‘Care for electorate,’ Zambian bishop urges politicians

By Bellah Zulu
Posted May 15, 2013

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop William Mchombo of the Anglican Diocese of Eastern Zambia has challenged Zambian politicians to stop practicing “politics of the belly if they genuinely care for the electorate.”

The bishop made the call during the 10th Synod of the Diocese of Eastern Zambia held May 2-5 at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Msoro, an area in the Eastern Province of Zambia.

“The crossing of opposition members of parliament to the ruling party thereby necessitating the holding of by-elections has become another matter of great concern,” noted the bishop.

In the statement that addressed various social, economic and political aspects of the country, the bishop emphasized that public funds should be channeled towards developmental activities such as education and health.

“While it is appreciated that no-one is breaking the law by crossing the floor, this is one occurrence that can easily be avoided if indeed the people involved genuinely care for the electorate and not practicing what is now known as politics of the belly,” said Mchombo, referring to the recent trend of Zambian opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) stepping down and defecting to the ruling Patriot Front party with the hope of being adopted and contesting again under the ruling party.

In the past two months alone, five opposition members of parliament have defected to the ruling partying necessitating by-elections, which will cost the country millions of dollars.

The bishop explained, “The cry of the people is that resources that should be channeled into needy areas such as education, health and other social and economical sectors are being wasted on by-elections that could have been avoided.”

“Our people are not interested in political bickering but in tangible development,” said Mchombo. “People want good roads and clean and safe drinking water, access to education and health centers that are adequately staffed and well stocked with enough drugs and other supplies.”

This is not the first time the Anglican Church in Zambia has rebuked politicians to have the interests of the people at heart. Last year, Bishop Derrick Kamukwamba of the Diocese of Central Zambia urged the government to ensure that “political will trickles down to all sectors so that people charged with public responsibilities are accountable for their actions while serving in public offices.”

Mchombo remarked, “Our position has always been that difference is not enmity. The opposition should be allowed to hold political rallies without let or hindrance within the ambit of the law and to criticize government without intimidation.”

“[Similarly] the party in government should receive criticism with magnanimity and double up their efforts in meeting people’s aspirations as promised during the campaigns,” said the bishop. “It is work and not rhetoric that will endear government to its people.”

The bishop also bemoaned the culture of abusive language emanating from politicians. “This has the ripple effect of negatively affecting values and norms as a cultured and civilized people,” he said. He urged politicians to restrain themselves and use civil language in their quest to make points, even in the face of dire provocation.

“We also challenge the politicians to debate topical issues affecting the populace such as corruption and the high cost of living,” he said. “The media could facilitate such debates where politicians from different political parties could come together and debate.”

With the recent decision by the Zambian government to remove subsidies on fuel, the price of the commodity has increased by more than 20%. The bishop expressed his views on the increase and how it would negatively affect the livelihoods of ordinary Zambians.

“This inevitably will push up the cost of goods and services making the cost of living more expensive,” lamented Mchombo. “All this is happening with no proportional increase in people’s wages, especially our people in rural areas who have no say on how much their farm produce should cost.”

He added, “Government should come up with strategies to arrest this situation that might affect economic growth and eventually lead to high inflation and leave the vulnerable people in a lurch.”

The bishop also addressed the issue of environment and how it impacts on people’s lives. “We have a responsibility of good stewardship to our environment. [Therefore], I am urging all of us to take care of our environment by throwing garbage in designated places and avoid littering. We should all plant trees around our churches and homes.”

He explained that trees play a very important role in the ecosystem such as being home to birds and insects as well as the removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and producing oxygen.

Gender-based violence
“Gender-based violence remains a thorn in our communities and each one of us here has a role to play to bring down this scourge,” advised the bishop. “As a church we do not exist in a vacuum since we are part of the wider society. [Therefore], let us help in coming up with lasting solutions.”

Road safety
Zambia has in the recent past experienced a lot of road traffic accidents with very high death tolls. Earlier in the year, at least 67 people died when the bus they were traveling in was involved in an accident. In a similar incident two weeks ago, seventeen people also perished in a road traffic accident. This has been a source of concern for the Church in Zambia.

“We mourn with families of victims of road accidents especially those that have occurred in the recent past and we pray that God may sustain them in this hour of trial,” said the bishop. “This is a matter of great concern to all of us. We implore government with other stakeholders to come up with a lasting solution to these carnages.”

Last month, a not-for-profit, self-sustaining road safety organization known as The Ministry of Safety urged higher participation from the church and all its networks in the prevention of road traffic accidents in Africa.

Zambia is in a process of formulating a new constitution though many people have complained that the whole process has taken too long and that it has taken up a lot of public resources.

“We are hopeful that after the district, provincial and national conventions, Zambia will finally have a people-driven constitution,” concluded the bishop. “We hope government will remain faithful to people’s aspirations by giving them a constitution they want.”