Zambia Presidential Elections: Lessons from King Solomon

Former President Rupiah Banda can be likened to King Solomon.  Solomon became famous as the builder of the Temple and the palace; he became infamous for excessively taxing and working his people. Visitors from distant lands came to admire this wise king, while his own people were gradually alienated from him. Mr. Banda became famous for repairing roads and for building hospitals and schools. He was in the process of rebuilding the Cairo Road Temple (the mighty National Building Society) and for building the Ndola Sports Stadium; he became infamous by excessively taxing his people and by allowing them to be oppressed by foreign investors. Like Solomon, he was the darling of foreign investors. He cancelled the windfall tax, he sold Zamtel, and most recently he sold Finance Bank. Billboards of his portrait throughout the country on every government project, as if the government was his company, incensed many, although most could not speak out because of fear.

But there are significant differences between Mr. Banda and Solomon. Solomon had clear instructions from God on how he was to rule his people. He was commanded to follow God with integrity and godliness, to follow His commands, and to keep His laws and regulations (1 Kings 9:1-3). Unfortunately Solomon did not follow the Lord faithfully. Instead, he turned aside to worship and serve other gods. Later, Israel would fall because of her idolatry and would have her people taken captive to Babylon.

Mr. Banda cannot be held to the same standard as Solomon. Mr. Banda simply practiced the usual hierarchical images of authority common in our African culture.  In Africa, we continue to struggle with leadership that is self-serving, turned in on itself and toward its own needs. Church leaders must do more to disciple leaders in the pattern of Christ: “But I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:27).  Mr. Banda had gifted and theologically trained Christians who dined with and counseled him and spoke out on his behalf. Did they sit in silence while he built a reputation as a hard and selfish master imposing heavy taxes and turning our inheritance and land over to strangers and foreigners?

We now have a new president Mr. Micahael Sata. As we speak out on moral issues what example will he see in us? Is he going to see Christian leaders who draw models from those who exercise autocratic leadership? Or, will he see Christian leaders calling attention to injustice by entering into solidarity with those who are suffering. We must lead with our actions more than our words. As citizens of Zambia, Christian leaders are free to give opinions. But we must never forget that we are called to invite people into relationship with the Savior of the world. This must be our ultimate focus, and if needed, we must be ready to die for it. Five years from now I pray we will be testifying of many courageous Christian leaders who took their responsibility seriously and used their engagement with the president as a way to advance the good of all Zambians and not just themselves.

Lawrence Temfwe