One evening in July 1994, I walked off the stage after preaching to several thousands in Amsterdam. That night we experienced amazing miracles of many sick people being healed. Drenched in sweat I entered my Hotel room and switched on television. What I saw gripped my attention for at least an hour. I found myself crying uncontrollably.
It was the Rwanda genocide. The pictures on television showed the slaughtering of hundreds of thousands of people across all ages. The one picture which broke my heart, was a child of about 6 years sitting on top of his mother’s dead body and asking his mother to wake up. The camera zoomed in on his terrified face, and the television commentator broke it down by saying, this child will be dead before the end of day!
This singular event changed my life forever. It dawned on me that such incidences in Africa are considered normal political consequences. It became clear to me that unless Africa resolves the issue of the quality of political leadership such happenings will continue to delay the development we all yearn for.
My belief is that, “The equitable delivery of goods and services to any people depends on the morality and integrity of its leaders.” It was at this point that I responded to the call to politics, with a view of introducing morality and integrity in politics. The prospect of sustainable development in Africa is threatened by the neglect by people of morality to engage in politics. Edmund Burke said, “Evil only thrives when good people do nothing.”
This vacuum has been filled by ungodly and sometimes heartless dictators. As African nations we must start to insist on the character and values of those who seek high office. This is not an option but an immediate need if we shall start seeing sustainable peace and security on the continent.
The next demand we must place on ourselves is to insist on establishing and protecting institutions that will act as watchdogs against unruly political leaders. There is a school of thought that believes that what Africa needs are not good leaders but strong institutions. My view is that we need both. On a balance of scale, I would still say the search for moral leaders is even more urgent than that of institutions.
Our goal should be to strengthen the freedoms of all citizens. This freedom will be anchored on a society which is just and observes the rule of law. Freedom breeds innovation and heightened productivity. This freedom shall protect individual liberties and private property ownership.
In order to achieve this, we must consider introducing compulsory education for all Citizens. We must make it illegal to keep a child away from school. It will take an educated citizenry to defend democracy and Freedoms. Education brings dignity and courage to make progressive decisions. For the many youth who have been thrown out of the education ring and now roam the streets, we need to provide opportunities for them to go back to school and introduce skills training programs for that sector of society. This program could be spear headed by the private sector.
Private Companies could be encouraged through tax breaks to set up skills training schools in line with their core business to train the youth in skills like, carpentry, plumbing, bricklaying, painting, electrical/electronics etc. for uneducated senior citizens, opportunities should be created for them to improve themselves by making education in various fields accessible to them. Our vision should be to attain a 98% literacy rate, across the continent. An educated man cannot be bullied to sell his birthright for a morsel of bread. Nelson Mandela grew up in a rural setting in Qunu, but because of education and training as a lawyer, he refused to submit to the inhuman apartheid system of government. Education is the first step out of poverty and oppression by the powerful.
In addition to compulsory education, we must insist on morality and integrity to be necessary partners in development. Religious institutions should be encouraged to set up educational facilities where values are taught. Public schools, should introduce religious and moral lesson classes which are meant to produce a new generation of leaders of morality and integrity.
As important as education is, if it lacks personal morality and godly integrity, education can be abused to advance heinous evils in society. An educated immoral criminal is more dangerous than an illiterate criminal. So, while education is the first step out of poverty, morality and integrity are the engines which make education worthwhile.
Development in Africa will remain a far-fetched dream until we start to take interest in the moral character of our leaders.
By Dr Nevers Mumba,
Former Vice President of Zambia.