Chieftainess Nkomeshya prays for rains during the Chakwela Makumbi traditional ceremony
File:Chieftainess Nkomeshya prays for rains during the Chakwela Makumbi traditional ceremony

The latest act by the Minister of Religious Affairs and National Guidance Reverend Godfridah Sumaili only confirms that she lacks common analytical understanding of what religion is, and what it is all about. Some circles of the Zambian enterprise are wondering whether there are any technocrats in her team of experts at the Ministry that could help her analyse issues with a diversity of thought and consideration.

Sumaili’s latest stunts of not letting the Elders of the Zambezi Valley pay homage and consult the Nyami Nyami in whom they believe is appalling. The Elders are ready to challenge the droughts that have affected the Zambezi River, and ultimately the country’s energy sector, which is in slumber and needs an electric shock to wake up. The Elders of the Zambezi Valley have asked though the Ministry of Religious Affairs and National Guidance if they could be allowed to implore the Nyami Nyami and ask for guidance on challenging the drought that has hit the area, but have been denied a go ahead. The Nyami Nyami, the God of the Zambezi River is believed to protect the local people in the Zambezi Valley and give them sustenance in difficult times such as droughts and starvation.

A day of National Prayers should not only be limited to one religious group alone, as Zambia is a multi-religious country and we are all conscious of this, unless we want to pretend and take a populist political stance of continuing to ignore other religions like the African Traditional Religions (ATRs). Therefore, concerted efforts from different religious players must be upheld in times of need, and times of distress like these, when we need whatever Gods we can call upon for help. When Fredrick Chiluba appended his signature to the country’s legislature to declare Zambia a Christian Nation, he was cognisant of other religions existing in our midst. As a result, he declared, Zambia a Christian Nation, but with tolerance to other religions, that includes ATRs. Fredrick Chiluba himself was a staunch believer in both Christianity and ATR, of which both played a role as regards his death and burial rites. Chiluba’s body was taken to Church for the final prayers before burial, which is following in his Christian beliefs. However, a post-mortem could not be performed on his remains following his staunch ideologies in ATR, as advised by an elderly family member. This is a gesture that was accepted by everyone, including Government and the Church.

Mythologies like the Nyami Nyami should be given space to co-exist with other religions and local communities, as long as the believers in that ideology are convinced that it exists and influences their ways of living. Belief is something very personal, and should never be rebuked by using another belief that seems superior to the other. The Jesus and the Nyami Nyami mythologies both border on personal beliefs and conformity to one’s social space, thus none should be superior to the other.

Unfortunately, the Jesus mythology was plucked from another cultural space and context, and used wrongly as ‘the gospel’ to declare the superiority of Western value systems in most parts of Africa. This was done while demonising the ATRs as dark rituals while portraying Africa as a religious tabula rasa without any prior religion before western ‘civilisation’. What is universal in all societies under the Sun is that no society has ever existed without religion or without God, or something they believe in as superior to humanity. This view is against the common perception advanced by the early missionaries that colonised the African mind and found Africa to be without any form of religion, and way detached from God.

The aforementioned position still exists in most colonised African minds, and unfortunately, it has moved to another level of ‘Christian Papaism’ where the poor Africans are exploited in the name of the Gospel according to the Christian doctrines. This kind of exploitation of the poor in society will just be changing in form and strategy unless critical thought and action is engaged through a deliberate decolonisation process. A deliberate decolonisation process that could counter the human consequences resulting from the control and abuse of the colonised mind and ways of living. Suddenly, Africa has filthy rich Gospel giants feeding on the poor colonised minds in the name of the Jesus Mythology. Unless institutions like the Ministry of Religious Affairs and National Guidance, organises their affairs, and act with critical thinking and take control, religious confusion and misunderstanding in Zambia, and Africa generally will prevail. This application of critical thought to the way of living by the institutions in charge, such as the Ministry of Religious Affairs and National Guidance will give back what Christianity and other foreign religions have taken away from Africans. That is to say, ATRs, which were, and still are a functional and useful apparatuses in the daily lives of African societies.

