On August 1, 2021, Bishop Joe Imakando of the Bread of Life did something unorthodox for a Pentecostal Preacher–he slapped President Edgar Lungu in the face, the very man the Reverend Godfridah Sumaili has repeatedly designated as the only God-fearing president who can ensure Zambia remains a Christian nation. Bishop Imakando used the hallowed pulpit in the presence of Rev. Sumaili and Miles Sampa to prophetically call on his followers to vote out Lungu in the upcoming elections. In his wrath, President Lungu demanded an apology from Bishop Imakando after receiving the divine oracle. We won’t know how the story ends or if the Bishop will go all in. But if Lungu is defeated, Reverend Sumaili, an ordained pastor at Imakando’s Bread of Life Church, will be out of work.
Regardless, if true, the claim that President Lungu sent Rev. Sumaili to “communicate displeasure” to the Bishop is concerning. Bishop Imakando is accountable to God, not President Lungu. The separation of Church and State, as well as the freedom of expression guaranteed by our Constitution, prevent the President from monitoring what pastors say in the pulpit. We must not let this abuse of power to continue–in Zambia, the president has no authority to supervise sermons. Preaching is a heavenly act that must be free of political interference. The presence of Rev. Sumaili and Sampa does not need a change in the sermon’s topic. Bishop Imakando, as a preacher, proclaims God’s word to God’s people.
President Lungu and Rev. Sumaili are disappointed by the Bishop’s sermon because they have been used to hearing from the betrayers of the truth–men and women who call black, white and white, black. They are not upset because of Imakando’s sermon, but because of the bishop represents. Unlike those Kaponya pastors whose interests are brown envelopes, Imakando has a legitimate understanding of the sociopolitical and economic stress of the nation. So to hear the bishop speak the truth to power is betrayal of the highest order.
No doubt the relationship between Bishop Imakando and the Lungu administration has been mutually beneficial. The Lungu administration has sought Joe Imakando’s guidance on social and spiritual issues. Zambians, for example, have been saved from false and selfish prophets because of Imakando’s alliance with Rev. Sumaili. Shepherd Bushiri and Uebert Angel hate Imakando for a reason. As a cabinet minister, Rev. Sumaili has raised the profile of Bread of Life in the nation. In a promising close election, the PF wants any Christian vote it can get, and Bread of Life is one major basket. Sadly for Sampa and Lungu, rather than getting the clenched fist, Bishop Imakando slapped their faces–this time the hand of the man of God is pointing Forward.
As the late UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld, whose plane crashed in Ndola lyrically wrote,
“Never accept what can be gained by giving in.
You will be living off stolen goods,
and your muscles will atrophy.”
Since 2016, one can safely argue, President Lungu has lived on stolen goods of the Pentecostal Christian Identity. Like King Herod in the time of Jesus, his Pentecostal credentials have been particularly shallow. The appointment of Rev. Sumaili to Cabinet sought to Pentecostalize Lungu; it was an attempt to give an aroma of Christianity that he badly needed to attract the overtly Christian electorate. But it also sought to use Rev. Sumaili as an ambassador to Pentecostal Christians.
Both President Lungu and Rev. Sumaili, however, seem to think Imakando’s interests exist solely to serve the PF agenda. This may be true with simple pastors, but not Bishop Imakando whose church would endure beyond the Lungu administration. Hence he has to follow the wind or the spirit. Moreover, unlike Anglican, Reformed, United and Roman Catholic Churches, Imakando’s Church is predominantly urban, thus he needs to address the political aspirations of his urban electorate who are exposed to the social, economic and political challenges of the moment. His sermon could be characterized as a pastoral letter to his members as they head to the polls. This is in direct contrast to the political rants of Rev. Sumaili whose goal is to get president Lungu re-elected.
It is shameful that the PF has been at the forefront of politicizing apolitical institutions–from Unions to Chiefs to Churches. Father Chikoya of the Christian Council of Zambia, Roman Catholic Bishops, and now Bishop Imakando are among the demonized for not endorsing President Lungu in this election. Yet the same people celebrated when over 700 clergy pledged to campaign for President Lungu on the Copperbelt– Rev. Sumaili was there too. President Lungu was excited when Pastors in Kasempa pledged to campaign for him over HH–Prof. Luo graced the event. Is it only right when pastors endorse Lungu, but wrong when they endorse HH? Why the hypocrisy? Didn’t Jesus teach that “do to others what you would have them do to you”? (Matthew 7:12). Rev. Sumaili should know better.
Please vote wisely for the sake of the future of our nation. Change or no change, your vote is your sacred duty through which you declare what matters most in your life. On Thursday August 11, 2021, go out and vote! Take your neighbor with you. Remember your vote may be the one that can make the difference between Lungu and HH–it is 50+1. You may be the 1.