By Kapya Kaoma.
On August 1, 2021, Bishop Joe Imakando of the Bread of Life did the unorthodox of a Pentecostal Preacher–he slapped President Edgar Lungu in the face; the very man the Reverend Godfridah Sumaili has repeatedly designated as the only God fearing president to ensure Zambia remains a Christian nation. In the presence of Rev. Sumaili and Miles Sampa, Bishop Imakando employed the power of the sacred pulpit to prophetically call on his followers to vote out Lungu in the forthcoming elections. Upon receiving the sacred oracle, in his rage, President Lungu sent the Rev. Sumaili demanding an apology from Bishop Imakando. We won’t know how the story will end or whether the Bishop will double down. But should Lungu be voted out, the Reverend Sumaili, an ordained pastor of Imakando’s Bread of Life Church, will surely become unemployed.
Regardless, the report that President Lungu sent Rev. Sumaili to “express displeasure” to the Bishop, if true, is troubling. Bishop Imakando is not accountable to President Lungu, but to God. The separation of Church and State, and the freedom of expression enshrined in our Constitution stops the President from monitoring what pastors say in pulpits. We should not permit this abuse of power to grow–the president has no power to monitor sermons in Zambia. Preaching is a divine act that must be left free from political manipulation. That Rev. Sumaili and Sampa were in attendance does not mean that the contents of the sermon must change. As a preacher, Bishop Imakando is declaring God’s word to God’s people.
President Lungu and Rev. Sumaili are disappointed by the Bishop’s sermon because they have been used to hearing from the betrayers of the truth–men and women who call black, white and white, black. They are not upset because of Imakando’s sermon, but because of the bishop represents. Unlike those Kaponya pastors whose interests are brown envelopes, Imakando has a legitimate understanding of the sociopolitical and economic stress of the nation. So to hear the bishop speak the truth to power is betrayal of the highest order.
No doubt the relationship between Bishop Imakando and the Lungu administration has been mutually beneficial. The Lungu administration has sought Joe Imakando’s guidance on social and spiritual issues. Zambians, for example, have been saved from false and selfish prophets because of Imakando’s alliance with Rev. Sumaili. Shepherd Bushiri and Uebert Angel hate Imakando for a reason. As a cabinet minister, Rev. Sumaili has raised the profile of Bread of Life in the nation. In a promising close election, the PF wants any Christian vote it can get, and Bread of Life is one major basket. Sadly for Sampa and Lungu, rather than getting the clenched fist, Bishop Imakando slapped their faces–this time the hand of the man of God is pointing Forward.
As the late UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld, whose plane crashed in Ndola lyrically wrote,
“Never accept what can be gained by giving in.
You will be living off stolen goods,
and your muscles will atrophy.”
Since 2016, one can safely argue, President Lungu has lived on stolen goods of the Pentecostal Christian Identity. Like King Herod in the time of Jesus, his Pentecostal credentials have been particularly shallow. The appointment of Rev. Sumaili to Cabinet sought to Pentecostalize Lungu; it was an attempt to give an aroma of Christianity that he badly needed to attract the overtly Christian electorate. But it also sought to use Rev. Sumaili as an ambassador to Pentecostal Christians.
Both President Lungu and Rev. Sumaili, however, seem to think Imakando’s interests exist solely to serve the PF agenda. This may be true with simple pastors, but not Bishop Imakando whose church would endure beyond the Lungu administration. Hence he has to follow the wind or the spirit. Moreover, unlike Anglican, Reformed, United and Roman Catholic Churches, Imakando’s Church is predominantly urban, thus he needs to address the political aspirations of his urban electorate who are exposed to the social, economic and political challenges of the moment. His sermon could be characterized as a pastoral letter to his members as they head to the polls. This is in direct contrast to the political rants of Rev. Sumaili whose goal is to get president Lungu re-elected.
It is shameful that the PF has been at the forefront of politicizing apolitical institutions–from Unions to Chiefs to Churches. Father Chikoya of the Christian Council of Zambia, Roman Catholic Bishops, and now Bishop Imakando are among the demonized for not endorsing President Lungu in this election. Yet the same people celebrated when over 700 clergy pledged to campaign for President Lungu on the Copperbelt– Rev. Sumaili was there too. President Lungu was excited when Pastors in Kasempa pledged to campaign for him over HH–Prof. Luo graced the event. Is it only right when pastors endorse Lungu, but wrong when they endorse HH? Why the hypocrisy? Didn’t Jesus teach that “do to others what you would have them do to you”? (Matthew 7:12). Rev. Sumaili should know better.
Please vote wisely for the sake of the future of our nation. Change or no change, your vote is your sacred duty through which you declare what matters most in your life. On Thursday August 11, 2021, go out and vote! Take your neighbor with you. Remember your vote may be the one that can make the difference between Lungu and HH–it is 50+1. You may be the 1.