Just like the Mutomboko, Likumbi Lya Mize, Shimunenga, Incwala and the Kuomboka events, to mention but a few, the Nyami Nyami mythology falls within the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), which is an important factor in maintaining cultural and religious diversity in the face of growing ‘glocalization’. UNESCO recognises and upholds all these heritages for the benefit of the future generations despite attempts by the colonial powers to demonise and eliminate them. Behind all the aforementioned events that includes the Makishi and the Gule Wamkulu fames etc, there is a host of ATR rites that must be understood, and appreciated without being demonised and rebuked by using another mythology. An understanding of the ICH applications of different communities helps with intercultural dialogue, and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life. The harmony between tribal factions in different public occupations such as politics could actually be encouraged through mutual acceptance and practice of various ICH programmes. Thus, Sumaili’s lack of understanding of such ICH programmes within local communities in Zambia, and instead intimidating the believers is quite unfortunate. If anything, the Zambian school syllabus in Religious Education, and other Social Sciences should focus more on such important local resources than romanticising foreign material day in, day out.

For as long as Zambia remains in Africa, its people shall appreciate a unique African identity and culture embodied through religious diversity. After all, religion is culture, and culture is religion. Religion is part of the fibre of society, hence it is deeply ingrained in social life, and it is impossible to isolate and treat it as a different phenomenon from culture. That is where the colonised African mind misses the point, when it separates religion from sociocultural norms obtaining in the daily lives. For example, when members of a family or clan gather together to perform some traditional customs in relation to a wedding or funeral, that is in itself a religious activity already, but a colonised mind takes it otherwise, as just a traditional custom. The Asians such as the Chinese and the Japanese rejected the Jesus mythology, and are doing just fine in their own understanding and practice of religion, as the backbone of their culture. It is common knowledge that Asia’s resistance to western culture and religious imperialism has led to their breakthrough in today’s advancement in technology and global economy. Thus, in Zambia, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and National Guidance should be converted to the Ministry of Religious and Traditional Affairs since the two entities are not inseparable. The National guidance aspect is a responsibility of every Ministry as regards their roles, and as established in the Ministry’s protocols. I. e the Ministry of Defence will guide the Nation on defence issues, while the Ministry of Education will guide the Nation on issues bordering on Education etc.

That said, today, 18th October should be a day of National Prayer for all the religions that exist in Zambia. The day should not only be accorded to the Christians, but to all that believe in whatever God or gods they embrace. Let the Elders of the Zambezi Valley pay homage to the Nyami Nyami and ask for the rains and a good harvest. After all, in whichever way the prayers are done, whether in the Stadium, the Church, the Mosque, the Synagogue, at State House or at the Kariba Dam, there is no tangible evidence that the prayers are answered or not, it all dwells on the personal beliefs of the individuals involved in the prayers. So, let everyone participate without any intimidation or demonisation. Let the Nyami Nyami be consulted too. Zambezi River is the backbone of the Zambian life and living, let it flow, let the Gods of the Zambezi River act now. Amen!

By Kabanda Mwansa

The author is a Zambian social commentator and PhD research fellow in the faculty of social sciences at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences

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31 COMMENTS

  1. Spot on, how sad that we choose to forgoe our natural ancestral cultural inclinations for foreign enforced beleife systems. We can never reasonably chart a good prosperous future without appreaciation and understanding of our past.

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    • I respect religion. But I hv serious doubts about a God who can’t warn those they love that burning coal and other hydro-carbons is harmful to the environment. Wht kind of love is that? I doubt that kind of love. It’s at best imaginary love. And yet we are told these are God-given minerals . Hw come God gives u wht poisons the environment?

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    • I dont agree with you Kabanda on one point- that Christianity has been rejected in Asia. In Asia china japan you will find Asians who are Christians. They are being converted still.
      The other fact you must be aware of is that Christianity started in the nation of Isreal-Mid-East. The Jews spread Christianity to Europe and Europeans brought it to Africa. In Europe before Christianity they also had believed in their untrue gods until they heard the gospel of the true God which led to abandoning their gods.
      Coming to the Nyami Nyami worshipers, they have been always worshiping their god and I guess they always ask it for interventions… why should they ask a Christian to allow them to go and worship a god they worship always?? Ni ma setting ayo even me I would throw that request with…

