemwe Mwanza
When bigotry becomes accepted as a norm in a society over the course of time, the powerful tend to create for themselves a moral code that glorifies awful, bizarre and often irrational decisions. Cowered into silence, the voice of the intelligentsia gradually drowns into a comatose.
Be very afraid then, when rights of law abiding citizens are trampled upon willy-nilly, when the powerful, chose to cast a blind eye to the real social and economic malaise afflicting a society. It is said after all that the hallmark of a constitutional democracy to which Zambia ascribes is its ability to produce a knowledgeable citizenry whose views, rights and choices are not only protected but respected.
Proverbs 24 verse 3-4, New International Version (NIV) amplifies this belief, “by wisdom a house is built and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Few would dispute that a Zambia, that is tolerant of dissenting views, either political or otherwise, supports multi – culturalism and respects a people’s choice of faith – key but among other attributes, is the society that we all aspire to live in.Be even more afraid when the most liberal clergy and commentariat resign themselves to mere spectatorship – allowing charlatans to sell discriminatory fortitudes as the beacon for morality.
Which brings us to this conversation. Whatever informed the declaration of Zambia as a Christian state, the irony of the consequences of that decision should not be ignored any longer.What prompted this declaration? Did the secular state – as it were pre-the declaration cost the country its moral compass. Was civil society and the general populace complicity in this decision?
With Christianity now firmly entrenched as the supreme faith of the land, what are we to make of the rights of other faith based religions? Suffice to add though, has the advent of this declaration achieved anything tangible. I beg to be indulged for my warped memory is unable to piece together – actual reasons that led to this development. It’s the inconsistency though and a perceived parochial application of Christian values and tenets that’s raised my interest.
Zambia’s constitution and the society envisioned by it, encourages a participative society. In Orwellian terms, all animals should not only be deemed equal but enjoy the same rights. Aside from the many questionable decisions made under the guise of protecting the moral sanctity of a society, this conversation deliberately steered clear of the belly of the political terrain but elected to interrogate a few but questionable decisions.
Soon after his punchy sermons spread like a wildfire, Seer 1, a Nigerian prophet was mysteriously bundled out of the country. His cardinal sin is believed to have been his ability to magically print loads of kwacha for his impoverished flock. Those in the know testify to the prowess of his miracles going as far as comparing him to the legendary Pastor Alf Lukau – remember he who resurrected a rotten corpse in a Johannesburg church. Keen to tap on this free manna, members of other churches began to flock to Seer 1’s temple – a factor that is said to have angered some prophets in the Pentecostal movement. In no time, he was mysteriously bundled on a plane destined to Mutalla Mohammed International Airport, Lagos never to be seen in Zambia again.
Whatever the argument, the fact is that prosperity gospel is big business in Zambia. If one dare argues, ask any of the growing slew of bible thumping cons masquerading as prophets. Among other practices of this phenomenon, staunch devotees are asked to cede a portion of their monthly earnings to their church in return for promises of a prosperous life after death. In other words, sweat your life to poverty on earth for your rewards are in heaven.
In the eyes of the state, Herbert Angel, a Zimbabwean – UK based prophet and his controversial spiritual son, Pastor Bushiri – his recent infamies aside- are also considered undesirables in Zambia. In the absence of facts, the duo’s crimes are hard to fathom. What is certain though is that they are both filthy rich having accumulated their wealth by among other things – harvesting the spoils of this phenomenon. They use mass internet platforms to lure new flock. Simply put, they have become the envy of their less sophisticated Zambian peers – bear in mind that this business is about numbers.
Back to their crimes, what did Angel and Bushiri ever do to earn the status of “undesirables?” I’m tempted to speculate for there is seldom smoke without fire. Did they ever covert a turf that’s become a fortress of the politically connected prophets of prosperity gospel? You be the judge.
Unlike the trio who gracefully opted against contesting their banning order, South African Vosho dancer, Zodwa Libram aka Zodwa Wabantu dared the state. She quietly sneaked into Zambia for a planned series of shows in Lusaka – not before authorities pounced on her soon after she landed at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport. After a brief detention, she was bundled onto the next available flight out of Zambia. The reason? Zodwa who is known for sensually gyrating her pelvics while standing on her torso barely covers her bottoms rendering her performances a danger to hapless Zambian mortals.
My jaw is still hanging. In the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit, is Zodwa’s dressing undesirable enough to warrant a state sanctioned deportation? Except for the fact that Zodwa barely covers her loins, how different is her dress code to that of Swililili hit maker, Mampi? Watching Mampi belt her music countless times in both Lusaka and Johannesburg, you could well argue that her scanty dressing is in fact more torturous to one’s imagination. Make no mistake, this comparison is not meant to demean the gist of this conversation. Pound for pound, two wrongs do make a right yet it’s the application of a different set of standard against the duo that is so naked to the eye.
In the same breath, it is difficult to comprehend a recent decision to ban Somizi “Somgaga” Mhlongo – one of Africa’s most brilliant and proudly gay choreographers – from ever performing in Zambia. The state alleges that Somgaga is a person with questionable character – whose presence in Zambia could have compromised or diluted the morality and integrity of the country. Really?
What right has the state got to start policing a society into choosing which songs to listen to, which entertainer to watch or which pastor’s church to visit or sign up to?
For all its intentions, is the declaration of Zambia as a Christian state still relevant as it applies? For the bible, I read does not discriminate, my Christian faith does not judge and the God that I worship is rich in forgiveness. Most of all, I subscribe to the virtues of mutobe ilibwe.