|Nevers Mumba addressing supporters after being elected MMD president in June 2012.|
He is a charismatic and firebrand preacher, but in political circles, some still consider Nevers Mumba a novice, that he once served as republican vice-president notwithstanding. The 52-year-old is now among five candidates poised to run for the MMD presidency at the party’s convention later this year. He talked to Jack Zimba about his political ambition and vision for Zambia.
You came on the scene preaching salvation to this country – proclaiming ‘Zambia shall be saved’. Is that still your vision or has your message to Zambia changed these days?
As a young man, the Lord laid a burden on my heart for this country. And the burden was to instill justice, fairness, integrity and the fear of God in our country. The vision that I have for Zambia is that, I believe that the introduction of godly values in every sector of our society provides an opportunity to create a community that is responsible, a leadership that is responsive; a country that has values upon which you could develop. So when I say Zambia shall be saved, I’m not only talking about people coming to Christ and becoming born-again Christians, that is just part of it. But the ‘Zambia shall be saved’ theme is a dream I carry upon my heart that someday this country shall bow its knee to the lordship of Christ in every sector. I think that God is big enough to be the Lord of our nation, rather than just our spiritual lives. God desires to be involved in the justice system of our country; God desires to be involved in the way the rich treat the poor and I think my message is meant to lift the underprivileged and the down-trodden and those probably who may not have a voice to speak for themselves.
Many people came to know and associate Nevers Mumba with the fiery preaching and healing ministry. You were the man of God at the time…are you still a man of God?
I’m in politics because I’m a man of God. I think that without the witness and the presence of God in my life, I would not have taken the jump to get involved in the political process. As a Christian and church leader, I felt greatly burdened when I looked at the injustices in the country. And it was my love for God that prompted this burden to develop for the poor and underprivileged. If I wasn’t a man of God, then probably I would not be feeling this passion for my people and for my country. And I do not think I can do this work without the presence of God in my life. Whatever I do has its origin from the relationship that I have with God. Every speech that I make in the political arena has its roots on some biblical value or principle. Christianity and my faith in God plays a major role in my political career.
There are still some people who think you could have made a bigger contribution to the country as a preacher rather than a politician. Are you sure you heard from God about being president of this country?
Firstly I don’t think there is any human being who can assume that… He just wakes up in the morning and says, Jack I think you would have made a better person if you had become a carpenter. I think that’s not the right of any other person except God and that person. I have been privileged that God called me to preach when I was very young and enjoyed the benefits of being his servant on a daily basis. I still remain his servant because my goal is to improve the quality of life of my generation and that is God’s will for my life. And so I have not abandoned the ministry of preaching, and I preach as often as I can, but I think that I’m carrying a heavier and additional load and that is to instill morality and integrity in the politics of our country. And I do not think that the only way to become effective is to just remain on the pulpit; there are many people that are in the pulpit right now and they are making an impact within their own world, but I think that the path I’ve chosen is targeting the nation and nations to instill the fear of God, justice and fair play. And by being in the political process not only do you preach justice and fair play, but you actually get the ability and opportunity to put your hands on policy-making and those policies are going to be based on Godly principles. I’m very happy with where I’m and it’s the greatest joy of my life to serve Him in the political process.
Now of course you’ve had some big appointments – the biggest one was as vice-president – but also you’ve had some big disappointments arising from those same appointments. Is it not time to give up?
You have just described life to me. One day you’re in the valley, the other day you’re on the mountaintop. The two points that are as diverse as the mountain and the valley actually constitute life. In the absence of that you are really not living, either you’re dead or you’re not born yet. I think that my experience of being appointed to high places is part of life and I had the honour and privilege of serving in those roles. I look back and I’m totally grateful to God for those opportunities. When the season came to an end and I had to give up those positions – or was forced to give up those positions – the Lord always had something for me to do; to pursue my vision of “Zambia shall be saved”. This is a vision that cannot be bound just to one role or one position, it’s my life. Wherever my life is, it represents that vision of Zambia shall be saved. So that is just a description of what life is, valleys and mountains and it only appears to me that I’m hardly in-between. It’s either I’m right on top or at the bottom.
Where are you right now?
I’m on my way to the top.
What makes you think the MMD is the right vehicle to carry you to State House?