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    • Ba Kabanda you are forgetting that people who follow certain religions are very narrow minded. Only their God and or beliefs are correct everyone else is wrong. That is why we dont need Zambia to be a Christian state because this line of thinking would inhibit the country’s progress.
      analyse issues with a diversity of thought and consideration? from a Christian? Impossible.
      Diversity of thought is Christianity and Islam’s biggest enemy. That ministry of hers is a misnomer. Its supposed to be the ministry of Christianity affairs not Religious Affairs

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  2. Let Zambians pray like women from Congo DR…………The women of DR prayed to God so that they can be protected from rape but sadly the priests also raped them from behind as they bend to seek God in prayer……A nyami nyami maybe the answer as we can longer trust the Pastors, Priests, Bishops, etc.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  3. A lot of people in Africa have been mentally enslaved by christian religion and its bible.
    ..Absolute truth comes from the God of Israel the father on his throne in heaven. It is a fact which is non negotiable. You are not allowed to even dare apply independent thought to the issue. It is indisputable.

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  4. Come to think of it, the Minister of Religious Affairs can never be expected to support such diabolical and dead acts. Why do people want to consult the Nyami Nyamis instead of our Living God in this Christian Nation? Times of ignorance are long gone. Kudos to the Minister – well done again.

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    • Nikambeko #6, I think you are the people the author has targeted, your mind is so colonized that you have no room to think otherwise. You need a decolonization process. That Christian Nation thing is just political rhetoric that must be carefully analyzed before applying it.

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  5. Ati ba Kristani, but eba kabolala number one. How Godly are they, tht they hv to be consulted, jst go are ahead ad do wht you believe in. They false prophets/believers in Zambia, kuti waifyila.

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  6. May Gods presence over Zambia destroy that river idol conceived by men’s fantasy to be a god and all like it in Zambia and disgrace and destroy it as he did the Philistine god dagon. Amen and so shall it be my Words will not fall down but stand.

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  7. There is only one God who is everywhere in this world and who knows all things creator of all existence and lives out of time the same God in heaven in the universe on earth under earth and His name is YAHWEH. JEHOVAH the GOD of Abraham who has been revealed to us in Christ Jesus .
    All creations depends on Him including Satan is answerable to Him who doesn’t live in one region of this world this world is just part of His own creation and He is the Holy One of Israel , nyami nyami is just one of the demons in this world in zambia you have similar gods like nyami nyami according to the region you are in india there are more of such gods like nyami nyami

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  8. it’s a waste of time all this prayer nonsense… if you feel it’s important pray in your own privacy, ain’t nobody’s got time for all this
    go to work… the amount of time and resources wasted on this whole process would have best been utilized to say planting trees.
    you fuc k things cuz you’ve no foresight or plain incompetent and you think you’ll pray about it? bull sh it. roll up your sleeves and work.
    you’re borrowing so much money from china, you think your god likes the Chinese better than Zambians? them Chinese don’t even give a shi t about all this religion stuff, they work their tails off that’s what Zambians need to do. get off your a ss and knees and go to work

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  9. Very good article. Infact Yaweh the God of Judiasm and Christianity began as ‘pagan’ mythology adopted from Egypt. Yaweh became a junior god under El Elyon the supreme god of the canaanites whom even Israel worshipped as attested by the name..Isra~El. This is also confirmed by Abraham of Yaweh offering tithes to Melchizedek of El Elyon (Gen 14). (Jesus falls under the Melchizedek order of mythology). Later Yaweh was promoted through a long history of Jewish polytheism to take over from El as the supreme God above all other gods. This happened as Israel grew in its strategic influence and power in the region and the world. There is therefore no difference between Yaweh and Nyami Nyami, they are both mythologies. Only that the Christian mythology was repackaged by Europeans as a…

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  10. YAHWEH is not European, before colonisers came to Africa the Ethiopian eunuch went to worship in Jerusalem, he was an African and not any other.
    True Abraham came from Idol wirshipers but he was separated from idol worship ing when he obeyed the voice of YAHWEH.
    Any one can turn away from demon worship like Abraham did.
    Today the door is open for everyone to turn to the true living God you cannot afford to live in ignorance when the truth is with you.
    Zambia is blessed with preachers who bring good news to you but you ignore them.
    The fool in his heart says there is no God.
    They crave to worship creatures and not the creator.

