Justice that Heals

It is good that the source of MMD campaign funds is being probed. The excessive use of funds in the election was an insult to our people who are living in overwhelming levels of poverty. Over 60% of Zambians live in abject poverty. It was disheartening to see trees clothed with bright blue campaign materials while those who walked by were dressed in rags.

Many Zambians were confused. How can a political party sponsor such a lavish in a nation where two thirds of its people live in frightening poverty! Where did they get money to buy thousands of bicycles, millions of t-shirts, and dozens of vehicles? Who funded all the buses and where did they get the millions they paid for billboards and state of the art advertising? Many have suggested that two months prior to the elections the MMD was spending more money on their campaign than the government itself.

Investigating the source of campaign funds is important in the development of the Zambian democratic process. The purpose of the probe is to confirm whether those who bank-rolled the campaigns run genuine companies with the capacity to donate the amount of funds it is suggested they donated. If they are not legitimate companies with the capacity to donate then the funds may have been obtained through corruption. This exercise should not just look back but should also inform us how to conduct future elections. One clear lesson learned from the past election is that large donors to political parties should be disclosed. Second, there must be limits placed on how much money individual companies or persons can contribute to a political party during each election.

The purpose of the probe should not be retribution. That said, we are not suggesting “cheap grace”. If corruption or theft of resources from the treasury was committed, those involved must be dealt with according to the law. This must include restitution. However, it must not end there. Since 1996 there has been a perception that the MMD has been abusing state resources during elections. Most believe that since 2001 the MMD has been winning elections by rigging. Therefore, the process we as a nation shall take in probing these abuses can bring both justice and healing. We must work hard to see that new ways of doing politics in Zambia are the result. We need to find ways for the consequences of electoral malpractice to be understood by the offenders and by all Zambians. Additionally, opportunities need to be made for offenders to seek and find forgiveness and reconciliation.

However you look at it, the excessive funds spent on the 2011 elections violated the relationship between poor Zambians and their “leaders”. In this way, the abuse was against the Zambian people, against their children’s education, against their hope to have a decent home, against better health services and against safe water. The excessive use of resources created mistrust in our communities that has now resulted in acts of vengeance behavior by those who were victims. There is need for reconciliation in our communities.

Therefore, we must pray for the fruitfulness of this probe. We should pray that the problems of the current system are identified and a future-oriented focus on problem solving is pursued. If the MMD is found guilty but we fail to answer the questions of why they did this and how we can ensure this doesn’t happen again then the next time around it will be the PF being probed. As a church we must be in the forefront to ensure that the system is not vindictive when applying justice. When Jesus encountered a very corrupt Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10 we see Zacchaeus didn’t have it easy after his confession (he paid back four times in restitution), BUT he was restored to God and to the community! The church should desire the same because it is in the business of doing business that heals.

Lawrence Temfwe