Friday, August 28, 2009
It is Time to Act: let's speak for the poor and Marginalised
Rev. Andrew Chulu of the United Church of Zambia
It is time for the Church to act... so said one of the Religious Leaders in the North-Western part of Zambia where infrastructure, social utilities and social amenities are in a bad shape.
People in the Copper belt live in deplorable conditions in the midst of plenty in terms of deposits of Copper and Gold. Irrespective of the many concerns raised by the locals, the government is said to “...remain mum and unconcerned.”
Alongside with the concerns on the government keeping quiet the religious Leaders feel that the programme that Council of churches in Zambia have embarked on to empower citizens from the grassroots upwards has come at the right time.
This move and the concentration on empowering the people and engaging the government on policy issues are looked at as a service that will make sense for the next generation. “What you (CCZ) are doing now and what we will do together as member Churches should be a firm foundation for the next generation.”
The people of Zambia in the copper rich areas are now upbeat and looking forward to the Church and other religious bodies to stand help them sound their voices. Despite the escalating poverty levels, there is also a great knowledge deficit. People are ignorant of what policies are in place to ensure equity in distribution of profits from Zambian rich fields.
In the view of the locals in the copper belt, the government regards the locals as irrelevant. “They come to our villages, take land without consulting with us or considering our livelihoods. The decisions are made by the elite and ours is to obey. Even when it means that we live our homes and heritage.
Looking at the general concept of the locals in the copper rich areas, an average man thinks that their land has been sold to the investors and thus gives the right to the same to toss them around.
On an interesting note, the Religious Members in the Churches under the Council of Churches in Zambia are also raising their voices on the audit of the Gold that has been reported to be extracted in the same pits where Copper is extracted. In reality this has never seen the light of the day in terms of proper auditing.
Concerns have also been raised on weak policies and the way the government treats the investors at the expense of her people. This comes at a point when there are a number of new investment ventures in the extractive industry from the Far East countries. But then the question that is being posed by the local religious Leaders is, “New investment for whose benefit?”
Council of Churches in Zambia aims at empowering Zambian people from grassroots level up with knowledge that will enable them engage the government in dialogue that is aimed at ensuring that the natural resources are used to boost economy and social status of the people.