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  11. Zambia is a CHRISTIAN NATION. How many times must it be said before Mr PhD Mwansa writes a more analytical piece that reports correctly why Hon. Minister of Religion has taken the stand to advise against the so called Nyami Yammies or whatever….!

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  12. So you don’t know the big Nyami Nyami is conveniently out of the country during these prayer times?

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    • By big Nyami Nyami you mean HH right? He never calls God by Jesus Christ. He always says almighty. That always bugs me. Well stated though.

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  13. Exodus 2:19

    “And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock.“ End of Quote.

    The Medianites mistook Moses for an Egyptian for he liked them.
    Mizrain ( Egypt ), Phut ( Libya ), Cush and Canaan, are the children of HAM in the Bible. If Moses looked like an African so did Jesus. Christianity is more foreign to Europe than Africa. Yes it was twisted to lie to Africans and Europeans; but truth stands Africans have been with God from the beginning. Mister Mwansa is wrong and most likely sponsored by a liberal front trying to weaken Zambia, Jehovah’s glorious Christian nation. Remember even when Jehovah was directly running Israel, those morons cried for a king. We have these lessons to prevent us from…

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    • We have these lessons to protect us from the lies of African free maisons and Nyami nyamis. See how much upnd zealoots are undermining Zambia’s declaration as a Christian nation. Wanting all sorts of Jihaasdist and asiasan dragons and reincarnation worship of a million demons to be added to Zambia? Just as the days of Solomon ( what eventually led to his fall and Israel ). Just because the have black skin does not mean they are your family or friends of Zambia or Africa. Some of these upnd and PhD liberal associates are the worst enemy of Africa, indeed the worst king ‘COONS’.

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  14. Dr Kabanda Mwansa, your article well articulated. You ve the brains. And you ve demonstrated that your knowledge pursuit is still applicable today. I just like the flow of the whole script. I hope that our Religious affairs department will ve time to read this. You are more than John Mbiti himself. Thanks. Please be my reader as I struggle with my thesis. You have it all. Congratulations.

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    • His article was full of fallacies. For example, to pry you away from liberal and conservative lies, “Zheng He, a eunuch administrator and diplomat during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in Imperial China, arrived on the East African coast several decades earlier than Vasco da Gama.” Africa and The East has being doing business longer than your western education teaches, research my friend. Christ was in Egypt for his salvation from the evil Romans and Evil Herod long before Europe was even a continent, and Christianity was hijacked and white washed by Constantine to enslave the minds of future Europeans.
      Africa like I stated before has always known God Jehovah. No other spirits shall destroy our lovely Zambia or Africa. We shall fight spiritually and intellectually to keep it that way.

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  15. His article was full of fallacies. For example, to pry you away from liberal and conservative lies, “Zheng He, a eunuch administrator and diplomat during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in Imperial China, arrived on the East African coast several decades earlier than Vasco da Gama.” Africa and The East has being doing business longer than your western education teaches, research my friend. Christ was in Egypt for his salvation from the evil Romans and Evil Herod long before Europe was even a continent, and Christianity was hijacked and white washed by Constantine to enslave the minds of future Europeans.
    Africa like I stated before has always known God Jehovah. No other spirits shall destroy our lovely Zambia or Africa. We shall spiritually and intellectually uphold justice and commonsense.

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  16. A lot of time and energy waisted frolicking with a forigne religion…….

    Other countries are organising mass tree plantings , but these pompwes we have in leadership are too lazy to do that and would rather knell and pray the whole day…….

    Should have organised a 5 million tree planting exercise instead…..

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  17. THIS IS THE WORST ARTICLE EVER SEEN FROM A PhD RESEARCHER,I TRIED TO GOOGLE U APPARENTLY NO SINGLE PAPER AFFILIATED TO U, MAYBE THUS THE CALIBRE OF ZAMBIAN DOCTORS

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  18. WHY VARE PEOPLE PRAYING ABOUT ENVIRONMENT? REVELATION 11:17-18 CLEARLY WARNS US. THE ONLY IS TO REPENT OR CHANGE OUR WAY OF THINKING TOWARDS WHAT IS GIVEN TO US AS GOOD STEWARDS. TIME TO PRAY AND TIME TO ACT RIGHTLY.

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