Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Reflections from Zambia

The following is this week's installment of a column written by Lawrence Temfwe, whom I was blessed to meet last month. He is the executive director of the Jubilee Centre (jubileecentre.org) in Zambia which helps Zambian churches and communities have a voice in the world. Read on for a sample of an African view about Africa...
Tony Blair’s Retirement

Tony Blair is due to leave 10 Downing Street this week with a significant pile of personal debt in excess of $7.2 million (Chicago Tribune 21st June). This is mainly due to his purchase of a house on mortgage. Wait a minute, is this right? A Prime Minister of one the most powerful and richest country in the world who has been in power for 10 years is leaving office with debt. This does not sound right.

In Africa, political leaders come into power with a few millions of wealth in their local currency and leave office as dollar multi-millionaires. They come into office with debt of mortgage on properties they own and leave office with more properties acquired and paid for in full. In some African countries, the governments are also obliged to build their former Presidents similar houses to the government house they occupied when they were in power.

Why are African governments which are so poor in financial resources able to create dollar millionaires from their Presidents while European and North American states that are so wealthy in resources have leaders who leave their powerful office with debt which they incur while in office?

Like former President of USA, Bill Clinton, Blair is expected to make more money than he did as Prime Minister out of his memoirs, fees on lecture circuit, seats on boards or other business opportunities. Blair will use the money earned in this way to pay his debt and most likely even start a foundation that will respond to poverty in Africa or climate change which were on the top of his agenda while he served as Prime Minister. We too have former presidents who are involved in humanitarian work. They must be commended for their work of compassion.

However, if our leaders will want us to buy their memoirs and expect us to pay fees for their lectures they must fully engage us in their governance that we are able to see how their work’s success relate to us. They must especially be transparent about their earnings, so that the acquired wealth at the end of their term will not be the subject of discussion as to whether they were serving their people or their pockets.

For Christian leaders, we have in Jesus a great example of a leader who made sure that His ministry’s success related to the disciples. Jesus fully engaged His disciples in His ministry and was transparent to them in all His actions. Today 2000 years after His death, we still continue to buy His memoirs (the Bible) and do the work He sent us to do. Jesus provided a structure that allows His followers to infuse themselves into His work, so that they can inspire those who will follow them in sacrificial and legendary ways. Christian leaders must lead like Jesus did, hence, encouraging politicians to lead in the same way. African people are tired of leaders who leave office as dollar multi-millionaires not because they worked hard but because they choose to serve their pockets rather than the people who elected them.

Lawrence Temfwe
Executive Director of the Jubilee Centre in Zambia

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