I MUST confess that the declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation made us all to go to sleep, says CIVIL Society for Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) board chairperson Bishop John Mambo. And satirical artiste Chama Fumba popularly known as Pilato has charged that every Zambian who does not stand up for his country is a loser and the nation’s worst enemy.
During an ActionAid-Zambia public discussion and the launch of summary report on impact of shrinking political, civic and democratic space in Zambia, Bishop Mambo said Zambians must stand together to demand accountability and fight against the shrinking civic space.
He said civil activists were being demonised by clergymen to please those in authority for three pieces silver.
“I must confess that the declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation made us all to go to sleep. The politician has fooled us, the clergy are shooting at each other because if this was a Christian nation, the government of the day would have been gathering their trends from the body of Christ,” said Bishop Mambo.
“After 1991 we went to sleep. For 27 years we worked with [Dr Kenneth] Kaunda with the cathedral [Church] involvement but today we are saying ‘no, the Church cannot even lead the process of a constitution making’ in a country where 90 per cent are believers! The reason is we are a curse to ourselves. We need to pray for ourselves against that demon…we managed in 1991, Kaunda was very strong, and can we fail with these ones that…we have evidence of corruption, where they have stolen and all that? Can we fail? No! Let’s stand together, let’s reclaim mother Zambia.”
Bishop Mambo wondered how civic space was shrinking in the Christian Nation.
He vowed not to stop speaking out on issues of importance.
He said politicians kneel before poor voters as if they were “Almighty God” and foolishly citizens accept that but quickly politicians become kings and queens.
“The citizen has been left behind 53 years down the road and what we are only doing, we are spectators. Another problem is that it is our own making because I don’t see the young people doing anything against these issues. Us old people we are being told that we should stop talking but how will I stop talking when the house is on fire?” he asked.
“So the enemy of Zambia is on our own, we like muzungu wanga anikonde meaning if I were to rub shoulders with President [Edgar] Lungu, I must tell lies. The truth never comes out of us. Freedom of movement is not there, freedom of speech is not there. You are afraid to go to prison for nine months and yet your brothers are there. Another thing is that competition among ourselves will keep us in the wilderness for long. It is time we tell the politician that I have hired you. You came for an interview through campaigns. Once I discovered that you are a right person, I gave you a job through a ballot. Going to Parliament as an MP you must be a servant of the people.”
Bishop Mambo said Zambia needed strong men and women who without fear should help reverse the shrinking space in the country.
“Speaking with one voice that is the only way w’ll redeem Zambia. From this meeting, going forward, we no longer need boys and girls, no! We need women and men who can say ‘look, I am wearing a skin of an elephant’. If it means prison, we are ready. If not, you will wallow through all these debts and very soon you will fail to do anything and tomorrow you are going to blame God,” said Bishop Mambo.
“We cannot allow in a democracy situation where lecturers are not paid on time, that is human rights violation. We have doctors not paid on time and another church leader says you heard Bishop Mambo, he escaped prison, arrest him again, he talks too much. As long as we don’t call our leaders to be accountable to those who elected them, we are in the wilderness. So it’s never too late, what we need is to declare war, to tell them from the President to the lowest elected official that you are a servant. We should tell them, unless we are afraid.”
And Pilato said the right time to stand “for your own country was when you are still alive.”
He said it breaks his heart when people call him voice of the voiceless in a democratic country.
“Who are the enemies of society? Is it those that attack it or it’s those that refuse to stand up and defend the society from those that have been attacking it? So for those of you that are failing to speak up and stand up for this country, you are scared of going to jail, if tomorrow when the conditions that are prevailing in prison becomes the condition that we will be living under as a country, will you be able to stand up and speak?” Pilato asked.
“The best time to cry for help is when you are still alive. The fact that we are in a democracy and people call me voice of the voiceless, it breaks my heart. How can other people be voiceless in a democracy? What did they do wrong that made them voiceless? How can another human being be the voice of another person?”
Pilato said citizens who were not standing up to defend their own country were the country’s worst enemy.
“Zambia creates a context, so for those of you who want to make too much money, you can make all the monies now but when Zambia collapses tomorrow, your money becomes useless. For those of you who want to keep government jobs, you want to keep government tenders, tomorrow when Zambia collapses all those things will go. If you do not stand up for Zambia, you are not standing up for anything, you are losers,” said Pilato.
ActionAid board chairperson Aretha Mwale said free political space was a critical catalyst for national development.
She said it was a fundamental norm of democracy, that every voice should be counted as equal.
Mwale said the role of CSOs and activists was not to undermine the legitimate government but that they were motivated for development of a better Zambia./