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The Affluent Elite in Zambia

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30 November 2015

A few weeks ago it was reported in the Post Newspaper that Arve Ofstad, the Norwegian Ambassador to Zambia, stated that affluent elite in Zambia are not concerned about equal distribution of wealth. The resultant gap in living conditions between the rich and the poor is not so pleasant. Sadly, not one affluent elite Zambian has responded to this allegation. I was hoping we would hear a few Zambian affluent elites who are making a difference in reducing the gap between the rich and the poor respond to his accusation. I was hoping that churches in resourced communities would be able to prove the ambassador wrong by coming up with their own examples of efforts they are making to change the lives of the poor. Sadly, churches did not refute these accusations about affluence, political greed and self-serving attitudes. Fortunately, for the rich and the politicians, many Zambians have not seen the articles because they don’t have money for the newspaper or because they are more concerned with political news rather than development issues.

Whichever way one may look at it, Ofstad’s statement deserves serious reflection by affluent business people, church leaders, politicians and government leaders. It was only recently we heard from Miles Sampa that a government minister’s life is too luxurious and in stark contrast to the lives of the people who elect them. There are some of us who serve in the NGO world who also live luxurious lives at the expense of those we serve. Consider the many organizations in our country who serve orphans and vulnerable people with resources from overseas. Not many of us even consider sponsoring a child through World Vision or Save the Children. We are ready to let our friends overseas who get basic salaries like us do that for us, while we pretend that we care by using their money to meet the needs of the poor.

Consider the recent Zambia Institute for Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE) examination results where only 18 students of 187 passed. If the affluent elite really care for the development of this nation they would be sitting down to find a lasting solution to these scandalous results. I would propose that the results are accepted because there is an attitude of wanting to keep the poor, poorer and the rich, richer. Imagine how many poor families have become poorer by paying exorbitant fees hoping that their child will have a future in the legal profession only to end up with a law degree and no ability to practice! 

Another case in point is the over 4500 jobs that have recently been lost on the Copperbelt.  In a caring nation the government and the church would come together and unleash business people, marriage counsellors, trauma and grief counsellors to counsel retrenched people, their spouses and children on how to start a new life without destroying their families or going into depression. I pray that no prophet whose message focus is on sowing seed goes into Chingola or Kitwe or Luanshya. Our people in these cities are crushed and the last thing they need is a motivational speaker asking for a sacrificial gift and promising a supernatural multiplication of their money in return.

In Matthew 9:35-38  when Jesus saw that the people were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a leader, we are told that Jesus told the church to pray and ask for leaders to go into the community to comfort His people. Ofstad is saying the same thing. People are harassed, powerless and helpless because we lack leaders. For Jesus, judgement comes to the church. Do you have compassion for the harassed and helpless student who sat for ZIALE examinations? Do you have compassion for the hapless miners who have been retrenched? Jesus is asking you to ask Him for the right leaders. Are you asking Him?

Lawrence Temfwe

Director, Jubilee Cente, Zambia

Article from the "Monday Issue" 30th November 2015