I’m part of the MMD and that gives me the right and privilege of standing for any office within the party. Is it the right vehicle? I think the MMD is the most national party in this country. There is no other party that is so nationally representative as the MMD. It has never dubbed as a regional party because it embraces everybody. And MMD is the party that really engineered and mothered democracy and up to the last day of being in power, MMD demonstrated its commitment to the philosophy and principles of democracy. So I think in many ways it has a lot of positives, but just like any party or individual, it also has some negatives, but I would rather focus on its strengths and work those strengths in order to bring the party back into government.
Do you really believe that the MMD will ever bounce back to power and what makes you think that you are the right captain to steer this ship back into the waters?
I think we can only answer that question by using history. History has it on record that populism is very short-lived. Politics of populism, which by the way ushered in our current government, through popular promises of money in your pockets in ninety days, housing provision in ninety days, provision of jobs in ninety days, that kind of populism brings a lot of excitement. When the current president made it clear he was going to throw out the Chinese because they were mistreating our people, everyone was happy that we were going to get our resources back in our hands. But as you can see, all these that I have talked about have not been achieved in ninety days. And so I call PF a populist party using populist theories and messages to get into office. Such parties don’t last long unless they reform while in government and become parties of vision. This is four months later, I don’t see any witness of that. That in itself gives me confidence that it is possible for the MMD to come back.
Am I the right person to steer this ship? I would like to believe that the party itself, in considering my candidature, is looking at my history and performance in the past. Not only have I raised a church ministry from scratch to making it into an international ministry.
You describe the PF as a populist party, I wonder if the same can’t be said about you. I mean you go to places and people celebrate you because you’re eloquent.
Yes, I may be eloquent and articulate issues well, but I’m not a populist. I don’t make promises that I know cannot fulfill.
Some people have predicted a major split within the MMD, especially after the convention. Do you fear that their predictions might come true?
Anytime you have people wanting to run for office and they have supporters in the party, they always have in the back of their mind a feeling of risk that maybe when we get to the convention there might be a problem of unity and this is where I’m encouraging my colleagues in the National Executive Committee to start the work of galvanizing the candidates and the members to become one.
What do you make of the corruption fight by the Sata government of which you are also the subject?
If going by what I’m accused of, is what they are calling the fight against corruption, then it’s a bogus fight. They might have some genuine cases out there, but if going by what they are saying I’ve done and I’m corrupt, I have serious questions on the legitimacy of this fight.
You have changed political parties before and some people look at you as a political opportunist out to grab the MMD presidency on a silver platter…
If this is what they call silver platter, then I think they don’t know what they’re talking about. And you see, I have only changed political parties once and that was when my party, the National Citizens Coalition, entered into a coalition with the MMD under President Mwanawasa. And that was because President Mwanawasa liked what I stood for – integrity and morality in governance. Mr Sata himself has changed political parties more than me. First he was in UNIP and then MMD before he formed the Patriotic Front. And to say that I’m an opportunist is, I think, saying too much.
There seems to be some animosity between you and President Sata that I think most people do not understand, especially that the two of you come from almost the same area. Where does this stem from?
Right from the beginning, unsolicited, the President raised some of the most devastating issues about me that were very, very upsetting. You know, when you don’t steal and somebody says you’ve stolen, they’re really crossing you. And then they say it on the Internet where the whole world reads it…and my work is international; my friends are all over the world because I preach around the world, and for somebody to be that careless about another person’s reputation is very unfair. To take you back, every time President Sata criticised me, whether it was in the opposition or in government, I never used to answer him and I made it very clear that Mr Sata was my elder brother and it would be improper for me to be answering him.
Mr Sata’s dislike for me was there when he worked with president [Frederick] Chiluba; he criticised me when I was in the church; he criticised me when I came into the opposition and he was in government; when I got into government and he got into the opposition he criticised me as vice-president very viciously. When I got into the opposition together with him he still criticised me; and now when he has become president and I’m in the opposition he is still targeting me. So to answer your question, I don’t know his problem. But all I want to say to him is, back off.
If you fail to become MMD president; what next?
There is always something that God wants me to do because God has invested in me, not in a position. God has placed something in me, and that is what I will continue to pursue.
This story was published in 2012